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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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March 4, 2024
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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Bruins Were in Need of a Change of Direction, Even if it Means No Postseason

Chiarelli+helped+build+a+Stanley+Cup+winning+roster%2C+but+has+made+some+horrific+moves+over+the+past+few+years
Chiarelli helped build a Stanley Cup winning roster, but has made some horrific moves over the past few years

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
That thought seems to be what many Boston Bruins fans share in wake of the announcement that the club fired general manager Peter Chiarelli on Tuesday. There is no denying what Chiarelli accomplished in his nine year stint as the black and gold’s GM. Alongside team president Cam Neely, he brought back the Big Bad Bruins. They fought opponents, stood up for one another, played as a team, and took on the blue collar work ethic of the town they played in.
For the first time in my life, Boston’s hockey team was among the most feared in the NHL. That style of play helped the Bruins win the 2011 Stanley Cup, the club’s first since 1972, and appeared to cement the direction the organization was heading for years to come.
It’s never that easy though.
Even though Chiarelli helped the Bruins reach the Cup Finals again in 2013, he hasn’t been able to meet the expectations of Boston’s passionate fans ever since. The glow from last year’s incredible regular season—the one that produced a President’s Trophy for finishing with the best record in the league—was washed away when Montreal bested the Bruins in the seventh game of the second round.
The worst part about it? There was nothing that could be done to improve going into this past season. Boston had virtually no money to spend on adding players. It was a challenge to even retain the players who were a part of the loss to the Habs. Jarome Iginla moved on to Colorado, which left a gigantic hole among the team’s top two lines, though Chiarelli’s biggest blunder was still yet to come.
Only days before the start of the 2014-2015 season, Chiarelli traded Johnny Boychuck to the New York Islanders for virtually a bag of pucks. Even though Johnny Rocket was a proven veteran worthy of a return, Boston didn’t have the salary cap room to bring in any new talent. Instead, the money saved on Boychuck’s salary was used to bring back Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug—two young and talented defensemen that could be with the Bruins for a longtime.
This year was doomed from the start. It was clear the Bruins’ goal-scoring was going to take a huge hit, and Chiarelli never accounted for what the loss of Shawn Thornton would mean for the team’s identity. 
But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend Chiarelli’s misfires all came in his final year as the team’s GM. Since he arrived he’s been a notoriously bad evaluator of talent when it comes to the NHL Draft, and his record of pulling off trades is less than stellar. There’s no denying Tyler Seguin was more mischievous than Dennis The Menace when he roamed the streets of Boston—nobody batted an eye when that trade with Dallas went down. What is infuriating is who the Bruins got back. Does anybody really expect Loui Eriksson or Riley Smith to be legitimate contributors on a championship caliber team?
Chiarelli whiffed. He may have recognized Seguin’s antics were worthy of being traded, but he botched the return and received average—at best—players.
Thankfully, his mistakes are a thing of the past. There have been rumors that the team is interested in some high-profile GMs to fill the void. Don Sweeney, a Bruins legend who has spent recent years as Chiarelli’s assistant, seems to be the leading candidate. Other guys like former Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero and Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton are expected to be called in for interviews, though it’s safe to think Neely and Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs would likely prefer to swim in familiar waters.
The looming question is the fate of Bruins head coach Claude Julien. Will he be the next to go? Its common practice for newly-hired general managers—in any major sport—to want to hire their “own guy” as coach. If Sweeney is appointed as GM, it will be interesting to see if the team will give Julien one more year to try to rekindle some magic reminiscent of 2011 or 2013. Even if he does remain coach for the 2015-2016 season, however, his leash will be short.
For whoever the next GM is, whether it’s a newcomer or a guy who bleeds black and gold like Sweeney, it’s essential that they establish the team’s identity going forward. Are we going to return to our old school ways and make teams dread playing the Big Bad Bruins, or are we going to try to match the speed of teams like the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers?
Either way, I’m happy Chiarelli won’t be here to make that call. His time ran its course and I think we’re all ready for a fresh start. Regardless of his replacement, the future of Julien, or the style of play we’re bound to adapt, Boston needs more talented players.
That door will be wide open.