It’s hockey season already?
Sneaks up every year, no? Welp, the Bruins opened up Thursday night and…it wasn’t very pretty. Game 1 of 82, need to try to keep the faith. But it could be a long year. It will be a mediocre year regardless. So I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at the results of the Opener.
In any event, I looked back and realized I haven’t written anything on the Bruins since April, shortly after last season ended. That is absolutely pathetic, especially considering all the activity in late June/early July. So let’s briefly sum up my thoughts…you know the ones I didn’t put “on paper”.
*I did note in April that I liked General Manager Peter Chiarelli getting sacked. The salary cap issues, overpaying mediocre players too much and too soon, etc. His deficiencies have been well documented. But when Charlie Jacobs and Cam Neely say they conducted a “worldwide search” for a new GM and then hired the guy down the hall in Don Sweeney about a month later, well…those words rang a little hollow. I think most people figured Sweeney was getting the job. Why did they wait? But why not a clean break from the previous regime? Sweeney is Neely’s buddy, but also was working under Chiarelli for years. Seems to me some new blood would’ve been a better move.
*A couple of weeks after Sweeney officially became GM, he confirmed that Claude Julien would be returning as coach. Ugh. Once again, a clean break and a new voice would’ve been preferred. Claude has had a nice run, but players had tuned him out. His system had seemingly run its course. Just seemed like a perfect time to make a change here. But the three year extension that kicked in this year may have been the deciding factor in bringing him back. Because, you know, they were going to be mediocre at best this year anyway.
*Trading Dougie Hamilton did not bother me. It was apparent he did not want to be here…apparent to insiders anyway, as most of the general public only learned this after the fact. But since Sweeney has been here for years, shouldn’t he have known that for a while? And therefore not panicked and traded him for just picks…when questions remained about all of returning defensemen? Other GMs said they did not know Hamilton was even available. Limited the market, no?
*The Milan Lucic trade was probably Sweeney’s highlight from the offseason. Looch had kind of cruised for the last couple of years. He was in the last year of his contract and would command big money afterwards…and with the cap still not in a good position for the B’s, this was a move that seemed like a no-brainer. What was surprising was the return, ultimately 2 first round picks and 2 prospects. Although, we will see how those guys all pan out…
*Other trades: Jimmy Hayes for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard. Smith leaving is a positive thing and Savard is off the cap, so no matter what Hayes becomes, this has to be a plus. Zac Rinaldo for a 3rd rounder…no thanks. Seems like a high price to pay for a 4th liner…at best…
*Free agent signings and re-signings: Adam McQuaid for almost 3 mil a year for 4 years? Gross. Matt Belesky for 5 years? At least he seems to be a top 6 talent. Brett Connolly? Whatever. Jonas Gustavsson? Ditto. But glad to see Malcolm Subban lose out again. To a guy who came to camp on a tryout basis. He’s still young I guess. There were others, but no one I care to speak about here.
All old news, I know. Real old news. But to say I haven’t been impressed with much since last season ended would be an understatement. The salary cap is in better shape, there are some new players with some potential, but there is a ton of work still to be done.
Let’s go back to the coach. Julien is apparently trying to install a system that will focus on offense more…more than he ever has anyway. I just don’t see how this works. The guy has been a defensive coach his whole life. And now he is trying to change that up? Doesn’t make sense. And they don’t necessarily have the players for that. They especially don’t have the defense to cover up any mistakes by the offense. How the hell is this going to work? It won’t. He’s still here because of the contract extension. And if they plan on this being a “bridge” year anyway, why would pay another coach? Despite people saying the clock is ticking on Julien, my belief is that he stays, again, because of the contract.
The aforementioned defense? Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are still good players. But they are not getting any younger. And now they are both hurt. These are the only 2 guys on the roster that can be considered better than third pairing defensemen. That’s encouraging. Game 1 featured 6 D-men that should be third pairing guys or extra guys or even minor leaguers. 6 goals against…how predictable! Some glaring mistakes Thursday. Hopefully when the two vets come back, Claude doesn’t play them 30 minutes a game because he lost trust in all the other guys. Don’t rule that out.
Improved offensive capabilities? Remains to be seen. Not going to judge on one game. Trying not to anyway. But it’s not like they have a ton of snipers. They still have guys like Chris Kelly and Louis Eriksson that miss open nets and also fire shots directly into the goalies chest regularly. You know Claude will still find a way to get Kelly his ice time. Especially when one of the youngsters on one of the “scoring” lines makes a mistake or doesn’t backcheck or the like, Kelly will find himself on one of the top lines. You can take that to the bank. It also doesn’t help when 2 of your supposed top scorers, Belesky and David Pastrnak, get ZERO power play time. Hard to figure that one.
Anyway, to summarize the last 6 months in two words: Bridge year. It’s going to take some time to turn this thing around. Haven’t loved everything that has happened over the summer. But there are some moves that can still be made. Maybe they don’t happen until the B’s falter and fall out of playoff contention. Maybe someone bites on Chara and overpays. Hopefully Kelly can be dealt anyway. But maybe another contract can be moved. I wonder if trading Tuukka is a consideration? It is for me. Lot of years and dough left on that deal. Tuuks is a good goaltender, but I’ve never considered him a great one, Vezina win notwithstanding. He never seems to “steal” any games. Tim Thomas was a journeyman. But he stole games. In Claude’s defensive system, Thomas became a star. I wonder what Rask will look like now that he doesn’t have the system or defense to support him. Worth 7 mil a year? Doubtful. With Subban and Zane McIntyre in tow, I’d test the waters. Even if those 2 kids amount to nothing down the road. They’ll always be able to get a goalie.
Sweeney’s early moves were questionable at best. He got better, but needs to keep dealing. Claude needs to keep playing the youngsters and attempting to play a more offensive style. Even if it goes against every fiber of his being. May as well this year. Bruins fans may be able to deal with one year like this. Highly unlikely they will go for two years. Let’s get any “growing pains” out of the way this year then. In the meantime…keep the faith…keep the faith…and don’t even think of Montreal and Tampa coming up. Remember, it could be worse. Chiarelli could still be here!
Posted on October 10, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged Boston Bruins, Cam Neely, Charlie Jacobs, Chris Kelly, Claude Julien, David Pastrnak, Dennis Seidenberg, Don Sweeney, Dougie Hamilton, Malcolm Subban, Milan Lucic, NHL, Peter Chiarelli, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.