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!
To relieve Peter Chiarelli of his duties, that is.
Based on the press conference the other day, it sounded like Cam Neely basically fired him at the trade deadline. Neely admitted that he told Pete not to “trade any assets” at the deadline. Wait, Jordan Caron wasn’t an asset?? That’s news to me! But seriously though, talk about having your hands tied. I’m not sure Pete could have actually done much, based on their salary cap situation. But it sounds like it wasn’t his decision anyway. And if you are seemingly getting your power stripped there, then…that’s not a good sign.
By the way, are press conferences mostly useless? In sports anyway. When does someone give actual information you can use during one? At least around here. We all know about Bill Belichick’s press conferences. As well as all the others. What did Neely and Charlie Jacobs say of value the other day? Not much from what I heard. I guess the other point is that, other than the part where Steve Buckley pressed for some answers (and got none), the rest of the local media tossed up some nice softballs.
Don’t get me going on the local sports media though. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I know these guys have to be somewhat like they are…complimentary of the team and everything surrounding it. If they aren’t, players won’t talk to them, team sources won’t give them info…and they usually work for an outlet that is owned by the team. But do they have to go overboard, as they ALWAYS do? I mean sometimes…wow. Like some of the stuff I am reading now about Chiarelli being the fall guy. Ummmmm, no. 3 other people got fired as well. And there will be more to come, including some players. “Fall guy”? I think not.
Chiarelli had a nice run here. Very successful. Give credit where credit is due. But it was time for a change, simple as that. It’s no secret he messed up the salary cap. Some writers have said it was because he was “going all out in 2013-14”. Ummmm, wrong again. This has accumulated over his tenure. Primarily because he has drafted poorly over the years and does not have cheap (and good) labor to take over spots where someone becomes too expensive. And also because he consistently paid guys too much and too early and for too many years. Not because of going “all out” for one year. Do the math.
In reality, Cam has probably wanted to shake things up for years. He got the Prez gig in June, 2010. Pete had been on board for 4 years already and Claude for 3. If you recall, Cam wasn’t exactly a fan of Claude’s style early on. It was no secret, as Cam made some very thinly veiled comments at the time. He was likely ready to overhaul in 2011 if they were ousted early…as they almost were, before the Game 7 OT goal against Montreal. If they lose that game, the Bruins look a lot different the next season. But then they go and win the Stanley Cup! How can Cam do some sacking then? Then there was a grace period, then they went to the Cup Finals in 2013. Again, how can he make a move?
Timing was right for this move. Missed playoffs, cap is a problem, not many decent young players have been developed…or are on track to be developed, players seem to be comfortable, etc. I suppose they want the new GM to ditch Claude at some point. But I waffle on that every day. What if the new GM is Donnie Sweeney, the assistant GM now? Also, they signed Claude to a 3 year extension last season, do they want to eat that dough already? Is he willing to change up his style a bit, be more flexible and forgiving of young players for one? There is plenty of time, but the longer he stays, the more I feel like he will stay long-term. At least another year. But I think it’s time for a change there as well. I believe the players have tuned him out and need a new voice.
As with Chiarelli, Julien has had a nice run here. I hated his style at first, then adapted of course when they won the Cup. I still am not a huge fan, but how can you argue with his overall success? But again, I believe most players have become too comfortable under him. I don’t think he’s as much of a hard-arse as he was when he first got here. He relies too much on useless vets on the last lines and just doesn’t trust any young players. I am ok with him rolling those 4th liners in the first and second periods. But not down a goal with less than three minutes left in the game. That happens far too often.
This wasn’t to single out Claude and Pete at all. EVERYONE is to blame for missing the playoffs. Cam, Charlie Jacobs, the players, just everyone. There was enough talent on this roster to make the playoffs, simple as that. And in the end, the players underachieved, absolutely no question about it. It’s been a nice run for everyone, to be quite honest. But all good things must come to and end. Let a new era begin. Get away from complacency. Fresh voices. Younger players. New system. There is usually more than one way to do things right, let’s try a different way now. Thanks for your service Pete, but you go find some new challenges yourself. I’d like to be saying the same to Claude soon as well…
Been a bit since I’ve posted. So here is some general mishmash, in completely random order:
*Yup…starting with the New England Revolution…whoda thunk it??! It’s cuz I can. And it’s somewhat interesting to me. The team has played 3 games (0-2-1). They have zero goals. ZERO! How is that possible? Didn’t this team make the MLS Finals last year? In no way do I claim to remember their exact roster from December, but I just scanned the current one and it appears to have a lot of the same names I heard during the playoffs last year. Mystifying to me anyway…
Note: The Revs are waaaaaaaay down on the list of my concerns. But since they are local…and oh for five in championships…it would be nice if they could win one someday.
*Big week at the owner’s meetings in the NFL. (Wow…the second point is one that I normally don’t care about either!). Apparently there were 23 rule changes to be discussed. Due to complete lack of interest (both by any readers here and myself as well) I’m not going to comment on the majority. But the Patriots’ three proposals are worth spending a second or two on anyway.
- Having the ability to challenge any call…or however it is defined…it would be increasing the amount of replays available regardless. Wouldn’t be excited about this at all…and apparently enough teams weren’t either, in order to change this rule. Sure, there are probably more plays that should be reviewed. But where do you draw the line? EVERY play can be reviewed for some kind of reason. So do you want 6 hour games? I love football, but that is a little much.
- Having fixed cameras on boundary lines. This is an absolute no brainer and something William Belichick has championed for years. Why wouldn’t you do this? It would make so many replays shorter. They say because owners do not want to foot the cost to set these up? How ridiculous is that, coming from a bunch of billionaires? Oh yeah, right. These are the same dudes that penny-pinched the officials a couple years back and we had to suffer through replacement officials that were clearly in over there head. Nevermind…
- Move the PAT to the 15 yard line. Not sure this will solve much, still a chip shot. But better than where it is now, I suppose. It is time for a change, no question in my mind anyway. What was it, like 99.7% of these are made now? Seems kind of outrageous that any kind of points are automatic. I haven’t thought enough about it to have a solution, but something should be done. Force a 2 point conversion play? Make the 2 pt. conversion start at the 1 yard line to entice more teams to go for it? Make the extra point at least 40 yards out? Smarter minds than me hopefully will work this out in the near future.
*I’ve started to live with the fact that Darrelle Revis will not be here next year…even accepting it to some degree. I know there are several contracts coming up soon and that they are still close to the cap, blah, blah, blah. I get it. But the cornerback depth chart right now? Yikes!! One projection had Malcolm Butler #1 and Bradley Fletcher #2 now. Double Yikes!! Butler seems to be able to play, but that is quite a big jump to expect him to take. Maybe Fletcher gets some confidence back and is serviceable next year. But another big “if” as well. I won’t go through the rest. Good thing it’s only March…
*But please, Bobby Kraft. Don’t insult our intelligence by saying “we really TRIED hard to get Revis back”. If you really wanted him back, the contract the Jets gave him was not prohibitive enough where you wouldn’t have been able to bring him back. Sure, a couple of decent bodies would have to have been sacrificed. And additional maneuvers necessary in future years. But you really could have figured it out. So please stop it.
*I’ve made a decision. As painful as it is for me to say this, I do NOT want the Bruins to make the playoffs. It’s time for change. All around. Major. And missing the playoffs is the only way change will happen.
Starting with Peter Chiarelli. He’s had a nice run as GM, no question about it. But the bad contracts (either too long, too soon, too much money, or in some cases, all three), the bad drafts, being seemingly too satisfied some years (after blowing a 3-0 series lead in the second round against Philadelphia in 2010, he said “well, we are one of only 5 teams to make the second round of the playoffs the last 2 years”), the laissez-faire attitude towards the players some years (after getting bounced from the playoffs in the first round the year after winning the Cup, he said “well, the players came to me and said they felt like it was really just one long season and were tired…”. I would have lit any player up had they told me that!). Etc. It’s time to go.
As much as I’ve changed my opinion on Claude Julien over the years and see him in a much more favorable light, it looks like it is time for a change there as well. For one, the players seemed to have tuned him out…specifically the “core” guys. There is a noticeable difference on the ice this year, as far as intensity and pride go it seems. Talent too, I suppose. But it’s just not the same. Not saying it is all Claude’s fault. But I’ve said it many times before, sometimes you just need a new voice. He’s been here a long time and it has been a nice run. But it happened to Doc Rivers. It happened to Terry Francona. It hasn’t happened to Belichick, probably because there is a lot more roster turnover year to year in football. Not to mention the fact that with all the nonguaranteed contracts in the NFL, there is a way to rectify any player situation quickly by jettisoning him. I just wonder if the three year contract extension given to him before the year will preclude Charlie Jacobs from doing anything here. Then again, a new GM will want to pick his own coach…
The roster. Complete overhaul, I say. I will leave open the possibility that a new GM & coach may light a fire under some of these guys. But here’s the list of players I WOULDN’T dangle in trades:
Dougie Hamilton, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron.
Yup, that’s it. I’m not likely to deal David Krejci. Or even Malcolm Subban. But I am up for dealing anyone else. For whatever that’s worth. The team is full of third/fourth line types. And third pairing defensemen. There are not many quality bodies in Providence ready to step in and contribute. Well, maybe there are. But youngsters are usually stifled by this regime, so we may never know. Time to find out, I say.
Enough for now…but still more to catch up on…