Haggerty: It's a tale of two GM's for Bruins and Flyers

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Haggerty: It's a tale of two GM's for Bruins and Flyers

Every NHL general manager has their own personality and style when it comes to building their individual team roster.

There isnt one blueprint for success.

Instead here are many different ways to piece together a group of 20 players capable of raising the Stanley Cup at the end of an arduous hockey journey, and no two NHL GMs are the same.

But this summer continues to illustrate that you might not find two more disparate managing styles then those employed by Philadelphias Paul Holmgren and Bostons Peter Chiarelli. Those styles have played out perfectly in the way things have gone for each franchise over the last few months.

Homer has shown the wild-eyed boldness hes known for in once again shaking up his roster, and seems to have an allergic aversion to sticking with the status quo. Some of those short, quick brush strokes are based on issues within the Flyers dressing room, of course, and some are strictly about addressing team weaknesses.

But Holmgren is all about the action, and making moves rather than standing still.

Last summer he shipped Flyers captain Mike Richard and Jeff Richards away from Philadelphia in a couple of stunning moves that left their fan base slack-jawed and stupefied.

He forked over a gigantic long term contract for an unproven playoff performer in Ilya Bryzgalov when the Flyers needed stability between their pipes. Holmgren shipped James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs when the Flyers got tired of waiting for the former UNH star to return from injuries in a more timely fashion.

This summer Holmgren has bucked GM etiquette and signed restricted free agent Shea Weber to a 14-year, 110 million deal with a front-loaded contract construction that makes it nearly impossible for the Nashville Predators to match it. Its a maneuver thats within the bounds of the current CBA, and therefore 100-percent adhering to the letter of the law.

But its clearly going to create some hard feelings with Nashville GM Dave Poile among others.

That didnt concern Holmgren when it came time to find a defenseman that could fill the void left by the concussed Chris Pronger. Instead he executed the big move without much long term worry about next years CBA climate or the long term planning strategies that can sometimes paralyze an otherwise aggressive general manager.

On the other end of the spectrum: Chiarelli and his quiet offseason with a Bruins team that was vanquished in the first round of the playoffs. Chiarelli occasionally makes the big move like nabbing Tomas Kaberle at the trade deadline whether it worked or not it was a big move at the time or locking down both Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard when he first took over the Bruins franchise.

But his method with the Bs is more about drafting and developing young players, cultivating underrated talent at the NHL level and finding the perfect fits for a Black and Gold membership thats already proven itself Stanley Cup worthy. Its not about splashy moves or change for the sake of mixing things up.

That kind of conservative team-building can challenge the short-term attention span needs of a rabid fan base thats come to expect greatness. But it also can be effective as its been in Boston.

The Bruins have packaged together a talented young nucleus of players that are largely just entering their prime years of production, but theyre also battle-hardened after five straight playoff appearances. They also still have more talented youngsters coming up the pipeline with first round picks Dougie Hamilton and Jordan Caron expected to be core performers for the 2012-13 season.

Chiarelli is happy to give his Bruins nucleus one more season to prove just how good they can be with no Stanley Cup hangover excuses or Tim Thomas drama hanging over their heads. If they falter again in the first round with such a talented cast then things might be a little different.

The bold, big thinking aspects of Chiarellis management style would materialize to make the necessary changes. Those same big move instincts should be in effect this season if there truly isnt enough offense for the Bruins, or if Nathan Horton cant stay healthy after multiple concussions over the last two seasons.

But the Bruins werent big players for Zach Parise despite their significant offer. Theyve done little more than exploratory trade discussions with Anaheim, Phoenix and Columbus for the respective services of Bobby Ryan, Keith Yandle or Rich Nash. Chiarelli has explained all along that hes not looking to dismantle whats proven to be a championship core of players, and there are clear benefits to keeping the same group of players together year after year.

It speaks to pros and cons to each way of handling their business as general managers. The Flyers will constantly address their team needs and bring high end talent into the Philadelphia fold, but that leads to an alarming amount of turnover year after year.

The Bruins have stayed the course with a talented group that has grown up together in Boston.

But the same old problems plague the Bs cast of characters: a pitiful power play and a limited group of defensemen when it comes to the puck-moving department. It hasnt changed in the last two years, and there is slim hope that things will radically improve next year in Boston with the same personnel.

So in many areas across the board Holmgren and Chiarelli come to success from different avenues, but both longtime franchises have been undeniably successful over the last five seasons.

The one ultimate difference-maker when Holmgren and Chiarelli are placed side-by-side for evaluation?

Its the Stanley Cup raised by the Bruins and their conservative GM two seasons ago even if thats long gone and forgotten by a what have you done for me lately hockey fan base. Holmgren gets the Flyers Faithful excited with courageous roster moves and keeps the hockey franchise in the headlines by always chasing after household names via trades or free agency.

But sometimes the best moves are the ones never made by a conservative, deliberate GM that shows true value in their players. After all it was Chiarelli and the Bruins that refrained from trading away Tim Thomas to Philly for Simon Gagne back in 2009 when Holmgren was once again looking to remake his team.

Chiarellis unwillingness to simply flip away a key asset is exactly what separates the two GMs at the end of day.

Its also why one has a Stanley Cup on his resume and the other has retreated back to the drawing board each and every season.

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

Haggerty: For better or worse, Bruins need to make a call on Julien

The Bruins coach and leaders in their dressing room spoke out this weekend, and their words all basically spread the same supportive message.

Claude Julien and his longtime players aren’t ready for a change at the head coaching position for the Black and Gold and they hope the longtime bench boss is in Boston for as long as possible after 10 mostly successful years on the job.

Still, it may not go down that way this season with real pressure on B’s management, coaches and the players to end a two-year playoff drought. Things are currently going pretty badly with the Bruins in the middle of a three-game losing streak before facing the reigning Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.

The heat has been dialed up as high as it’s ever been on Julien in his 10 years of employment with Boston and everybody seems to know it.

“Right now we’re all confident in Claude, and we all want to be here and play for him. If [saving Julien’s job] is the extra motivation you need for the games then so be it,” said Patrice Bergeron. “But we’re all professionals and we’re here to win hockey games. I’ve said this before that I’ve been with Claude for 10 years, and he’s the guy that I believe in and that I want to play for.”

Similarly, the Bruins captain has been with Julien for the long haul in Boston and has worked closely with the coach keeping lines of communication open in good, Cup-winning times and bad, non-playoff times. Chara bestowed Julien with every bit the endorsement that Bergeron did, and it’s clear much of the core group wants to keep the longtime coach in place.

“We don’t pay attention [to the chatter]. Claude is our coach and Claude will be our coach. We have confidence in him,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “He’s proven to be a coach that does a lot of good things for this organization. We just have to come up with some wins, battle it and we’re all in this together.”

One thing that’s a legitimate question: Is the devotion of players like Chara and Bergeron toward Julien a defining reason to keep the longtime coach?

There isn’t a sense the Bruins have tuned out their coach, as can happen in dysfunctional NHL situations, but there is a feeling that longtime B’s players with status are pretty comfortable with iron-clad no-movement clauses in their contracts and a relationship with the coach where there’s a level they may not be getting pushed toward very often.

Comfort isn’t always a good thing in an NHL dressing room and it’s felt altogether too comfortable at times in some of those no-show performances from the Black and Gold over the past couple of failed seasons. 

For his part, Julien doesn't think that was the case and intends on continuing to work his way through the struggles with a mix of youth and veteran players who clearly have enough to be a playoff team.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the [firing] rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

It would be ridiculous and pointless to compare this season’s Bruins roster to the groups that won Cups, made it to the Finals twice and even won a President’s Trophy in 2013-14. Clearly, this particular roster isn’t as deep, or as difficult to play against, as those talent-stuffed hockey clubs, but this team also has enough high-end talent that they should edge teams like Toronto, Ottawa and Philadelphia out of a playoff spot.

This is where the theoretical move to fire Julien comes into play.

The Bruins are at a critical stage of their season where things are slipping away from them and the team is showing some of the maddening characteristics of the past two seasons.

They are unprepared to play on too many nights. They take opponents lightly on too many nights particularly in the past couple of months. A tiring Tuukka Rask isn’t able to bail the team out as much as he was in the first couple of months. Because the Bruins are being strangled by a roster of immovable players with no-trade clauses and can’t even entertain trading their blue-chip prospects Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, the trade options just aren’t there for Don Sweeney and Cam Neely right now.

It would take a brilliant, creative GM to swing a hockey deal that could pump life back into the reeling Bruins. The B’s front office hasn’t shown those qualities in the past few years running the team. Instead, they have GMs from other teams lining up and making one-sided offers to the desperate Bruins in hopes that Sweeney/Neely will buckle under the pressure to push into the playoffs this spring.

So, the only impactful card the Bruins can play is firing a coach in Julien who probably isn’t the coach of the future when the next generation of B’s prospects is ready to go. The hope is that move can light a fire under their meandering hockey club if it doesn't start reeling off some wins in a row. An argument can be made that a coach such as current assistant Bruce Cassidy could get more out of some of Boston’s younger players they’re relying heavily on this season. The former Providence Bruins coach might fit a little better into the overall philosophy that management is looking to instill.

It might just be that making a coaching change is the best midseason card that Bruins management has to play given all of the circumstances.

Still, the one thing that B’s management can’t do is keep Julien twisting in the wind and answering all the questions about his future with no clear vote of confidence from his bosses. Julien is the winningest coach in Bruins history and led them to their glorious Stanley Cup run in 2011. He’s earned a wealth of respect around the league for the professional, classy way he’s always conducted himself on and off the ice and he won’t be out of work long if/when he is relieved of his duties on Causeway Street.

So, if the Bruins intend to make the move with their coach then they need to do it sooner rather than later.

People around the NHL are watching the Bruins intently to see how they handle this situation with a world-class coach in Julien, and Neely and Sweeney continue to be radio/TV silent, despite the Bruins media requesting to speak with them on Friday morning in the throes of their losing streak.

It’s high time for Bruins management to step up and make a decision on Julien for better or for worse, and treat him the way they’d undoubtedly like to be treated if it were them suddenly in the danger zone should they miss the playoffs again this spring.  

Sunday, Jan. 22: Jimmy Vesey's rookie wall

Sunday, Jan. 22: Jimmy Vesey's rookie wall

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while proud of my wife and daughter for taking part in the Women’s March on Saturday.

*The day-to-day NHL grind may be getting to Jimmy Vesey a bit, and causing him to hit a bit of a rookie wall after his Harvard career.

*Alex Radulov has gone from being an NHL headache to being an impact playmaker for the Canadiens in a quick pivot for the Russian player.

*Melrose native Conor Sheary seems to have found a home for himself on the Pittsburgh Penguins skating on a line with a guy named Sidney Crosby.

*The Chicago Blackhawks are always looking to improve, and they’ve reportedly kicked the tires on Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar with Detroit.

*St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock is nearing another coaching milestone in what’s been a long, distinguished career behind the bench.

*P.K. Subban is slowly approaching a return to the Nashville Predators lineup from injury, and the Preds need him as soon as possible.

*For something completely different: Greg Poppovich hits the nail on the head here, and it never ceases to amaze me that he’s such a smart, well-versed human being.