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: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

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Haggerty: Bruins putting a lot of their hopes in one roster fix

The improvement plan has become as clear as it’s going to be for the Bruins this offseason.

With Bruins general manager Don Sweeney locking up Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million deal this week and vowing to sign Torey Krug as well, the Bruins defensemen corps is going to look awfully similar to last season’s misbegotten group.

Almost identical, it would seem.

Sure, Sweeney said on Wednesday that the Bruins are actively seeking out “a transitional defenseman” that’s presumably a little better than 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles, and can be paired with Zdeno Chara as a top duo for next season. It’s the No. 1 priority on the Bruins offseason shopping list just as it was last season once they shipped Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for draft picks and were instead saddled with a fearsome, crippling black hole at the top of their organizational D-man charts.

The trade market has been set to a degree by the Erik Gudbranson trade from the Florida Panthers to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night with Jim Benning giving up a Grade-A center prospect in Jared McCann, a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick in exchange for the 24-year-old top-four defenseman. Per a hockey source with knowledge of the situation, the Bruins were not involved in any talks for the towering Gudbranso. It sounded like the Panthers and Canucks were pretty locked in with each other on making a deal.

That’s an unfortunate product of Boston not being able to match up with the available center prospect that might have interested Florida and having dealt some of those 2016 draft picks on fruitless deadline rental deals for Lee Stempniak and Liles.

So, how difficult will it be to land Kevin Shattenkirk, or Jacob Trouba, or Sami Vatanen, or Tyson Barrie, or any other mobile blueliner able to play big minutes, move pucks and survive against the other team’s best offensive players while being sheltered defensively by Zdeno Chara?

“Time will tell on that one, you know? Either through free agency or through acquisition, it’s a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. We’re going to be aggressive,” said Sweeney. “We certainly have identified, we had our pro meetings … I’m not going to give my whole plan out to you today. But we have areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center, or again on the backend. We’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in the position with two first-round picks to be either selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

The Bruins had better hope it’s a miracle-working puck-mover that they bring to Boston because otherwise they are on course for bringing back the same old sorry usual suspects from last season. Miller and Adam McQuaid will be taking up a combined $5.25 million on the salary cap, Krug will have a salary in the range of $5 million per season after watching the B’s largesse in the Miller deal and both Chara and Seidenberg will trudge on as proud, aging warriors well on the back end of their careers after outstanding service in Boston.

That means many defenders, including Joe Morrow and Colin Miller, return. Defense was the clear weakness on the team, which finished 19th in the NHL after being in the bottom third of the league pretty much all season. It was inarguably the worst defensive group of Claude Julien’s 10-year tenure with the Bruins and had major difficulties in all areas ranging from tape-to-tape passes, to coverage breakdowns and good, old-fashioned lost battles in all of the danger areas.

So, with the plan to add one high-caliber “transitional defenseman” already laid out, it’s clear the B’s belief is that will be enough to substantially improve things on the ice.

At least that’s the theory before the bullets start flying next season and Sweeney gave a few perfunctory lines about the team improving in every area.  

“This is a results-oriented business, so we have to get better in areas. We have to improve our roster. I’ve said all along that we need to continue to improve our roster. We’ll be in the marketplace in every different way, shape, or form to try and acquire players that will continue to help us do so,” said Sweeney. “Talking with Claude and going over the time he spent with Butch [Cassidy], through my dealings with Butch, and realizing the development of a lot of the players that have been a part of our roster and success is the transition game and stuff that Butch has brought to the table.

“[It’s] how he saw the game, how he expects players to play and move pucks and work on it every day, is an area that I think he’s going to be an addition to our [coaching] staff and how he sees the game. I think I identified that if Butch was playing in this day and age now, he’d be a very welcome addition to our roster.”

So that’s the plan, folks. The big move of the summer is getting a defenseman they badly need, filling in a few roster spots, signing a good deal of their own players and then hoping for a better result next time around.

Isn’t there some kind of line about insanity and expecting different results with the same cast of characters year in and year out? 

 

Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

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Thursday, May 26: Will going with Fleury haunt Penguins?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while still laughing at the #TeamFrich movement.

*Dave Lozo says that the decision by Mike Sullivan to play Marc-Andre Fleury could still come back to haunt the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Miracle on Ice goaltender Jim Craig marvels at the evolution of USA Hockey from the Miracle days to the current system that just keeps on producing top talent.

*Mike from Woburn hates the Kevan Miller contract almost as much as I do.

*Speaking of the Kevin Miller deal, here’s a scenario where the big overpay for Miller might help them land another talented young player.

*In other hockey news, the Vancouver Canucks landed legitimate top-4 defenseman Erik Gudbranson while the ink was drying on the Kevan Miller contract.

*Chris Phillips is expected to announce his retirement from the Ottawa Senators after a long career in Ottawa as a defensive warrior.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough says some tough decisions await the St. Louis Blues after dropping the conference finals to the San Jose Sharks.

*The San Jose media has decreed that it was worth spending a first-round pick for Martin Jones after he helped carry them to the Cup Final. For the Bruins it means that their first round pick will be No. 29 or No. 30 in the first round, so whoop-de-do for that.

*For something completely different: 21 scientists say that Tom Brady is right and the NFL is wrong about Deflategate.

 
 

Pandolfo ready to jump from player development to Bruins assistant

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Pandolfo ready to jump from player development to Bruins assistant

Jay Pandolfo grew up a rabid Bruins fan as a native of Burlington, Mass, and got to live out his youth hockey dreams playing in the Black and Gold at the very end of an excellent NHL career that included winning Stanley Cups for the New Jersey Devils. 

Pandolfo then was hired as a Player Development coach with the Bruins and was charged with working with their young prospects. Pandolfo responded as he typically does with a great work ethic and an open-minded, success-driven attitude, and did some very good things with young players Frank Vatrano, David Pastrnak and Noel Acciari the past couple of seasons.

So, it was a bonus for both the individual and for the team when Pandolfo was added to Claude Julien’s NHL coaching staff this week and it also bodes well for the further development of young players on the NHL roster. Perhaps Pandolfo can even coax a little more production out of young veteran forwards Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, who were both lackluster given ample chances to consistently produce last season.

Pandolfo was also a part of the interview process two years ago when Geoff Ward departed from Boston’s NHL staff and the Bruins eventually hired Joe Sacco as Julien’s top assistant.

Clearly, developing the young players was a mandate with the hires of both Pandolfo and Bruce Cassidy to the NHL staff, and getting the coaching experience in the NHL is something he wanted to try after his retirement as a player.

“Coming out as a player, Jay expressed interest from day one to get into coaching, had been a part of the search process [last season] that Claude referenced earlier. I’ve spent an awful lot of time with [Pandolfo] in the last two years while he’s transitioned into a development role. He spent a lot of nights behind the bench in Providence. He watches a lot of video with our players in a development role,” said Don Sweeney, who also added that Pandolfo’s move to coaching would open the door for former Devils forward Jamie Langenbrunner to become more involved in the B’s burgeoning Player Development Department. “I don’t really think it ever left him that he wanted to take a crack at this. I think it’s sort of in him as part of his fabric to want to teach, to want to impart upon the players the knowledge that he knows what it takes to win.

“He’s won. I’ve trained with him in the summer; he knows exactly what it takes. I think that it’s in his blood. It doesn’t mean that he can’t transition back out in a year’s time if it’s something that he doesn’t want to do. But it’s something that he wanted to jump into right from the get-go.”

Both Pandolfo and Cassidy have the unique position of having already coached many of the prospects, either in the NHL or on the cusp of breaking through from Providence. Take it one step further, Pandolfo also has the unique perspective of having played with many of the B’s core group of veteran players. That experience can be a vital conduit between those players and Julien when normal brush fires crop up or when the head coach is actively looking to gauge the true pulse of his team.

“I think it’s a huge benefit. I think working with especially some of these young guys who will be coming up in Providence. Even getting to know the prospects that hopefully will be making the jump and whether it’s a year or two years, having those guys feel comfortable with coming into a situation,” said Pandolfo. “I’ve played with a lot of guys that are still on the Bruins, so I think being comfortable with those guys [is important], and those guys knowing me and being comfortable with them being able to bounce stuff off me. As an assistant coach, you know, a lot of times you’re a bit of a sounding board too for those guys. You know they can’t always go to the head coach for things, so you know they like to sometimes talk to the assistant, and get a feel for what everyone’s thinking.

“It’s a good situation. I played for Claude so I’m very comfortable with him. Working with Butch the last couple years has really helped me a lot and we’re real comfortable together. So it's a similar situation. I’ve known Joe for a long time and also working with Goalie [coach] Bob [Essensa] as well down in Providence on a regular basis and having a really good relationship with Don Sweeney the last two couple years, it’s a very similar situation. For everyone I think it’ll allow us to get close as a group right from the hop. I think that matters a lot when you’re trying to build a winning team.”

Clearly, the Bruins are trying to make adjustments to the coaching staff in the hopes things will be different than they’ve been the past two seasons. It remains to be seen how many more changes need to be made before the truly positive results start to return for the Black and Gold, and things begin to stabilize on Causeway Street.