Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?

Haggerty: Right move for Bruins to stand pat?
June 25, 2012, 3:24 pm
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Peter Chiarelli admitted he doesnt get many cold calls from the NHL's 29 other general managers these days.

He likes his hockey club and it shows.

Chiarelli is bringing 12 forwards back from last years Bruins team minus Benoit Pouliot, and five of their six defensemen plus 19-year-old super prospect Dougie Hamilton. Theyve got two goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin that suited up for the Bruins last season even if Tea Party Tim Thomas has flown the Black and Gold coop to Colorado.

When asked if teams constantly ask about Bostons top prospects in potential trade talks, it seems Chiarelli is successfully sending out a consistent message: He intends to keep the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning nucleus together.

"Ive been pretty clear over the last year and a bit that I really like the large makeup of our team," Chiarelli said. "Other GMs have been backing off. I dont get a lot of trade calls. Guys call and try to cherry pick on our top end guys, and I dont blame them for doing it. But I dont get a lot of calls. Its kind of a cycle: were a good team and nobody really wants to help us.

I dont want to say comfortable because you never want to say comfortable in this position. But Id be very content if our roster now is the roster we go with to start the season. Id be really content. But crazy things happen in trades or free agents, so you have to be on top of it in case you want to do something.

There is plenty of reasons for Chiarelli to be enamored with his club. After all, they marched to the Cup and proved they could be successful in their current incarnation.

When the factors are right, Bostons combination of toughness, depth, and quality goaltending gives them as good a chance as anybody else to come out of the Eastern Conference, which has been wide open the last two postseasons.

The Bruins also have young players like Hamilton, Rask, Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand that are still on the upswing in their careers, so theres plenty of argument to be made that they can get even better.

Whats the biggest potential flaw in Chiarellis potential status-quo plan?

It would appear every other team in the Eastern Conference is steadily improving, and some are hastily attempting to build a hockey super power.

The Bruins are getting busy staying the same while the rest of the East is moving on with their improvement plans.

Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Hart Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, and it has begun clearing money from their salary cap to make serious runs at both elite unrestricted free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. That is a scary proposition for the rest of the league when the Penguins were already one of the favorites to win the Cup next season.

The Rangers could have been the team in the Cup Finals rather than the New Jersey Devils, and they have a cast of young players hungry for their first Cup as well as plenty of cap space to make a big move headed into next year.

The Flyers have taken a step forward defensively after their deal with Toronto for Luke Schenn, and GM Paul Holmgren seems on the verge of making a big splash each and every offseason. Last season his moves gave Los Angeles the building blocks for a Cup winner, but they also tend to keep Philly strong and hungry every year.

The Washington Capitals still need a head coach, but they had a good weekend at the draft adding former Montreal flop artist Michael Ribeiro and tough customer Tom Wilson after they already seemed to be getting the hang of the winning thing during the playoffs.

The Maple Leafs have already added 22-year-old forward-on-the-verge-of-a-breakout James van Riemsdyk and look ready to pull the trigger on a Roberto Luongo swap that could finally address their longstanding goalie problems.

Erik Karlsson has helped elevate the Ottawa Senators to a legitimate playoff team as he augments a roster with an intriguing mix of young players and capable veterans who have Cup Finals appearances on their resume.

Tampa Bay still has Steve Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, Victor Hedman and a crop of talented young players with GM Steve Yzerman reshaping them into a contender.

The Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils return playoff teams confident they can get back there again even if the Jersey roster is suffering through some painful turnover.

The Carolina Hurricanes were a much better team under new coach Kirk Muller in the second half of the year, and their young squad is going to play with a different kind of energy watching the Staal brothers, Jordan and Eric, skate together for the very first time.

The Buffalo Sabres still have the same team everybody listed as trendy Northeast Division favorites last fall before team chemistry issues and Milan Lucic's assault on their goaltender submarined their season.

The Montreal Canadiens organization finally had a much-needed front office enema after last years embarrassing campaign, and the New York Islanders and Winnipeg Jets should be improved next season.

The point of going through the off-season ups and downs of the Eastern Conference is simple.

Nearly every other team in the conference has done something significant to improve themselves. The Bruins have done nothing aside from retaining their own players while their GM stays faithful to a team that bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

the departures of Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot might be addition by subtraction, but thats a different story for another day.

Chiarelli will still be hunting for a Recchi-type forward after July 1 to add to the Boston mix as their one big roster-building move for next year. Any veteran acquisition the Bruins make will surely be done after the start of free agency, and be part of the secondary trade market Chiarelli has mentioned more than once.

Otherwise, Chiarelli likes what he has.

Everyone talks about teams that have oodles and oodles of cap space, but youve got to find players, said Chiarelli. Youve got to fill spots. I like the spot that were in right now.

Watching other teams improve wouldnt be a sole determiner for us to add somebody. I dont ignore it, but I wouldnt engage in trade talks because of it. I think were in a good spot right now. Were in a good roster spot.

Is standing pat the right move for the Bruins? Or should they be showing a willingness to execute a big, bold move in what's an important offseason for the Bruins?

Depending on how it all ends up, Chiarelli's decisions will be looked at as either justified faith or stultifying conservatism.

There will be all kinds of frustration if Nathan Horton goes down early in the season, and the Bruins have the same kind of offensive struggles that cropped up once he was done with a concussion in late January.

The Bruins are also slicing and dicing the power play this summer in hopes of revamping and improving it for next year, but its legitimate to question how much offense can be siphoned out of the same old PP personnel that crapped out during the last two playoffs.

Time will tell whether Chiarelli made the right call by standing pat, but thats his offseason plan and hes sticking to it.