Mike from Attleboro: Chiarelli 'starving the Bear' since Stanley Cup

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Mike from Attleboro: Chiarelli 'starving the Bear' since Stanley Cup

If you arent a black and gold bandwagon jumper, the Minnesota Wild signing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical contracts should have had a pleasantly familiar feeling to it.

Six years ago the Boston Bruins made a similar splash bringing Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard to the Bruins. At the time, GM to be Peter Chiarelli was still under contract to the Ottawa Senators until July 15th and was strictly forbidden to have any contact with any Senators free agents. So it fell upon acting GM Jeff Gorton to sign the former Ottawa star Chara and Savard, which instantly righted a badly listing franchise.

It was a day that marked the end of the post lockout incompetence and post 1970s championship complacency that became the hallmark of the SindenOConnell regime.

Well a year after the 2011 cup run Peter Chiarelli has managed to keep the incompetence to a minimum, but apparently even a premature evacuation in the first round of the 2012 playoffs isnt enough to stave off another case of post-cup complacency.

It started last summer. The Stanley Cup victory tour hadnt even begun to deposit enormous bar tabs and shirtless rookies across the city, but fans and experts alike were touting this Bruins team as having the best chance to repeat as any in recent NHL history. Usually, this is champagne fueled hubris, but with minimal roster turnover, the Bruins were positioned very well going into the offseason.

Unfortunately, instead of reloading, as forwards Mark Recchi retired and Michael Ryder left via free agency, the Bs settled for talented career under achiever Benoit Pouliot. Instead of correcting the horrific mistake that was the Tomas Kaberle trade, they chose to simply repeat it at a Building 19 price with Joe Corvo. Instead of dealing for impact players, the trade deadline brought roster filler Brian Rolston, Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau. Instead of using Marc Savards money to fuel another championship it was left untouched. None of Peter Chiarellis acquisitions were the kind of players that could provide the Bruins with significant production statistically, nor were they the locker room rallying points needed to rejuvenatemotivate a stagnating team.

As a result, the Bruins' first title defense since 1973 was an underachievement both on and off the ice. Luckily for Bruins fans, Chiarelli blaming the teams first round exit on league parity shows that their rationalizing defeat and excuse making skills are still of a championship caliber.

Since that parity-induced playoff exit, the Bruins front office has shown less activity than Han Solo between Empire and Return of the Jedi. How can a team that underperformed so badly have even less team-building urgency? Yet Chiarelli seems legitimately content to simply re-sign the same roster that was bounced last season, minus their Conn Smythe winning goalie. If what the Red Sox did at the end of the Theo Epstein era was Feeding the Monster, what Chiarellis done since the Bs Stanley Cup Championship is starving the Bear.

Now I will never claim to be the sharpest knife in the draw, but even green rubberized safety scissors can see that bringing back last years team and possibly adding a Top 9 forward isnt going to solve the Bruins parity problems, let alone loading up for a title run. If you havent noticed, this team is bursting at the seams with "Top 9" forwards. And none of those Top 9 forwards could do what this team needed last season: step in for the injured Nathan Horton. This isnt a new problem either. For two years running, this team has entered the offseason with first line players (Savard & Horton) recovering from major concussions. And for two straight years Chiarelli has failed to put an adequate back up plan on the roster during the offseason. Even though the initial reports about Horton are very positive, the fact that this was his second head injury in a year and the length of time he has missed from a moderate hit is still a massive cause for concern. And it is absolutely cause for this team to look above and beyond the usual roster filler.

Despite these facts, the only activity Bs fans have gotten this offseason is in the press. Good news! Tim Thomas waived his no trade clause! OH yeah he still hasnt been dealt. The Bruins made a significant offer to Zach Parise! It was so significant that the Bruins were never mentioned by any prominent hockey writers as they reported incessantly on the former Devil's free agent status. Im sure that after Rick Nash and Bobby Ryan are dealt it will be reported that the Bruins put together super-duper competitive packages to acquire both players.

What this team and its fans need isnt a front office thats content to manage a disappointing season with excuses and press releases. They need a front office that doesnt think simply keeping the band together is enough to contend. They need a GM that will see Jay Feaster losing his mind and take advantage of the situation before Feasters office is padded in rubber. The Parise and Suter signings should be the inspiration needed to return to the daring aggressiveness that laid the foundation for the Bruins revival.

Unfortunately, that probably means the Bruins need to rehire Jeff Gorton.

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

BOSTON -- A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four-year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.

Sweeney: Bruins head to market seeking 'transitional defenseman'

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Sweeney: Bruins head to market seeking 'transitional defenseman'

BOSTON -- This isn't exactly a state secret: The Bruins are on the lookout for a puck-moving, top-pairing defenseman who can help their transition game, and aid them in more easily breaking the puck out of their own zone.

The B's basically had two top-4 defensemen on their roster last season -- Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara were the only two on the Boston roster who topped 20 minutes of ice time per game -- and tried to fill in the blanks with Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg and several other young blueliners. Their success, or lack thereof, is reflected in the fact they finished 19th in the league in goals allowed.

So general manager Don Sweeney said during a Wednesday conference call with reporters that the team is in search of a “transitional” defenseman, and will do whatever is necessary to acquire one.

In Sweeney's words, the Bruins will be “aggressive” and pursue improving the hockey club “in any way, shape or form".

There are plenty of signs that Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk could figure prominently in Boston’s trade pursuits this summer, and free agents Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski would be immediate upgrades in the “transitional defenseman” department. But the Bruins were also on a mission to get a “transitional defenseman” last season as well, and came up empty (aside from early season flameout Matt Irwin and 35-year-old journeyman John-Michael Liles acquired at the trade deadline).

They had grand plans to trade up in the first round of last year's draft and nab Boston College's Noah Hanifin. But -- after dealing Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames for three 2016 draft picks -- they were unable to move into position to draft Hanifan.

So it’s clear that making efforts to land that elusive defenseman, and actually closing the deal, are two extremely different things.

Toward that end, Sweeney also talked about looking for defensive help from within the organization. 

“We’ve had talks with (Krug, a restricted free agent) and we’ll find, whatever term that ends up being . . . we’ll find a contract for him," said Sweeney. "But we’re looking for balance. We’re also looking for players like Colin Miller to take the next step. We’ve got younger players that will hopefully push, and that’s what you want.

“You want the depth of the organization to be there for the younger players to push somebody out because they’re ready to play . . . (young players such as) [Matt] Grzelcyk and [Rob] O’Gara. And [I] just came back from seeing [Jeremy] Lauzon play. You know [we're] very excited about the trajectory of that player and the possibility (of his making the NHL roster) down the road, depending on what his development curve looks like and when he gets in here and [starts] playing against the men.

“We’ve got pieces in place that will hopefully push the group that we currently have and that’s what you want. You want that internal competition that players feel like they better perform."

But, he added, "we’re also looking outside the marketplace because we need to continue to transition the puck better.”