Bruins construct a blueprint to repeat

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Bruins construct a blueprint to repeat

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

BOLTON Bruins president Cam Neely opened Monday nights State of the Bruins event with season-ticket holders by proclaiming that the state of the Bruins has never been as good as it is today on or off the ice.

Nobody is going to argue with Sea Bass while the Bruins are still trotting Stanleys chalice all around the globe, holding victory parades in the city of Boston that draw upwards of a million crazed fans, and posting some pretty impressive TV ratings for their games.

Those are the signs of a thriving franchise with a thirsty fan base, and the players, fans and media all still seem pretty tipsy from the summers Bacchanalian celebration with the Cup. But the State of the Bruins and the teams annual golf tournament are sure signs that the regular season is just around the corner, and the blueprint for Bostons Cup repeat attempt is becoming clear.

Weve got to start all over again. You cant sit on what youve done, and you instead need to see if you can build on it, said coach Claude Julien. My season here in Boston is going to start the same way it has every year Ive been here. You need to make the playoffs before you can even think about winning another Stanley Cup.

That 82-game schedule is going to be our biggest challenge this year, and how we handle that. Every team is going to be gunning for us and if were not ready for it then were going to be in trouble.

First and most importantly, the team is willing to admit there will be some level of letdown during the season a stance thats similar to the way they didnt hide from the collapse against the Flyers a year earlier.

Julien, general manager Peter Chiarelli, assistant captain Patrice Bergeron and even Neely himself have all canvassed the NHL world this summer for thoughts about the season after the Cup. Theres a reason no Cup champion has repeated in the last 14 years, and there are pitfalls that need to be sidestepped.

The first one was accomplished this summer with the Bruins front office able to retain 17 players from last seasons tea, a near impossibility during the salary cap era in the National Hockey League.

So the Bruins are already markedly different from the 2010 champ Chicago Blackhawks, who lost the majority of their roster to free agency and cap-related trades. But the Bruins would be wise to heed the difficulty the Hawks experienced throughout the regular season.

That's the next hurdle facing the Bs, and it will be a little more challenging with everybody already waiting for the inevitable hangover and the Bruins openly talking about it.

You heard some of the themes tonight of what were going to talk about in camp: About turning the page, continuing to grow and facing the Stanley Cup hangover, said Chiarelli. Those are things that were talking about and incorporating into the team-building. Everyone Ive talked to of players, managers and coaches that have won the Cup, they all said that there is a letdown thats unavoidable no matter which way that you approach it.

So make sure that you approach it properly to minimize the letdown. Whatever you do, you cant get beyond it. You just have to face it and part of that is that you cant stop these guys from celebrating their accomplishments. These guys just climbed Everest for us. You just manage it every day and continue to get the pulse of the players. They know what the message is going to be.

Bergeron did his own reconnaissance work this summer, and he spoke with Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby in New York during the NHLs media tour last week about their attempts to repeat as Cup champs.

Weve got to take it a day at a time," Bergeron said. "We cant think about the playoffs now. Its about getting back on track. Were all excited to be coming back and its a good challenge for us. Nobody has done it since 1997-98 and thats a long time. The challenge last year was to bring the Cup back to Boston, and the challenge was to be up there in Boston with the other sports teams like the Patriots.

The Bruins captured the imaginations of just about everyone in Boston by climbing to the NHL mountaintop last spring, and now theyll get to know firsthand just how difficult it is to remain there.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.