Haggerty: Bruins aren't alone in standing pat

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Haggerty: Bruins aren't alone in standing pat

There's a common phrase in professional sports that says if youre not getting better, then youre getting worse.

If thats the case then the entire Eastern Conference outside of New York City and Carolina is getting worse, including the Boston Bruins.

The Nashville Predators matched the 14-year, mega-bucks offer sheet for stud defenseman Shea Weber, leaving the Flyers with a gaping defensive hole rather than a Chris Pronger replacement.

Ryan Suter and Zach Parise both went to the Minnesota Wild and the Western Conference.

In essence, the Rangers improved because they added Rick Nash without giving up any of their core pieces, and they addressed an offense that can at times be the teams biggest liability in John Tortorellas defensive system.

That makes a Rangers team that already gives the Bruins fits that much better.

Hes a good a really good player. Hes a very good goal scorer. Hes a big, strong player, said Peter Chiarelli. I dont really get into details as far as our negotiations, our discussions with Columbus.

The fact that the Rangers got him, I think its going to help their team. Theyre obviously in our conference and we play them more than we would play a team in the Western Conference.

The Carolina Hurricanes also were big winners this summer by trading for Jordan Staal and giving the Canes a pair of legit centers to go with the up-and-coming players around them.

The Bruins re-signed their own players and kept their core together the biggest priority after they won the Stanley Cup two years ago but avoided bringing in any players from the outside. Perhaps watching the Joe Corvo disaster unfold in Boston last season made them a little hesitant to bring in players from outside the Black and Gold program.

At the end of the day, when you look at it, its about the team. When certain players come in your lineup, it doesnt mean that its always going to work. Youve seen teams in the past that have loaded up with extremely skilled players and nothing was accomplished that they had hoped for, said Claude Julien. So Im one of those guys that believe in team. I think my example was my first year here. If you really look at the talent we had that first year compared to now, and we still made the playoffs.

It was because of team. That goes a long way. So they can do that, and theres no doubt they improve. But they still have to show it. My confidence right now is that this team is capable of playing against any team in this league with this lineup that we have right now.

While that belief is there across the board, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is still watching closely at whats going on around the league.

Were going to continue to improve. I dont want it to be misconstrued by just keeping the core intact that were standing pat here. When rivals make moves like that, when Philly has the offer sheet on Shea Weber, I dont lose sight of that stuff. I know that these are good teams that are getting better, said Chiarelli. So our foundation, our team right now, is quite good. Weve got some things that we may do at a later point.

We may wait until later this season. Were not standing still. With the Weber thing and the Nash thing, those are things that we certainly dont ignore we dont react right away but we certainly dont ignore."

But who else monumentally improved in the Eastern Conference?

The Penguins missed out on their big targets and lost Jordan Staal in one fell swoop. So not only did Pittsburgh not get any better, but theyre demonstrably worse than last year without addressing their defensive issues.

The Flyers traded away an up-and-coming scorer in James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs for an overrated defenseman in Luke Schenn, and missed out on the summer's premium targets.

Bobby Ryan is still available, of course, but there are serious questions whether Anaheim will deal the high-scoring winger after watching the unimpressive return Columbus got in the Nash deal.

The Montreal Canadiens and the Buffalo Sabres both got tougher and grittier in moves that will make the Northeast Division much like the old Adams Division bloodbaths of the past. But they havent done much to improve themselves otherwise.

Tampa Bay got a goaltender in Anders Lindback, but hes not even a proven starter at the NHL level. The Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators were playoff teams and didnt suffer big roster losses, but they havent made wholesale major improvements either.

Roberto Luongo may get traded to Florida, but he doesnt exactly strike fear into the hearts of anyone hailing from Boston.

Then there are the Eastern Conference teams that got demonstrably worse through departures and free agent desertions.

The New Jersey Devils were decimated by the departure of Parise and wont be making it back to the Stanley Cup Finals next season. The Washington Capitals lost the one coach in Dale Hunter that had managed to get Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin to buy into a system capable of winning hockey games, and Semin doesnt look like hell be going back to Washington.

It will certainly be more of a dog fight for the Bruins within their division next season. But theres nothing happening within the Eastern Conference to indicate Boston wont once again win the division next season, and perhaps do it as comfortably as they did last year in topping the Ottawa Senators by 10 points.

That would keep the Bruins among the top three finishers in the East as theyve been in three of the last four years, and among an elite group of Eastern Conference teams that havent exactly reinvented themselves this summer.

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. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.