BOSTON – It’s understandable, given the high expectations surrounding the Boston Bruins, that disappointment and second-guessing rule the day when the team falls short in the postseason. And given that their best player (Zdeno Chara) is 37 years old and this marked the seventh straight season they've qualified for the playoffs, it's inevitable that the disappointment and second-guessing is centering on whether or not the Bruins' window for winning a championship is closing.
But president Cam Neely doesn't think so.
“We haven’t fallen off the cliff," Neely said Tuesday at the team's year-end press gathering. "We didn’t play as well as we needed to play in the second round, and from my perspective as a group, we didn’t play [in the playoffs] the way we were playing in March and in April.
But he added “our core group, aside from maybe [Chara] . . . is still relatively young. You’re talking [players in their] mid- to late-20s, maybe. Zdeno is still, in my opinion, the best defender in the game. I still think we’re in our window. We just have to recognize what we need to do to make our team better, whether it’s guys playing better, or whether we’re adding different players.”
Chara is an awfully big piece of a championship puzzle, and it does become significantly more difficult to field a Cup-winning team if the 6-foot-9 defenseman’s effectiveness is reduced or if he’s completely out of the picture at some point three or more years down the road. But Neely's words are a clear message that the team isn’t looking to significantly alter its DNA, or undergo a significant change to its current roster after one particularly bitter playoff burn.
As Neely indicated, there are only five key players above the age of 30 on the current Bruins roster: Chara, Jarome Iginla, Shawn Thornton, Chris Kelly and Dennis Seidenberg, and both Iginla and Thornton could depart via unrestricted free agency. The rest of the nucleus is 30 or younger and considered to be in the prime of their NHL careers.