Chiarelli, Bruins stand pat at trade deadline

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Chiarelli, Bruins stand pat at trade deadline

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

OTTAWA Monday was easily the most inactive trade deadline the Boston Bruins have experienced under the Peter Chiarelli regime.

Yet it might also ultimately be their most successful.

Two deals in the 24 hours leading up to the trade deadline amounted to shuffling cards at the minor-league level.

The Bruins dealt away their backup enforcer, Brian McGrattan, to Anaheim on Sunday night for a pair of minor-league depth players, and traded minor-league blueliner Jeff Penner along with the rights to a Finnish player theyd sent back to Europe in exchange for an AHL goaltender, Anton Khudobin. Khudobin is now slotted behind Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask on Bostons depth chart.

Not exactly deals that will capture even the most ardent hockey fan's imagination.

Bottom line: they didnt do much on NHL trade deadline day, as opposed to years past when players like Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Recchi and Steve Montador waltzed through the Boston dressing-room doors.

There wasnt much activity on our part today, said Chiarelli, with the confident tone of an executive that didnt have a need for activity at the deadline. We talked to a couple of teams. We felt that we did most of our stuff within the last couple of weeks. So today was a quiet day.

Weve done three deals where weve added three good pieces. There has been some subtraction, but we felt the net benefit was very positive. There wasnt anything that, when you look back in hindsight after doing the three deals, that I was saying Wow, that would be a good one to do. No, there wasnt anything like that.

Its perfectly okay for the Bs to just say no, however, on a couple of different levels.

The entire NHL didnt register as many deals as normally expected on a deadline day with only 16 trades ahead of the league-mandated deadline.

Then theres the simple fact Chiarelli got all of his shopping out of the way weeks in advance and was able to observe his new configuration of players perform at high efficiency on a team-bonding romp through the Western Conference.

The big fish was Tomas Kaberle, of course.

The 32-year-old All-Star defenseman has immediately jumped in and played 20-plus minutes a night while calming things down offensively for the Bs.

Chris Kelly and Rick Peverley appear to be solid role players, with Peverley able to easily replace the offense lost with Blake Wheeler.

The two centerwings give coach Claude Julien a multitude of faceoff options when theyre on the ice, and both are heady, speedy penalty killers that immediately give the special teams unit an upgrade as well. None of that is sexy stuff in the hockey world, but it wins games and makes the Bs exceedingly difficult to play against.

Those kinds of things tend to go over big in the playoffs.

The burgeoning offensive chemistry of Kelly and Peverley with Michael Ryder was also getting a bit easier to spot in the win over the Edmonton Oilers.

But there was no mistaking both new guys blocking shots, winning faceoffs and providing the little nuances that breed success in tight third period situations against the Vancouver Canucks.

The most interesting thing about this deadline for the Bruins?

This time around Chiarelli got exactly what he wanted on the trade market. He didnt settle when Marian Hossa or Ilya Kovalchuk slipped through Bostons fingers, and thats allowed his hockey team to take on an undeniably sturdy construction.

Those early deadline moves propped the Black and Gold up with a 5-0-0 road trip headed into Tuesday nights finale against the Ottawa Senators, and have poised the Bs to pass the demoralized Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference points derby.

Weve played a real solid two-way game, said Chiarelli when asked what he liked best from his newly formed unit. Weve maybe not generated all the chances we normally would, but were making really good plays. I feel were cleaner in our own end.

I like our movement better on the power play, so that speaks to confidence, too, and synergy. Goaltending has been good. Were playing Vancouver and Calgary, two tough, big teams, and I just liked our game. We competed. We played a solid game and the synergy we talked about, the four strong lines, eventually you come out ahead if youre playing your game.

The Bs probably could have gone for another depth defensemen given that Andrew Ference is likely to miss a couple of weeks, and is hitting the magic number of games hes managed to endure on average over the last three years. But Chiarelli clearly felt rookie Steve Kampfer and rugged Shane Hnidy would be enough to compliment what Boston already has on the back line.

You just know the players, you know the prices and you know the fits, said Chiarelli. So, I mean, we did the due diligence. We felt that the players we got were the ones we were targeting. I was exhausted; we were all exhausted after flying from Edmonton. So it was nice to not really have to pull a rabbit out of a hat today in the shape were in.

The rabbits of Kaberle, Peverley and Kelly were pulled well in advance of NHL deadline day for the Bruins, and its very different than the way things played out in the past for Chiarellis club.

Now its up to the pieces set in place to perform and stay healthy to see just how prudent it was to take a knee on this deadline day.

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

Are they on a crash course?

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Are they on a crash course?

This is the first in a five-part “Rebuilding the Bruins” series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction.

In many ways, this offseason is shaping up as a typical one for the Boston Bruins. There'll be roster fixes -- like last year's Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton trades on NHL draft weekend -- that they hope will result in upgrades and improvements. They'll work with their prospects and draft picks, looking for maturation and development . Hopefully, they'll work toward building a greater level of accountability and urgency among the core players, most of whom are expected to return.

And it some ways it's atypical. The heat is most definitely on president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney after a second consecutive late-season collapse left the Bruins -- again -- one point shy of the postseason. Ownership clearly expects better, and has made its "expectations" clear.

The question is: Are Neely and Sweeney doing what needs to be done to get the franchise back on track?

“If people were to ask ‘Who is head of hockey operations?’, it’s a collaborative effort between a number of people,” said Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs. “But if you ask for one sort of name, I would say it’s Cam Neely. I’m fairly certain my father" -- team owner Jeremy Jacobs -- "would share that sentiment.

"I just want to clarify. . . about investing in our team. It’s something that we continually do. We had leveraged our future (in recent years in an attempt to win immediately) to the point where something had to change last summer. We made the change and we’re righting the ledger, if you will, by stocking our team back up with prospects with the ability for cap flexibility to make the proper moves moving forward.

“We will always invest in this team. I think now we’re back on the right side of the ledger. We have an opportunity in front of us to move forward. We are a cap team and there should be expectations in an Original Six market that we continue to be a playoff contender and, frankly, a Stanley Cup contender. Given the mix of talent that we currently have on the roster and the youth that’s coming in, Cam’s aware of those expectations, as is Don.”

Those expectations underscore how much work there is to be done for a middling hockey club with some valuable individual pieces -- Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, David Pastrnak -- but far too many weaknesses that can be easily exploited by the better teams around the NHL.

The reality is, the Bruins are stuck in the mediocre middle right now . . . and that's a bad place to be. They're picking at No. 14 again, where the truly game-changing type of young player that Boston needs isn't available. In addition, the Bruins won’t be a true Stanley Cup contender again until they have a No. 1 defenseman in the 25-to-33-years-old range capable of playing 30 quality minutes per night over a long, two-month postseason run. They could also use a big, strong right winger with top-6 offensive potential. And they need to come up with an adequate backup goalie for Tuukka Rask.

That's a lot of work for Sweeney in one offseason.

“We just need to continue to get better, you know?” said Sweeney. “This is a performance-driven business and we’re going to be held to that standard and you know we fell short. We do believe that we should have [been in the playoffs]. That's not disparaging against the eight teams that [started the playoffs in the East] . . . [those] that are there they deserve it, and we fell just short of that. I still believe that we had a strong enough group to get in and challenge there. Then you just wait and see what happens.

"But we fell short in that and I take ownership of it. It’s on me; it’s not on anybody else to continue to improve our roster. That’s on me.”

Many around the league use terms like “half-pregnant” when describing the Bruins. Last season the B's had one foot pointed toward a rebuild and the other foot pointed toward competing for a playoff spot. In the end, they accomplished neither. Clearly, they were good enough to be in the playoffs -- the seventh-best goal differential in the East, a top-five offense and well above-average special teams’ play was enough to offset their shaky defense -- but Sweeney has to realize that even they'd made it they were destined to go out in the first round . . .which was the fate of the Red Wings and Flyers, the teams they were battling for one of the final two postseason spots in the East.

And that raises a deeper question: Is this current plan of action in the best long-term interest of the Bruins?

The front office's failings at the trade deadline are a prime example. Rather than face reality -- that even if they'd made the playoffs, they weren't going beyond one round -- the Bruins instead:

a) Shipped out future draft picks for marginal veteran upgrades in Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles.

b) Held onto unrestricted-free-agent-to-be Loui Eriksson, who was having his best season in a Boston uniform and might have fetched valuable long-term assets in a trade. That option no longer exists with Eriksson now on his way out the door.

Neely and Sweeney might argue that it’s pure media-driven hindsight to criticize those trade-deadline moves, which now look especially bad since the team failed to qualify for the postseason, but it's their jobs to shape the team’s future. It should have been very clear to both that the Bruins didn’t have the right stuff to make any kind of a playoff run. Playing and developing their promising young players down the stretch should have been the priority, but, frankly, that never felt like the case after Sweeney's band-aid trades for veteran rentals.

This was never more evident than when the Bruins flew Frank Vatrano cross-country on emergency recall at the start of the season-changing California road trip in late March, sat him for the loss to the San Jose Sharks, and then flew him back to Providence without having played a game. The emergency recall made little sense, especially considering how they could have used Vatrano’s scoring touch.

That simple fact was hammered home when the Bruins did come to their senses shortly afterward and recalled Vatrano, along with fellow prospect Colin Miller, for the final few pivotal games of the season. Both of those talented players should have been gaining that playoff-stretch experience in Boston all along. And who knows? They might have even provided the one extra point that ultimately cost them the playoff spot they so coveted.

Cultivating the next generation of Bruins talent is what will once again get them closer to their stated goal of Stanely Cup contention. (They’ll also need to get lucky with a top-pairing defenseman, or two, dropping into their lap along the way, of course.) But they'll be doomed to repeat the uninspired work of the last two seasons if they keep sailing the same course.

The Bruins need clarity in direction at the top of the organizational food chain. They need to do the right thing, rather than the easy thing.

The question is whether the Bruins want a nice, little playoff team or a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, and whether they have the temerity and the discipline to make certain it’s the latter rather than the former. Bruins management needs to start making hard, unpopular choices if it doesn't want the listless history of the last two years to continue repeating itself.

 

May 2, 2016: Martin Jones standing tall in Sharks net

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May 2, 2016: Martin Jones standing tall in Sharks net

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while giving everybody a 24-hour reprieve from any Game of Thrones spoilers.

 

*Good to see FOH (Friend of Haggs) Nick Cotsonika back with a byline covering the NHL: here he writes about Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop with some thoughts from Martin Brodeur.

 

*David Backes got the ultimate birthday present when he snapped home a game-winning overtime goal for the Blues.

 

*Boston boy Rick DiPietro is working without a net as an analyst for the New York Islanders now that his goaltending career has come to a close.

 

*Jaromir Jagr was named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy for his decades’ long dedication to the game of hockey.

 

*Brooks Orpik is suspended three games for his head shot on Olli Maatta, and it’s a bit ironic it happens against the Pittsburgh Penguins team he spent plenty of years throwing predator hits for prior to joining Washington.

 

*Damien Cox has a mock NHL Draft now that the top 14 lottery picks have been set in stone following last weekend.

 

*Martin Jones is standing tall for the San Jose Sharks, and proving to be a difference-maker in his first season for them between the pipes.

 

*For something completely different: as the father of a newborn baby girl, I read about this Zika virus and find it absolutely terrifying and tragic.

May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

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May 1, 2016: With NHL draft order set, time to deal?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading after thinking Barack Obama gave Jeffrey Ross a run for his money as the Roast-master In Chief at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

*The man behind the music at American Airlines Arena for the Dallas Stars’ games comes into the spotlight for a story.

 

*Don Cherry sings the praises of Joel Ward, wears a Toronto Marlies suit and said “it was time to go” for Bruce Boudreau in Anaheim.

 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Penguins coach Mike Sullivan taking major issue with the head shot Brooks Orpik laid on Olli Maatta.

 

*The Maple Leafs secure the No. 1 overall pick in last night’s NHL Draft lottery, which will no doubt lead them to Auston Matthews.

 

*Now that the Edmonton Oilers have the No. 4 pick, Peter Chiarelli is open to trade options for those teams wanting to move up.

 

*Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is once again thriving in Ontario just a year after a major health scare.

 

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on the unique journey for Brent Burns that culminated in his Norris Trophy finalist honor this week.

 

*Spector has the roundup of rumors including plenty of speculation on Kevin Shattenkirk once the Blues are done in the playoffs.

 

*For something completely different: a couple of reporters actually got into an actual fight at the White House Correspondent’s after-party. It sounds like they both kind of deserved a punch in the face, to be honest.