It was essentially a fait accompli that Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli would be signing a contract extension with the Bruins this summer after guiding the Original Franchise to their second Stanley Cup Final berth in three years.
Bruins owner Charlie Jacobs admitted as much during a Friday morning press conference announcing a four-year contract extension for Chiarelli that will push the GM through the 2017-18 NHL season. Given the way Chiarelli is approaching things on a year-to-year basis, it should be another bountiful stretch in the Hub of Hockey for the next half-decade.
“We will continue to have challenges as a team and that is a good thing because our challenges are now at a level that we compete for the Stanley Cup,” said Chiarelli. “We want to compete for the Stanley Cup every year and it’s my mandate, my charge to do that.”
While Chiarelli had the spotlight trained on him after agreeing to continue managing the B’s for the next five years, the Harvard grad was also true to his consensus-gathering philosophy.
Chiarelli singled out both assistant general managers, Don Sweeney and Jim Benning, for their work in the trenches, and the chorus of voices in Boston management that have helped build a team that’s qualified for the playoffs six straight seasons.
“I feel very confident in the hockey minds that we have here running this franchise. I think Peter used the word stewardship, and I think that is an excellent term in that we see this as an asset that is really Boston’s,” said Jacobs. “We are just here as stewards. I am very proud of the leadership we have here, and it starts with these two gentlemen to my left (Neely and Chiarelli).”
For his part, Chiarelli seemed at ease while joking and reminiscing about his first seven seasons at the helm of the Bruins. Things started out rocky in his first year when the B’s bottomed out with coach Dave Lewis, but they’ve been on an upward trend ever since hiring Claude Julien.
Chiarelli and Julien have been together as manager and head coach for the last six seasons. That familiarity has bred success and an unmistakable formula for Bruins hockey: stingy defense, punishing physicality and positional depth at every turn. Chiarelli has done all that as general manager while executing shrewd deals for players like Dennis Seidenberg and Nathan Horton, and maximizing assets like the Phil Kessel deal with Toronto.
Chiarelli has made moves that speak to both organizational stability, and a willingness to be accountable if it’s called for in any circumstances. Both Kessel and Tyler Seguin were benched and ultimately traded despite their elite offensive talent, and some of it came down not fitting in with “the Bruins Way.”
“Stability is really important and significant when you are delivering these messages. It goes down right through Charlie to Cam to me to Claude to the players, and they like stability,” said Chiarelli. “Now having said that, you can be not too stable but you have to continue to perform. We had some turnover this year and going into the off season I knew there was going to be a little bit of turnover.
“We tried to do some things and we ended up doing some other things that you know, you have plan A, plan B, plan C, but my point is that you have to keep everybody on their toes. So there is stability, there’s strong leadership but you have to keep everybody on their toes, especially in this cap world. You can be stable and proactive, and that is what I like to think we do as a group.”
While part of Chiarelli’s strength has been holding together a Cup-level Bruins core in a salary-cap world, the congratulatory pats on the GM’s back will probably end immediately following Labor Day.
Horton, Seguin, Andrew Ference and Rich Peverley have all moved on from the Bruins, and Boston will need to introduce new parts like Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson. The B’s will also have to introduce young, cheaper players into the lineup to offset the mammoth max contracts handed out to both Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron this summer.
But a few things have become very clear over the last seven years: Chiarelli is up to the challenge, he’s motivated to keep the Bruins at the top of the NHL heap, and he’s developed into one of the best general managers in the NHL over the last decade while honing his craft on Causeway Street.