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OPINION: Next Week Will Determine Chiarelli’s Fate

Peter Chiarelli doesn’t think it’s fair that his job might be on the line this year given the team’s poor performance this season. But fair or not, it is. And let’s face it, in every line of work your job is on the line annually. It’s why there are annual reviews. So a hockey GM shouldn’t be any different.

Two recent stories, one from the Globe‘s Fluto Shinzawa on Saturday, and one on Monday from Joe Haggery at CSNNE attempt to break down the current situation and what it means for the short and long-term. Shinzawa doesn’t offer an opinion on whether Chiarelli should go while Haggerty flat out says that both Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien deserve a chance to fix this mess. But do they? Let’s break down some key points from each and see if we can come to some conclusions.

“Chiarelli knew there would be hiccups. He didn’t replace Jarome Iginla. He traded Johnny Boychuk four days before the start of the season. Dennis Seidenberg has taken a full year to recover from a torn ACL. There were injuries, like the ones that sidelined David Krejci and Zdeno Chara.”

Obviously you can’t foresee relatively serious injuries to Chara and Krejci, two in Krejci’s case. But you didn’t have to trade Johnny Boychuck when you did, particularly with Seidenberg coming back from an ACL, and complete a double whammy of weakening your team and sapping your team of some give-a-damn in the process. All while not replenishing your team in the least to date, with the exception of David Pastrnak. 

“Chiarelli did not expect this roster, which he built and still believes in, to continue its peaks-and-valleys play into February.”

Has he watched this team over the years? Every year there have been valleys, most notable in 2013 when  the team essentially sleepwalked through the regular season and would have  been bounced  in the first round were it not for a miracle against Toronto. He HAS to know Milan Lucic is inconsistent, and that Reilly Smith and Brad Marchand, to name two, run hot and cold. 

“Underperforming teams have fired coaches. Chiarelli will not add Julien to the list. ‘I don’t think that’s the answer,’ Chiarelli said. ‘I have confidence in Claude. We’ve had a lot of discussion over the last little bit. ‘

Did those discussions center around why Ryan Spooner was buried from the FIRST PRESEASON GAME or why Matt Fraser didn’t seem to get a fair shot, or why Greg Campbell’s carcass continues to be rolled out every night? Certainly Claude has been more willing to change up lines this season, but that’s more out of necessity than anything. A reasonable second guess could be made as to why the Bruins didn’t give some younger talent more of a chance this year. After all, they did say the 4th line would get retooled this year and it took 60 games for that to (sort of) happen.

“It’s just hard to make a trade,” Chiarelli said. “It doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t happen like that. You need two teams that are willing to exchange ideas, then consummate a trade.”

Tell that to the Penguins who acquired David Perron in January, or the Predators who got Mike Santorelli and Cody Franson a week or so ago. Or freaking Buffalo who pulled off a trade for Evander Kane. It’s not that hard.

“Chiarelli doesn’t even count this season as his most difficult challenge as a general manager in Boston. That would be in his rookie season of 2006-07 when he made the dead wrong choice for head coach in Dave Lewis, and still had plenty of O’Connell/Sinden holdovers to clear out of Causeway Street.”

The difference here is that there were no expectations back in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008. Fans were just happy to have a competitive team again. But a Cup, another trip to the finals and a President’s Trophy changes the mindset. Fans now expect a contender every year, and so does Cam Neely and Charlie Jacobs.

“They were circling around a possible Blues trade at Christmas-time, but then T.J. Oshie blew up offensively and put himself on the indispensable list.”

Here is where teams like the Penguins and Preds scored. They were proactive. Chiarelli knew that finding a RW replacement was imperative, and should have done whatever was reasonable to secure Oshie. Let him get hot for you, even if you have to give up a bit more to pull off the deal. Think about where the Bruins would be with Oshie on the right wing. 

“There are a number of trades I could have made, but as a manager you look at what’s for the betterment of the organization short term, medium term and long term.”

Here is where Chiarelli gets himself in a bit of trouble. You can’t say you are looking at the short, medium and long term at the same time. Signing Jarome Iginla to a one-year, incentive laden deal is not remotely looking at the medium or long-term. And trading Johnny Boychuk does nothing for you in the short-term. Signing guys like Dennis Seidenberg, Chris Kelly, and Milan Lucic to long-term deals with NTC’s is not keeping the big picture in mind. Here is what Chiarelli said when the cap for this season was announced:

“I’m concerned, but I think it’s a challenge we can overcome,” Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said. “It was supposed to be 70, it’s 69, might’ve been 68. We planned for all those things. We have a challenge right now. It’s just another component of the challenge.”

So, then you go out and sign Iginla to a deal with potential cap penalties to the tune of almost $5 million? Where is the planning there?

Chiarelli has a point that he shouldn’t necessarily be judged on one season, but if you read this and look at his history there have been little things over the years that have added up to big problems for the Bruins this year, and potentially even next year as well. 

Despite everything, the Bruins still have a chance to do some damage in a wide open Eastern conference. And, fair or not, the next week will go a long way toward Chiarelli returning, or if there will be a new GM in Boston in 2015-2016.




Lifelong Bruins fan whose hockey career peaked in high school. Now a hockey dad.

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