Point/Counterpoint: Rebuilding the Bruins – Part Three

So, it’s the offseason and while the NHL playoffs have so far been great, as usual, we Bruins fans are pondering what the team will do this summer to improve. Sure, the D needs help, yada yada yada. But what else? Well, there’s a new 5-part series on that takes a look at rebuilding the Bruins, and I thought it would be fun to take a point/counterpoint approach to each part.

Note, this is in no way a criticism of the series or the viewpoints. Just one person’s opinion.

Part Three is “Leadership in the Room.” Off we go ….

The sometimes-motivational, sometimes-calming and sometimes-stern voices inside the room still couldn’t have been anywhere close to optimal levels as the Bruins went 3-8-1 in their final 12 games to once again finish a single point out of the playoffs. Leadership is a chicken-or-egg thing. Is it leadership that makes teams come up big in big games, or talent? Do the Patriots win all the time because of leadership in the locker room? No, they win because they have more talent. When the Bruins were rolling, it’s a lot easier to be a comedian. When things are tough, and there are a lot more younger players, maybe a knee slapper isn’t the way to go. And it’s somewhat presumptuous to think that the voices in the room weren’t at optimal levels given the fact that none of us were actually there.

To lose so many games in regulation that late in the season is an indictment of the team’s mental toughness. Hmmmm… I’m not sure about this one. Perhaps there is something to that, but to me it all comes back to talent. No one could have predicted Tuukka Rask was going to fall ill in the finale, but does a “mentally tougher” team overcome that to beat a dead in the water team? Probably. Does a more talented team shake it off and win anyway? Yes. And I’m not sure you could say the Bruins were overall more talented than Ottawa.

For whatever reason, it’s seemed a lot more joyless around the Bruins on a daily basis in the last few years than it was back in their contending days. Maybe because they weren’t contending? Look, a mediocre to pretty good team isn’t necessarily going to be a lot of fun to be around. Joy is found in winning. There isn’t a lot of joy in struggling.  Think it’s been all fun and games in Edmonton or Toronto over the past few years?

When things start going south . . . is where a Thornton, a Boychuk or a Ference would … know when it was vital to stand up for a teammate on the ice, and show the kind of backbone and feistiness that the Bruins have sorely lacked in the last two years. Definitely. Teams have pushed the Bruins  around more than in the past, and that’s  because there hasn’t been a Thornton, Lucic, or Boychuk to answer the bell. Now, Matt Beleskey, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller are sure to stand up for teammates but the Bruins have been much easier to play against the last two years, and that has to change.

Chris Kelly is the kind of player who can be instrumental in those areas, and certainly has the experience — along with the respect of his teammates, and the willingness to say what needs to be said — to be that kind of leader. Oh God, the Chris Kelly thing again. First it was Milan Lucic never getting over the Boychuk trade, now it’s the fact that Chris Kelly wasn’t around. It’s to simple to say that because Chris Kelly wasn’t there that the Bruins struggled, but would Jimmy Hayes or Brett Connolly scored more if Chris Kelly were around? If the Bruins are so reliant on one guy to motivate them, then we have bigger problems. And I’m not saying there isn’t a place for a guy like Kelly on a team, and I’m sure his presence helps to a degree, but c’mon.

The Bruins need more than Kelly and the lead-by-example authority of Chara and Bergeron. Yup.

Talent is always the most important deciding factor in the ultimate fate of a hockey club, but the simple fact is that the B’s underachieved in each of the last two seasons with teams that should have made the playoffs. Bingo! TALENT IS THE DECIDING FACTOR. Guaranteed if the Bruins acquire more talent and have a better team next year we’ll hear all about how good a room it is. Until then, we’ll hear about a “lack of leadership” when in fact it’s just not being as good as the other team. And yes, given the fact that they didn’t make the playoffs does label them underachievers, it also means that they didn’t necessarily have the horses to get them over the finish line.

And no amount of “leadership” is going to help if the other guy is simply better.


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

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