BOSTON (CBS) — His stint as Bruins general manager started with the sluggishness of a sedan with a banana in the tailpipe. And over the course of his seven seasons leading the Black and Gold, Peter Chiarelli has made his share of moves that didn’t pay off.
The Harvard alum has also made some larcenous deals (Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski for Byron Bitz anyone?) that would, and probably did, make Hall-of-Famer Harry Sinden proud. And when you look beyond the trades, the signings and the formation of a front-office staff and coaching contingent that’s all on the same page, Chiarelli’s run in Boston features the two most important things that any GM would envy – a Stanley Cup championship and a second trip to the Cup finals just two seasons later.
That’s why the Bruins Thursday announced a new four-year extension for Chiarelli, who was set to enter the final year of his previous deal in 2013-14.
He’s turned the Bruins back into a perennial winner and an every-spring playoff participant. The team has gone to the postseason every year since Chiarelli took advantage of his “coaching mulligan” and switched from Dave Lewis to Claude Julien.
The hiring of Lewis was one of several stumbles at the outset of the Chiarelli regime. He won’t be bragging about dealing Kris Versteeg for Brandon Bochenski at his press conference Friday, just as he won’t boast about other acquisitions, like Joe Corvo and Steve Montador, that didn’t pan out.
Of course, every GM has those types of moves to live down. The biggest keys to Chiarelli’s success have been his ability to minimize those gaffes and also relegate them to the periphery of his team’s core. While a couple of spots near the bottom of Boston’s depth chart have been revolving doors, Chiarelli and his staff identified a championship-caliber core and have committed to those players unlike any Bruins front-office regime prior. There have been no holdouts, not public negotiations and no rancor.
From Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Brad Marchand up front to Zdeno Chara and Seidenberg on the back-end, in addition to Tim Thomas and then Tuukka Rask in net, Chiarelli has made his best and most important players a priority of the highest order and furnished them with the type of long-term security and riches that not only makes those players want to perform, but also embrace the city and the franchise. The talk of pride in the black and gold and love of Boston that comes from those players’ mouths carry resonance instead of sounding like pandering.
It’s been well-documented that Bruins president Cam Neely and Chiarelli haven’t agreed on everything during their partnership. I’ve argued that that’s a positive sign. A team of “yes men” running a club could turn your organization into the New York Jets. If you think Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge always agreed, you also believe in leprechauns. The Red Sox have been at their best the last decade when differing opinions have been put forth by different types of front-office and on-field personnel.
Rivers and Terry Francona eventually moved on from their posts with the Celtics and Sox, respectively, when the disagreements became unbearable. No one’s saying that Chiarelli is going to make it to the other end of the next five seasons, even if his recent six-year run of success makes that case that he’s one of the top three or four GMs in the entire league. This deal just shows that Neely understands sometimes his way is the best, sometimes Chiarelli is right and it takes a diverse front office, just like a diverse roster, to compete for championships.
The overall Chiarelli philosophy has worked and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s available and could come to Boston and do a better job. Now the Bruins won’t have to go on that search for quite some time.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.