BOSTON (CBS) – Ever since he first took over as Bruins general manager in 2006, Peter Chiarelli has valued accountability.
He’s demanded accountability out of his front office staff, the coaching staff and his players. Two days after the Bruins wasted their Presidents’ Trophy-winning season by losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference second round to the Montreal Canadiens, Chiarelli was the one accounting for his failures.
It was refreshing to hear Chiarelli own up to his mistakes. The fan base and organization should take solace in knowing the GM is willing to adapt and learn from his gaffes. Going forward, that should benefit the Bruins’ roster.
Chiarelli was asked about defenseman Zdeno Chara’s struggles in the series with the Canadiens. But Chiarelli, like all the players that spoke and coach Claude Julien, were spreading blame for the loss to Montreal throughout the lineup. And Chiarelli didn’t stop with the guys on the ice when coming up with his list of those open to criticism for the team’s early demise.
“I would put him [Chara in with a bunch of players that they didn’t perform at the level that they should’ve. And that’s one of the reasons that we lost,” Chiarelli said. “I’m not singling out Zee. I could name five, 10 players. I could name myself. We didn’t get the right defenseman [at the trade deadline].”
Chiarelli is clearly kicking himself over the fact that without Dennis Seidenberg to play in the Bruins’ top four Julien had to use a combination of overmatched second-year NHL defenseman Matt Bartkowski and declining veteran Andrej Meszaros to play on the second pair with Johnny Boychuk. Whether there was a better option available at the trade deadline – and Philadelphia’s Andrew MacDonald, who was dealt from the New York Islanders, was the only legit top-four D that moved – wasn’t the point. Chiarelli knows that what he did in trading for Meszaros and claiming Corey Potter on waivers wasn’t enough. The Canadiens exploited the Bruins’ weakness unlike the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
Chiarelli could’ve easily forgotten how much he’d sung the praises of Bartkowski, Meszaros, Potter and rookie Kevan Miller, who was also exposed a bit by the Canadiens, during the season and just used youth and inexperience as an excuse for the team’s demise. But Chiarelli owned up to the fact that he was wrong about having enough depth on defense. Getting playing time for the younger guys was supposed to be an unintended positive of having guys out injured. Instead it turned into an Achilles heel.
One can understand why Chiarelli was fooled. The 2013 playoffs provided an opportunity for Bartkowski, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton to play on the game’s biggest stage. One year later they should’ve all been one year better. Of course, you can never forget that only Krug was in the lineup when the Bruins were into the final four. And Bartkowski and Hamilton played mostly in the second round against a New York Rangers team that had quit on its coach John Tortorella and couldn’t wait to get to the beach.
Hamilton and Krug continued their forward progress, Bartkowski took a step or two back. Misjudging a player’s progress happens, especially when you’re so close to your prospects. They’re like your kids and it’s hard to see their failures or shortcomings. Chiarelli will get better at seeing through those things in the future.
Just by getting healthy the Bruins will ease Chiarelli’s burden for next season. Seidenberg and fellow injured veteran defensemen Adam McQuaid are scheduled to be available for training camp. They make the Bruins older and more experienced and give the team a top six that could win a championship. Chiarelli might opt to find another mobile veteran defenseman, which could mean the end of McQuaid, Miller or Johnny Boychuk’s days back there. Those are the decisions GMs are paid to make. Like his young defensemen, Chiarelli now has more experience and it’s up to him to learn from what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
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