BOSTON (CBS) — After a disappointing campaign that resulted in the Boston Bruins missing the postseason, the team fired general manager Peter Chiarelli on Wednesday.
An Interim General Manager will not be named at this time and the search for a new hire – which will be led by Bruins Chief Executive Officer Charlie Jacobs and Cam Neely – will begin immediately, the Bruins announced in a release Wednesday morning.
“We are grateful for Peter’s service to the Bruins organization over the last nine seasons,” said Neely. “His efforts undoubtedly helped the team achieve great success during his tenure and he helped restore the proud tradition of Boston Bruins hockey. We ultimately feel that this change is necessary in order to ensure sustainable success for the club both in the short term and the long term. Our search for a new General Manager will begin immediately.”
Jacobs and Neely will address the media in a 3pm press conference on Wednesday.
Chiarelli, who took over the Bruins in 2006, helped build the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Bruins, but came under fire over the last few years for making lackluster free-agent signings, handing out long-term contracts to players who didn’t really earn them and, more than anything, the 2013 trade of Tyler Seguin.
Chiarelli, a Harvard graduate, took over the job in 2006, tasked with finding a new head coach to bring the winning tradition back to Boston. He chose to go with Dave Lewis, at the time a successful assistant with the Detroit Red Wings.
But that wasn’t the biggest splash Chiarelli made as a rookie GM, signing defense Zdeno Chara (five years, $37.5 million) and forward Marc Savard (four years, $2 million) to long-term contracts. Those moves changed the face of the franchise, and led to some high expectations.
But the Bruins went 35-41-6 in 2006-07, finishing fifth in the Northeast Division and 13th in the Eastern Conference. Less than a year after hiring Lewis, Chiarelli was looking for another new head coach.
He made a much better choice his second time around.
Chiarelli hired Claude Julien to man the Bruins bench in June 2007, and the results were instant the following season. Julien led Boston to an 18-point improvement in the standings (41-29-12) while decreasing their goals against by 67. This saw the Bruins return to the playoffs for the first time since 2004, but the best was yet to come.
In 2008-09, the Bruins went 53-19-10 for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and their 116 points were the second best in the NHL. The Bruins won their first playoff series since 1999 when they swept the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, and Julien took home the Jack Adams Trophy for best coach of the year.
At the trade deadline that season, Chiarelli sent a pair of prospects and a second-round pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning for 20-year veteran forward Mark Recchi, who gave the Bruins much-needed leadership in the locker room and on the ice. While they won only one round in the playoffs in 2009, this move would pay off more down the road.
That summer, Chiarelli signed Tim Thomas to a four-year contract extension, solidifying Boston’s goaltending situation. Just ahead of the 2009-10 season, Chiarelli sent restricted free agent Phil Kessel to the Maple Leafs for Toronto’s first and second-round picks in the 2010 NHL Draft and their first-round selection in 2011. Kessel had just set a career-high with 36 goals and 60 points, but made it clear he did not want to be in Boston.
“I can’t stress the importance enough of the fact that these picks are significant, especially in light of the strength of the amateur draft coming up,” Chiarelli said shortly after the deal was announced. “There are some serious players that are coming up.”
The Bruins made the postseason again in 2010, and it looked as though they were on their way to the Eastern Conference finals, owners of a 3-0 series lead on the Philadelphia Flyers. But center David Krejci hurt his wrist in Game 3 and was lost for the postseason, and an epic collapse followed. The Flyers won three straight games to force a Game 7 in Boston. The Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, but suffered an embarrassing 4-3 loss to become just the third team in NHL history to lose a series which they led 3-0.
But even out of that, there was hope. The Bruins ended up with the second overall pick in 2010 via Toronto, and selected Tyler Seguin. In addition, Chiarelli swung a trade for Panthers forward Nathan Horton, sending Dennis Wideman and a pair of picks to Florida. Horton would be a postseason hero for Boston several months later.
Chiarelli also locked up Chara and Patrice Bergeron to long-term deals ahead of the 2010-11 season, and made the necessary in-season moves to make Boston a Stanley Cup contender. Prior to the deadline, he swapped a second-round pick for Chris Kelly from Ottawa and sent defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Blake Wheeler to Atlanta for Rich Peverley, solidifying Boston’s third line. He attempted to boost Boston’s blue line by acquiring the long-coveted Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, sending Joe Colborne and a pair of future picks in return, but that move didn’t work out as planned.
But it didn’t matter. The Bruins went on to win three separate Game 7’s en route to their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, with Horton scoring the game-winner in two of them. Thomas made 37 saves in a shutout in Game 7 of the Cup Final in Vancouver, and Chiarelli joined Art Ross and Milt Schmidt as the only Cup-winning GMs of the Boston Bruins.
Boston lost Recchi to retirement that following season, with Kaberle and Michael Ryder leaving via free agency. Chiarelli’s offseason additions, defenseman Joe Corco and forward Benoit Pouliot, didn’t work out very well, and his trade deadline acquisitions Greg Zanon, Mike Mouttau and Brian Rolston didn’t contribute much. Despite going 49-29-4 in the regular season, the Bruins lost to the Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
However, the Bruins were back in the Stanley Cup Final the following season.
The Kessel trade kept giving back to Boston. With the Leafs’ 2011 first round pick, ninth overall, Chiarelli drafted defenseman Dougie Hamilton, who would take the ice for Boston in 2012. Also that season, a lockout-shortended campaign, Tim Thomas decided to take the year off, paving the way for Tuukka Rask to take over in net.
Chiarelli missed out on acquiring Jarome Iginla at the trade deadline, who chose to go to the Pittsburgh Penguins instead, settling for former All-Star Jaromir Jagr. He slotted next to Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on Boston’s second line, but would score just three goals in 11 regular-season games for the Bruins, and didn’t find the back of the net in 22 playoff games.
But that didn’t stop Boston from surging to another Cup Final. After nearly suffering another embarrassing collapse to the Leafs in the first round, the Bruins staged an amazing third-period comeback in Game 7, erasing a 3-1 deficit in the final eight minutes. They won the series in overtime on a goal by Bergeron.
Boston cruised by the New York Rangers and Penguins en route to the Cup Final, but ran out of gas against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins dropped the series in six games, and drastic changes were made that offseason.
It was then that Chiarelli decided to trade Seguin, who scored just one goal in 22 postseason games in 2013. Boston feared the 21-year-old would never buy into their system, and Chiarelli sent him to Dallas for forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow. While Seguin has thrived offensively in Dallas, Chiarelli’s treasure trove in return has struggled.
That offseason, Chiarelli handed out more big-money, long-term extensions. He signed Rask to an eight-year, $56 million deal and Bergeron to an eight-year, $52 million pact. While those locked up franchise players, they would eventually force the team to see a number of veteran players leave the team due to salary cap constraints. Over the past two offseasons, Andrew Ference and Shawn Thornton left via free agency, and Chiarelli traded Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders days before the 2014-15 season began.
It was a huge loss to the Boston blue line — one that was compounded by an injury to Zdeno Chara early in the season — and contributed not only to a loss on the ice but also in the locker room.
The Bruins stumbled through an up-and-down 2014-15 season, and though Chiarelli’s run as a whole has been a success, missing the playoffs proved to be the final act of his Bruins tenure.