Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chiarelli's Mistakes

As far as I'm concerned the Chiarelli honeymoon ends today. When he announced that Dave Lewis was fired as head coach Peter Chiarelli said, "I made the assessment that his way wasn’t compatible with our guys." But why did it take a full season to figure that out? Why did he tell Lewis he had a job next year at the end of the season? Why, then, did he hire Lewis in the first place?

Chiarelli and Lewis planned a long-term rebirth for the Bruins last summer, but
Chiarelli didn't stick to it. So either way you cut it, it's a mistake. Either Chiarelli made a mistake by hiring Lewis, or he made a mistake by firing him after only one season. But that wasn't his first mistake as Bruins GM, nor was it his first regarding the coaching job. Chiarelli's first mistake as GM came before he even took over officially. It came when he allowed Mike Sullivan to hang on in limbo long after he would have the chance to find another coaching job. In my opinion that was despicable. They say it's "just part of the game" but if you look at the winners around the league and elsewhere a hallmark is that they treat their personnel with respect. The Bruins haven't done that in many years, and I believe this more than anything else has gutted a once great team. I had hoped that the Chiarelli era would be different.

Chiarelli's next mistake? That would be to listen to those who think he should go after J. S. Giguere. The problem with the Bruins isn't goaltending--it isn't even lack of talent in general. I believe that if you put Tim Thomas in a Ducks uniform at the begiining of this season rather than in a spoked-B he'd have lifted the Stanley Cup. He's an excellent goaltender, but more importantly, he's a fierce competitor. Conversely, if you had put J.S. Giguere in a spoked-B the Bruins fans would be whining about how awful he turned out to be. Behind Thomas is Hannu Tiovanen who despite his very poor season has the skill and athletic ability to one-day carry a team deep into the playoffs. Maybe that day will come this season. And waiting in the wings is Rask, who is the highest-touted goaltender prospect out there. Assuming Giguere would even accept an offer to come to Boston (and he'd be an idiot if he did) it would come at a huge price and would be a colossal blunder.

So forget goaltending. As I see it the Bruins have two main problems: 1. the players don't believe in each other and are not motivated to play hard physically, and 2. the present makeup of the team isn't balanced enough. If we are lucky the new coach will solve problem 1. But it will take some very hard choices and some expert negotiating by the GM to solve problem 2 without giving away the farm. I believe the Bruins need more strength and grit up front. The only way to get that in short order may be to trade away some of the speed and skill. I don't mean trade Murray--he's the kind of player the B's need. I mean trade away Bochenski or even Bergeron. Because the biggest mistake the Bruins have made wasn't Chiarelli's--it was made in the post-lockout when a premium was placed on speed and skill over grit for the "new NHL." But the "new NHL," where speed and skill mattered most, did not last. Anaheim just proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt.