This has been a tough summer to be a Bruins fan, unless you managed not to read any articles or blog posts about the team. It started when the salary cap numbers were released for this year and they were a lot less than some had hoped for. Anyone looking at the numbers knew that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was "between a rock and a hab place" (sorry). Ahem.
There was little chance that the entire roster could be retained, and many fans wanted to see superstar Jarome Iginla, who was at the end of a one-year deal, continue with the team. A vocal minority of fans seemed prepared to see much of the rest of the team gutted in order to do so.
The first move came when Chiarelli announced that the Bruins were not going to re-sign tough guy Shawn Thornton. This was sad, given the important role he has played for the team, and how he has put his health on the line time and again by being willing to fight. Bruins fans love a guy like that, and it would have seemed almost unimaginable for the Bruins to turn him loose just a year ago. But that was before he embarrassed the Bruins with his antics in the playoffs against Montreal, squirting his water bottle at PK Subban from the bench and then grinning like a fool. If these antics had worked and gotten under the Hab's skin, that would have been one thing, but the way it happened just made Thornton look childish and stupid. It was poor judgement, just like earlier in the season when he embarrassed the entire league by taking down Brooks Orpik from behind and beating him senseless. It should have come as no surprise to anyone that he'd be let go, particularly when there are so many young players looking to break into the lineup.
The tension mounted as we got closer to Free Agency. Would Iginla choose to take a discount to stay with the Bruins, where he had fit in so well, and where he might win another cup? Or would he take the big bucks behind door number 12? In the end, Chiarelli would have had to give up one or two established players or young prospects, like Tory Krug, to keep him, and he seemed reluctant to do so. Iginla ended up signing a three-year contract with the Avalanche worth $16 million.
Even with Iginla out of the picture Chiarelli was still in a huge bind. It seemed to many that he had a clear choice: keep his veterans like Boychuk and McQuaid, or keep his promising upstarts like Krug, Miller and Spooner. Surely he couldn't keep them all; there simply was not enough room under the cap. Some vocal fans called for the Bruins to give up on long term project Jordan Caron, or even Chris Kelly, whose importance as a penalty killer seemed to have been forgotten. At this point I have to say that the state of sports "journalism" today is really quite pathetic. All summer I kept seeing stories from bloggers on sites such as Bleacher Report or Causeway Crowd, with misleading headlines that promised actual news, but delivered only uninformed speculation by amateur writers. Many of these guys seem to have forgotten that they are neither journalists nor experienced hockey experts. To make matters worse, the Boston Globe seems to have decided to try to beat these idiots at their own game by hiring sports writers with similarly big heads, such as Eric Wilbur, who thinks he knows more about the game and Ryan Spooner than an NHL coach who has won a Frakin' Stanley Cup. At one time he wrote that the reason the Bruins lost to the Habs in the playoffs was that the Bruins, who had the third most goals in the regular season, have no scoring touch. He also went on to expound that the main reason the Bruins won the cup in 2011 was Tyler Seguin. Like I said, it's been a long summer. (note: to their credit they seem to have taken the original story down and replaced it with a slightly less idiotic video).
And yeah, I blog about the Bruins too, and have opinions, but I try never to pretend to know better than the guys who are paid to run the team. Even if they totally sucked as GMs and coaches, and ran the team into the ground, they'd still know far more about the game than I do.
Anyhow, with the recent signing of holdouts Krug and Smith, Peter Chiarelli has somehow managed to pull a rabbit out of his hat and keep everyone. Not only that, but along the way he tied up David Krejci for the next 6 years. Pretty Impressive. From the fans point of view this is great news. Sure, Krug and Smith got screwed. They bore the brunt of keeping the team together and Chiarelli squeezed them hard. It may be that one or the other or both might resent the way they have been treated enough to end up playing somewhere else one day, but it also may be forgotten in the long run, particularly if Chiarelli makes it up to them in a future contract.
Next time: why I think the Bruins have an even better chance of winning the cup this time around.