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Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

NHL Awards Showings Prove Just How Grossly the Bruins Underachieved Last Season

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Tuukka Rask accepts his Vezina Trophy for top goaltender in the NHL.Getty Images

You know, good for Bruins Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron, winning the Vezina and Selke Trophies, respectively, at the annual NHL Awards Tuesday night. Indeed, Boston had quite the showing.

Zdeno Chara lost out on the Norris Trophy to Chicago's Duncan Keith, Torey Krug finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting, and Bergeron ended up only four spots behind Sidney Crosby for the Hart Trophy, given to the league's most valuable player. Peter Chiarelli finished sixth among NHL general managers of the year; Claude Julien fourth among coaches in Jack Adams voting.

Oh, and perhaps most importantly, we learned that Bergeron also won that inane EA NHL 15 cover contest that made our Twitter lives a living hell for the better portion of a month. #nhl15yippeefreakingdoo.

All of it. Neat. And don't forget the President's Trophy the team won as well.

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If the overdone NHL Awards re-confirmed anything, it is that the Bruins' core remains one of the best in the NHL, with the league's best two-way player, its top goaltender, an aging defenseman still at the top of his game, one of the league's most promising rookies, and an administrative staff that has turned the franchise/s fortunes inside out over the past decade.

The Bruins' individual showings among their peers also confirm the fact that they grossly underachieved during this past spring's run to the Stanley Cup.

Who knows if Boston would have been good enough to beat the Los Angeles Kings for its second Cup in three years, but I imagine it might have been. It more than likely would have handled the New York Rangers with relative ease to get to the final.

Unfortunately, it sounds like Chiarelli feels the same way.

With the team still hoping to re-sign free agent winger Jarome Iginla and somehow squeezing him under its tight cap space, Chiarelli reiterated on Monday that the Bruins were not in the market for too many changes for next season, echoing the 'tweaks' mantra that was the message at the team?s farewell press conference after being eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Bruins like their team, whether that's by convenience of the cap situation or not, but even the most casual observer could realize that something was missing against the Canadiens in the playoffs, that one sniper who could deliver a true scoring threat in lieu of hitting post after post after post after crossbar.

Such a solution won?t come in free agency.

"We don't plan on bringing anyone in, but that doesn't mean we won't talk to anybody," Chiarelli said during a conference call on Monday. "We'll make some calls just to get an idea. We'll talk about parameters, like we?re allowed to do, but at this time I don't plan on bringing anyone in.

"Specifically for us, we're not going to go full force into free agency. We're probably going to take a step back and look at maybe lesser deals, meaning not the high-profile deals that might be available, partially due to cap reasons, partially due to chemistry reasons."

Obviously, you shouldn't have expected ay Zach Parise-style signings in the first place on a team that prides itself on its depth. But Chiarelli essentially has already waved the white flag in free agency. He's denied a report that the Bruins were shopping Brad Marchand to the San Jose Sharks, but trades may be his only way to free up some cap space and tinker with the roster through free agency. Fans will pack Chris Kelly's bags for him if you ask them.

But it's easy for Chiarelli to bring the band back together for another year, after a regular season like the Bruins had in 2013-14, with the most points in the NHL. And, well, by golly, the awards only support the front office?s thesis that this group is good enough to make another charge at the Cup come next spring; just a little bad luck against the rival you can't manage to beat is all.

So it's easy to be happy for Rask and Bergeron. They deserve the accolades. It just sucks for everyone who knows how much better the Bruins were better than they proved when they tripped all over themselves against the Canadiens. The fact that the Bruins know it too, but don't seem angry in a Bill Belichick, ?$%@@* it, get me Randy Moss? kind of way is frustrating. You figure out what it?s going to take, and you go out and get it. Boston is just content with rewinding the tape and hoping it doesn't get gnarled at the nude scene yet again.

"Recognized or not I would keep going the same way and keep playing the same game and keep trying to get better every night and every practice," Bergeron said after winning the Selke. "So I feel like all I want to do is help the team win and I have learned to play the game like I am playing right now, a two way game, and that's all that really matters to me right now to be honest with you. I don't really stop and think about if I get recognized or not. It is definitely ... I'm not saying I don't care about it, it's nice to see and I appreciate it. But that being said, I've been lucky enough to be in such an amazing organization that definitely wants to win as much as well want as players and teammates and I just feel lucky to be a part of that."

He should. The Bruins have a Selke winner, a Vezina winner, and President's Trophy that turned out to be the pinnacle of their hardware for the season.

All those great pieces, and yet the Cup is meandering its way down Sunset Boulevard this summer instead of being re-introduced to the North End. That's aggravating enough.

When you consider how the rest of the league sees the Bruins' pieces, bowing out so early in the playoffs seems even more of the glaring gaffe that it was at the time.

Coulda. Shoulda. Didn't.

Instead, just another awards ceremony making everyone without the Cup feel empty.


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