Big scores weren't there to be made
That Peter Chiarelli sure is some kind of dumb, isn’t he? Unbeknownst to the Bruins general manager, the Stanley Cup was there for the taking yesterday, and just about every general manager in the Original 30 put a thumbprint on it except for, that’s right, Sleepy Pete on Causeway Street.
Chiarelli must have been over at the Public Garden prepping the Swan Boats, or maybe draining Frog Pond over at the Common, or maybe just grabbing another 40 winks behind the Zamboni. If you search the Internet chat rooms, you’ll likely find he was doing all three.
Chiarelli certainly was otherwise occupied while the Sabres clinched the Cup upon acquiring Raffi Torres from Columbus. Yes, and he was asleep at the switch when the Penguins booked passage to the Finals by swapping for Alexei Ponikarovsky. And Lee Stempniak, ex- of Dartmouth, now will lead the Coyotes out of the desert in Phoenix. How could Chiarelli have bollixed a chance at those sure-shot Hall of Famers?
Look, everyone in the Hub of Hockey expected more out of the Boston offense this season, even with Phil Kessel out of the equation. But no one who was dealt yesterday, prior to the NHL trade deadline at 3 p.m., would have guaranteed a major uptick in goals or success for a club that has ranked dead last or only slightly better in offense all season.
NHL deadline day is vastly overhyped. Truth is, it’s the day when misfit toys and recyclables are sent to new homes. Of all the forwards dealt yesterday, the 28-year-old Torres perhaps would have been worth Chiarelli outbidding the Buffalo package (Nathan Paetsch and a second-rounder) that pried him out of Columbus. But let’s remember, Torres, made out by some Hub media outlets yesterday to be a poor man’s Rocket Richard, has scored a whopping 98 goals in 418 career games. Which means he has but another 1,600 or so games before he shatters that sacred 500-goal level. For the record, he stood 19-12 -31 in 60 games when the bottom-feeding Blue Jackets bade him adieu after less than two seasons.
Chiarelli has been slow to react this season, no question. When it all started to go upside-down at the start of February, your faithful puck correspondent warned up front that things didn’t look good, that it was a team poised for a dizzying free fall, that it all felt like a replay of Chiarelli’s rookie GM year that imploded just after the holiday break. Sure enough, it got ugly around here for 4-5 weeks, and it felt that way again Tuesday night when a 1-0 lead in the third period turned into a 4-1 loss to Montreal. Every time I looked up, Glen Metropolit’s smile grew even wider.
The point also was made here repeatedly that, despite the focus on a need for scoring, the defense has been missing more beats than a garage band. Zdeno Chara has been significantly off his game. Dennis Wideman has been significantly dreadful. If anyone sees Matt Hunwick, please have him report directly to the East Lobby. The problem scoring goals has been as much a function of the back end as the front.
Chiarelli, between naps and Swan Boat chores, attempted to fix the defense by shipping Derek Morris back to Phoenix and bringing in Dennis Seidenberg. Morris was OK, but not worth his $3.3 million, and was especially far less than advertised in terms of getting his big shot on net. In 57 games, he hit the net 92 times and only three of those ended up in the net. Seidenberg is about four years younger, makes more than a million bucks less, and has hit the net 20 more times than Morris this year. Shots on net at least have the chance of turning into rebounds, maybe even goals (I know, I get carried away sometimes).
Chiarelli, according to a league source, also took stabs at acquiring forwards Erik Cole and Keith Tkachuk. When asked about his attempts, Chiarelli said his staff initially targeted eight forwards, five of whom ultimately were dealt. Cole and Tkachuk would make six and seven, and it’s a good bet that Ray Whitney was the eighth. Compared with the names that were dealt, Cole, Tkachuk, and Whitney all are more intriguing. As of yesterday, they had combined for 1,012 career goals.
But no one made a deal for those guys. Not even Sleepy Pete, Dozing Donny (Sweeney), Yawning Jim (Benning), or Nodding-Off (Cam) Neely. What a bunch of deadline dwarves.
The only thing we know this morning, from a personnel standpoint, is that Seidenberg might help. As bad as the back line has been, I don’t see how he could make it worse (if so, please forward hate e-mail to email@example.com).
We also know that Claude Julien can’t go on coaching the way he has coached this season. Rolling four lines worked like a charm last year when the Bruins ranked second only to Detroit in goal scoring. He was Coach of the Year and he is still a good coach.
But that same approach this season has been a colossal failure. Rarely, if ever, does Julien bench anyone during a game. Once the puck is dropped, line configurations usually stay the same, no matter how futile. Underperformers such as Michael Ryder, just to name the most obvious, show up and suit up, even if their lack of production begs - screams! - for a night in the press box.
Julien has to stop enabling these underachievers and expose them for their lack of effort, unwillingness to front the net, dig for loose pucks, make something (anything!) happen. The Julien mantra is for the players “to rely on the system,’’ asking that they buy into a stringent defensive game. But some of them play as if the system is a welfare state. All Julien can do to change that mind-set is diminish ice time. If he keeps doling it out to the undeserving, then he is of equal, if not greater, fault.
Not easy times on Causeway Street. However, the forwards that were scattered about yesterday didn’t offer the miracle cure that some would lead us to believe. I’ll take an improved defense (maybe) and a better job of coaching (let’s hope) and let the likes of Torres, Ponikarovsky, and Stempniak carry their Cup dreams elsewhere.