No apology necessary?
Chiarelli, Julien fan on attempt
The end of the Bruins’ season was a dud, and yesterday’s end-of-season news conference was dud-and-dudder. General manager Peter Chiarelli joined coach Claude Julien at the podium inside TD Garden for a late-morning farewell to the media, and it was Chiarelli’s tag line to the brief, sullen session that carried the subtle tinge and sting of a “good riddance.’’
“I’m excited about that,’’ said Chiarelli, responding to a final question about highly touted teenagers Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, one of whom will be drafted by the Bruins next month. “That’s a feel-good story, so maybe you guys can write that, too.’’
In due time, no doubt, Bruins fans and the media contingent that covers all things Black and Gold will focus on whatever fortunes await the local NHL franchise. But let’s be honest here; no one among the faithful fan following is feeling much beyond frustration, hurt, and a blend of deep disappointment/anger after watching the Bruins concoct the mother of all flameouts in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs. It will take a long time for folks to forget this one.
The Bruins lost to the Flyers in Game 7, after leading the series, 3-0, and after leading the decisive game, 3-0, late in the first period. That’s no garden-variety botch job. That’s nearly the kind of Ponzi scheme that landed Bernie Madoff in the slammer. Not to mention the Marc Savard-Vladimir Sobotka too-many-men screw-up, which yesterday, by the way, had Savard saying, yes, he signaled that he was leaving the ice, but he opted not to leave because, “There was quite a span [of time] there . . . no one jumped [off the bench] . . . these things happen, unfortunately.’’ That turns Game 7 into Vladi’s Folly.
For a fan base that has now waited 38 years to see the Cup make it back to Causeway Street, it will take a lot more than the promise of a yet-to-be-drafted franchise forward to lift the collective spirits. Frankly, we went through that very same drill 13 years ago when Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov were going to wash away the sins of their forefathers after the Bruins finished dead last in the Original 30 in 1996-97. Seguin or Hall? Maybe one of them is a Lemieux or a Crosby or an Ovechkin, but even if the pick turns out to be Thornton, or worse, a Wickenheiser or a Daigle . . . yeesh.
Look, I know this is old-fashioned, but at some point yesterday Chiarelli or Julien needed to offer up an apology for the tease that turned into torture. An outright, “Aw shucks, we’re sorry’’? No. But absent a reasonable explanation (and it was absent) for what we’ll remember as the franchise’s “3-0, 3-0, Uh-Oh!’’, then either the GM or coach should have twisted himself into Hasek-like knots to acknowledge the achy-breaky hearts among a very loyal, very tested, very tolerant fan base. Anyone who knows mourning also knows the two best words to hear are, “I understand.’’
It takes a special individual (that’s you, dear reader) to endure what has happened here in the Hub of Hockey since 1972, including such daggers to the psyche as: Bobby Orr walking as a free agent, Too Many Men on the Ice Part Un (1979), Glen Wesley missing an open net, Ray Bourque finally saying, “Enough!’’, the failed Thornton-Samsonov rebuild, the colossal payroll-personnel miscalculation around the 2004-05 lockout.
And now . . . 3-0, 3-0, Uh-Oh!
For the most part, neither Chiarelli nor Julien wanted to talk about it. On one level, we can say, fine, who would want to talk about it? No one. But for everyone to move on here, to make peace with the unspeakable and incomprehensible, either Julien or Chiarelli needed to be emphatic about their disappointment, clear in what they feel is needed to “get to the next level,’’ resolute in their commitment to make next season better and brighter. One of them had to say, “I understand.’’ And mean it.
It sure didn’t feel that way. None of it. Dud and Dudsville.
Oh, the coach and GM were pleasant enough and by no means snippy or confrontational or chiding (all the things we grew to love, though disrespect, during Harry Sinden’s tenure as Papa Bear). They just didn’t offer up an apology, or anything that felt like a true connection to the despair that is out there in a fan base that reaches all of New England and beyond. We didn’t need tears. We didn’t need sappy apologies. We didn’t need exhortations or guarantees of a championship in the next two, three, five years.
We just needed that one moment — be it a word, a phrase, a look of lament — where everyone walked away, saying, “OK, these guys get it.’’
What we got was Chiarelli telling us the team’s inconsistent play throughout the season, “the variance betweens ups and downs’’ were “too much,’’ and that will lead to roster changes. He did not specify the changes. Chiarelli talked again of young players, especially prospects, being given the opportunity to crack the varsity. He did not sound promising about culling anyone from the free agent market that opens July 1.
“But there are other ways to facilitate change,’’ he noted, “either through the trade market or prospects from within.’’
Your faithful puck chronicler asked Chiarelli if Game 5 and the last 45 minutes of Game 7 — the two lowest points of the Philadelphia series — served to tell him what was needed going forward.
“I’ll have to look at them more closely,’’ he mused. As a GM, he said, he tries not to overreact or make judgments on too small a test sample.
“We have areas where we have to improve,’’ he added, acknowledging that scoring is one area where there is, “more blood to be squeezed from the stone.’’
Julien, responding to the same question, added, “We had four opportunities to win one game, and we didn’t accomplish that — that’s where we have to take responsibility. We have to live with this. It happened. I have to start preparing for next year, and it can’t start soon enough.’’
Once again, it is turn-the-page time on Causeway Street. The show is over, even if the pain is not. In a matter of days, if not sooner, the talk will turn to Seguin or Hall, the roster for July’s development camp, September’s training camp, and a 2010-11 season that the Bruins will begin in Europe.
We all live in a tomorrow world, and for that the 2009-10 Bruins can be thankful, because it was a season that they got wrong right to the very last hour.