Boston Bruins: New Manager, New Beginning?

by Henry Bentley

The recent GM change in the Boston Bruins organisation presents an interesting question. Was the team’s shortfall to the playoffs due to management or other factors?

The 2013 – 2014 season was really an amazing year of hockey for the Bruins. Even though they didn’t win the Stanley cup, the quality of play was through the roof. The offence coupled with Rask’s Vezina Trophy-winning goaltending was an intense combination, which lead them to win the Presidents Trophy. This was also the year in which 3 team members won Olympic medals. Bergeron won Gold for Canada, Erikson won Silver for Sweden and Rask won bronze for Finland.

Luck & Consistency

Unfortunately this season, the quality and consistency of Rask’s goal tending had dropped. There must be some psychological factors at play here. Winning a trophy for your goaltending creates such high expectation from the team and fans after you have done so. The expectation of yourself must also be very high, trying to continue at that level or be better the following season must weigh down on your performance anxiety.

For all the people criticising the Bruins’ play and management, some of it is due to bad luck. This bad luck manifested itself in shootout losses. The Bruins had many games go to a shootout, most of which ended badly. I’m obviously not saying that their play, strategies or approach was fine, far from it. I’m saying that they shouldn’t have been in the position of having to win a game through a shoot out in the first place.

Injuries were also a problem for the Bruins this season. Chara, Hamilton, Miller, Krug, Krejci, and Mcquaid all missed many games. That’s a third of their roster. Other people are looking way back to when the Bruins lost Andrew Ference and Nathan Horton, saying this is the problem, which I don’t believe is necessarily true as the Bruins were fine last season.

Personnel Changes and Small Victories

However, there were still three major trades that impacted the Bruins ability. Ex-Flames captain Jarome Iginla and the two tough guys Shawn Thornton and Johnny Boychuk all left the Bruins. These did make a difference, and changed the highly physical team in to something very unfamiliar. In interviews, Sweeney implies that some of these trades shouldn’t have happened.

There is a silver lining to all this though. Torey Krug got a bronze medal for the USA at the IIHF Worlds, which he wouldn’t have got had he made it to the playoffs, and newbie David Pastrnak was for me, a very good choice. His speed is something that I think the Bruins need to contrast their game play. He will probably need another season to feel comfortable playing in the NHL but what he has already done for the Bruins has been great.

This is something that has been raised in press conferences with Sweeney, who believes that when you develop a player you must allow time for them to properly acclimatise. A bit of life was injected to the Bruins when the NHL’s youngest player entered the ice, but this time, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.

The Right Move?

Considering the variables mentioned above, it’s hard to know if firing Peter Chiarelli was the right move to make. The sheer amount of injuries heavily disrupted the team, and Chiarelli did help the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. Looking in from the outside is always tricky and the reason I think that hiring Don Sweeney was potentially a good move, is simply because of his playing experience. He has played in over 1,000 NHL games, mostly with the Bruins, and surely knowing the game from inside the locker room is a very positive attribute to have.

The Bruins also seem to be very set in their playing style, which is a highly physical type of play, something that Sweeney knows a lot about having played with the Bruins for such a long time. This is still something that Sweeney would be flexible about though, saying in interviews that he does want to present a fresh approach to their play. He also raised an important point, saying that “…you can spend all day talking about systems but at the end of the day it comes down to the players, and they realise that they’ve under performed”.

There is a reason the Stanley Cup is said to be the hardest cup to win in all of sports, but winning the Cup and making the playoffs are two different things. Making the playoffs has been a regular affair for the Black and Gold, and something that is now expected of them. The worst non-playoff run was during the 60’s when the Bruins missed the playoffs for 7 consecutive seasons. Hopefully something like this won’t happen again and the situation isn’t this extreme.

Only time will tell if the new GM switch is what the team actually needs.

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