Bruins Emotional About Ending, But Chiarelli Must be 'Unemotional' About It
BostonBruins.com - On Friday, every Bruin - one by one - sat down with General Manager Peter Chiarelli for a customary season-ending exit meeting at TD Garden.
"What I can tell you, and these aren’t the ones that are making the decisions, but every player to a T that I have seen so far this morning has been like, you know, we should have been there - meaning going all the way - or we will be there next year," said Chiarelli.
"We definitely feel strong. Now part of my job is to filter that stuff out because I’m the manager, they’re the players."
Every player was emotional about the way that 2013-14 ended. They didn't lay everything on the line. On Friday, as they went in and out of meetings with Chiarelli and their head coach Claude Julien, and in and out of the locker room to speak with reporters, they were coming to terms with the reality of what had happened.
"I know it’s frustrating for everybody," said Julien. "Our players are extremely disappointed. They feel like they let the city, our fans and everybody down. I know that for a fact. I’ve heard it from a lot of players and our guys take a lot of pride in representing this city and this organization."
Now, though, comes the time to move on.
For the players, the ones emotionally and physically invested, that will involve a few weeks off to get away from the game, to relax with family, and to recharge for a long summer of training and preparation.
For the GM and his staff, the focus is on tweaking his roster, signing players and managing their talent pool via the draft, free agency and prospect development.
"But this is a very good team. This is a very good team. There are some tweaks here and there but it is a very good team," said Chiarelli. "Strong down the middle, strong in the nets, good character, good core, we’ve won the Presidents’ Trophy, we beat Detroit in five, we lost in seven to Montreal."
"It’s, you know, emotional, very emotional, and it is my job to be unemotional about it."
"So this is a good team and there are some trends in hockey that we have to address in this team. It may be that we don’t get address it until Fall or half way through the year or July 1st or before. Just, you have to let things unfold sometimes. But we’re not going to make too many changes to this team, but there will be some changes."
As for player contracts, there are five Bruins who are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1, when the free agency period opens at noon ET - Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Chad Johnson, Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter.
"It’s really too early for me to tell you. I’ve got my own ideas I have to discuss them with our group," said Chiarelli, when asked during his season-ending press conference if he had assessed who would be back with the group for 2014-15.
"How do I assess what they brought? I think Jarome had a really good year for us. He plays our style of hockey, he’s hard, he can shoot, he’s combative. I thought Chad stepped in well for our backup. I think he accumulated over 35 points for us through his performance and allowed Tuukka to have proper rest so I think he did a good job for us."
"Mez we brought in and he didn’t play a lot, I thought he filled in okay. It might have been better for him to bring him in a little earlier just so he could get acclimated to our system. It is a very good system and it takes some time defensively for our defensemen to get up to speed."
"Thorty I thought had a kind of up and down year. He got, obviously, the incident with Pittsburgh and you know, there’s trends in hockey and the fisticuffs trend - again, this doesn’t characterize Thorty as just a fighter because he contributed on that line, that line has had a lot of success in the past - but there is definitely, we’re trending away from that style."
"I had a discussion with Thorty and I said, ‘look, give me a couple weeks to digest what’s happened and then we’ll go from there.' That same comment applies to Iggy."
When Chiarelli and his staff digest everything in the coming days and weeks, they'll look at every option moving forward.
They'll also dissect everything that didn't go their way in the playoffs, in a heated series against Montreal, after putting up one of the most consistent regular seasons in franchise history.
"The thin margins that we talk about during the regular season, the parity that we talk about I think was 100-fold in this series. Again, I have to give credit to Montreal, I have to give credit to their goaltender. They played well, their four lines played well," said Chiarelli.
"You look back at the goals and the mistakes we made. We made mistakes. We have a young back line right now and I’m partially to blame if you want to assign blame. Maybe we didn’t get enough at the deadline, maybe we overestimated the youth and where they were. They brought us to good spots and I think you’ll see in the future that these players, these young defensemen, are going to even be better as a result of participating in this series."
"For me, it was a seven-game series. I felt we were the better team, it was a seven-game series and they won on the margins and we didn’t win. So disappointing, more disappointing because it is a rivalry, but I thought we had a heck of a year in the regular season and I thought we had a really good first round. But we’re here to win it all."
With the new divisional playoff format, the Canadiens and Red Wings will be two teams in the Bruins' way year after year. While the Habs gave the Black & Gold plenty of trouble - and have for some time - there were several reasons the game didn't trend in their favor during the series. They were never able to recapture their strong play during the regular season.
Every year, the coach, GM and staff assess the division (and beyond), and make adjustments.
"We do [that] every year," said Julien. "Not necessarily because of the opponents - and I’m not saying that we don’t pay attention to what the opponents will bring - but we do a lot of things that we feel can improve our team’s play, that’s a first priority."
"For me, is it really about — all of a sudden we lost to Montreal, we need to overhaul in that? No, I think we need to look at the things that we need to tweak here and there, like Peter said, and make those kind of adjustments. And some of it will be minor adjustments and some of it, like Peter said, you can have some young players that are going to be that much better next year in those kinds of situations."
"So, year to year, things change, and I can only speak as a coach and this is not necessarily what Peter thinks or may think or may not think, but you explode a team that’s pretty good just because of the situation that is not based on one reason only - that could be dangerous."
As the Bruins sit now, having Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask locked up with long-term contracts and Captain Zdeno Chara still serving as the backbone of the team, their core firmly believes this is a team that will continue competing for the Cup every year.
"I believe so, and for sure I think that we have a great group of guys. It’s something that we have to learn from this year, and be more motivated and better coming up in playoffs," said Chara.
As a new Bruin, but grizzled veteran, Iginla was re-energized with this group.
"I love playing here, I love playing with this group of guys - I think the group of guys have a great chance to compete again next year for a Stanley Cup, to keep getting better with the young guys that we have," said Iginla.
"Who wouldn’t want to be here?" said Chris Kelly. "This is a great team. We had another great team with a great year and we accomplished a lot. Obviously, it’s disappointing. You’re going to be disappointed regardless, when you lose. I think the only time this group has been smiling at the end of the year is a few years back, so expectations are extremely high here and rightfully so."
"We have such a good group, and it’s just unfortunate the way it ended this year."
The players are the ones who put the emotion into the game. They don't feel right about how it came to an end.
"You have to have the type of attitude where you don’t accept losing," said Milan Lucic. "You don’t accept failure, and you hope that it motivates you moving forward."
Because, ultimately, when Chiarelli acquires the pieces, and Julien sets the game plan, it comes down to the players to get the job done, and in 2013-14, they know that they didn't reach their full potential.
"Yeah, we were [Cup contenders] this year, I think we still are," said Bergeron. "If you look at the guys, most of the guys are still going to be with us next year. We have a great group of guys, a great core and we have the experience that you need in playoffs, and I think this year makes us eager to do it next year."
They hold themselves accountable, to the fans, to their GM, to their coach, and to each other.
"Anytime you lose, personally we all feel that we come up short," said Chara. "I mean, that's the main goal. We all set the goals before the season starts, and especially when you have that team that is capable of winning and you don't reach that potential then yeah, it is disappointing."
"But you've just got to keep trying, and learning, and get it right the next time you go into it."
Whether emotional or unemotional about it, everyone can agree on that.