Boy how things have changed in a year. Peter Chiarelli is working in Edmonton, Don Sweeney’s the man in Boston, and both cities have seen roster changes along the way. Tonight’s game between the two teams will be the first of three games for the Bruins on a road trip that rips them through Western Canada. Although the action will take place on the ice, there will be plenty of chatter and buzz about the Bruins facing the team that their old GM Peter Chiarelli is now running Edmonton.
As we all know, Peter Chiarelli had to go this past summer. It had to happen for the Bruins and their spend happy ex-GM to equally hit the rest button. And the Bruins definitely hit the reset button. They shipped out their baggage in Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, and Niklas Svedberg. Boston also told Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell they were no longer wanted. They traded Milan Lucic. They smartly stockpiled draft picks. They even had a gun put to their head by Dougie Hamilton who wanted out of Boston and left new GM Don Sweeney no choice but to trade him. And Sweeney didn’t cave and overpay for a temporary band-aid like Cody Franson. He didn’t have to go to $5 million a year for Matt Beleskey like many thought would happen. It was a busy reset and reorganizing summer for the Bruins, all done with smart calculated decisions.
Ironically, even though Peter Chiarelli got a clean slate when he was hired by the Oilers he didn’t hit the reset button. First, he fell into being able to be the GM who drafted Connor McDavid 1st overall. My four-month-old daughter could have done that. But then he went right back to his old ways.
Chiarelli signed good, yet overrated, free agent defenseman Andrej Sekera to a 6-year, $33 million bloated deal. It’s the one of the biggest head scratching payments of the 2015 free agent class. So far Sekera has 2 goals, 10 points, and is a -7 rating in 24 games.
Then Chiarelli signed Oscar Klefbom to a 7-year, $29 million extension after he played in just 77 career NHL games. Klefbom is a -6 rating with 11 points in 25 games this year and has been a name thrown around on hockey talk radio as a player who could (but won’t) get shipped to the Islanders for Travis Hamonic. I do think Klefbom will eventually end up being much better than he currently is, but right now both deals aren’t great and look so similar to the bad mistakes that cost Chiarelli his job in Boston.
Let’s not forget Cam Talbot either. The goalie who set the league on fire last year with the strong, defense first, New York Rangers as he filled in for the injured Henrik Lundqvist. He went 17-4-3 with the Rangers and actually had better numbers than Lundqvist. So when Chiarelli had the chance to overpay in a trade for lifetime backup Cam Talbot this summer he did. Talbot thus ended up in Edmonton, also known as “the place goalie careers go to die”, in exchange for 3 draft picks. He’s since put up a 3.17 goals against average, a bad .889 save percentage, and 3-8-1 record. He’s now the backup goalie again. Unlike Andrew “The Hamburglar” Hammond in Ottawa who went on an equally impressive tear last year on a weaker team, and stayed a backup goalie like he should be.
So here we are today. Two different worlds on display for sure. Don Sweeney is showing ultimate patience in his pursuit of fixing the mess he was left, and in the process the Bruins have won 5 straight games going into tonights game with a roster that people love to hate. It’s not perfect, but Don’s not going to go crazy just because amateur barstool GM’s demand it.
In fairness to Peter Chiarelli he was hired by Edmonton to go in and fix their problems more aggressively. And he was aggressive. It’s just that it was all done in the same old bad cap management way that’s plagued him. Overpay players with long contracts you don’t need to hand out right now and trade valuable draft picks for parts with incomplete resumes. Like the Lucic trade in Boston, Chiarelli needed to move a Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, or Yakupov to go obtain a real defensive asset and proven goalie. He still may do that.
Tonight we get to see these two differing philosophies and their rosters collide. Let’s drop the puck now.