Here in New England people absolutely love the Patriots. And after their Week 1 victory on the road against what was considered one of the best teams in the NFL, their fandom is sky high right now.
No Brady, no Gronk, no problem. The Patriots are the best sports franchise when it comes to the “next guy up” mentality.
If you love them, or hate them, it doesn’t matter. They have been the best sports franchise in the past decade and a half, racking up 4 Super Bowl wins in 6 appearances to go along with countless division championships and AFC title appearances (including the last 5 straight).
The Patriots have been the best team because they are the best run organization from top to bottom. Bill Belichick knows what buttons to push and when to push them, both with coaching and player personnel. The team is run like a business and Belichick is the CEO. Certainly the Bruins could learn a lot from the Patriots.
After seeing the win in Arizona Sunday night it made me think about what makes the Patriots so effective, even when their roster is depleted. Here are some concepts that came to mind that the Bruins could learn from the boys in Foxborough to help correct some issues and get them back on track:
Don’t fall in love with your own players to the point you forget when to cut ties.
Bill Belichick can certainly rub some players and fans the wrong way with his decisions but there is no denying that his system works. There have been so many players who have been cut, not re-signed, or traded that were fan favorites. It does not matter to Bill. He does what he feels is best for the team and if he feels a less expensive or less experienced option can still get a job done he’ll go with it.
The Chicago Blackhawks are the best hockey example of this with their roster moves (Patrick Sharp, Brendan Saad, Andrew Shaw, Tuevo Terravainen, etc.). If the player does not project to reasonably fit under the salary cap with what they’re trying to do they make the preemptive move before it becomes a problem. Bill is not afraid of letting guys like Wes Welker, Lawyer Milloy, and Super Bowl hero Adam Vinteri go.
If Bill was running the Bruins you can bet that Kevan Miller would not have been re-signed because there is a younger cheaper option out there. Chris Kelly would have never played more than a season and a half with the Bruins. Those are just two examples, but the list could go on and on. The Patriots won a Super Bowl with Darrelle Revis, but Bill decided he was not going to pay him afterwards and turned the reins over to an affordable and serviceable Malcolm Butler.
There’s a famous motto Bill goes by, that he would rather trade a player a year early than a year late. When I hear that I think of Zdeno Chara. If Bill were running the Bruins Chara would have been traded right after the 2013 season. The Bruins had just lost in the Stanley Cup Final to Chicago and Chara was clearly worn out and not as effective in that Final series. That would have been enough for Bill to package him for a massive return when Chara’s stock essentially peaked. It would have been the Bruins’ “Richard Seymour” moment.
Then they would not have traded Tyler Seguin, who is locked up at a mind boggling discounted $5.75 million per year through 2019. They would not have had to trade Johnny Boychuk either. This does all involve an element of drafting well, because the Bruins had no internal option to replace Chara then and they still don’t. But they would have gotten his replacement when dealing him in a prospect, multiple draft picks, or using the cap space he’d free up.
Even though Belichick himself has missed on plenty of first rounders as well he’s still found ways to fill voids left by players he surprisingly let go. Because in the words of Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton in Road House, regarding Chara at this point, “it’ll get worse before it gets better”.
Now the Bruins are stuck with a player they need to be their number 1 defenseman but the skills just are not there anymore. Adam Gretz of NBC Sports recently wrote about his early observations of the World Cup and he had this to say about Chara: “One player that seemed to especially struggle to keep up with the pace of the younger, faster skaters on the other side of the ice was Bruins defender Zdeno Chara. He just may not be able to physically play at that level anymore. That should be a pretty big point of concern with the start of the season just around the corner.”
Unless the Bruins (finally) trade for another defenseman, or Colin Miller and Joe Morrow make huge advancements in their development, this could get real ugly. Bill would have had the foresight to not let it get this far with any aging player.
Bill gets the most out of his players.
The player could be an undrafted free agent like Malcolm Butler who makes a Super Bowl saving interception, or a guy they drafted in the first round. They are going to get the most out of that player. The main reason is because Bill slots the player into a role where they can be most effective with their skill set, even if their minutes are extremely limited.
I am pointing at Claude on this one and I have written about it before. I do not think Claude does a good job of putting players, mainly young players, in a position to succeed. You cannot have guys like Colin Miller losing their confidence and being played like a yo-yo between the the AHL and NHL while his other options aren’t better. You can’t play a rookie in Tyler Seguin on the fourth line regularly back when fourth lines in the NHL were still enforcers and grinders instead of today’s young fast players. You can’t consistently keep David Pastrnak off the power play, a spot he is built for, yet continually hand that opportunity to Jimmy Hayes. And I also do not think a player like Brett Connolly was used correctly often either and now he has moved on to Washington where I bet he scores 20 goals this year.
This does not happen with the Patriots. Bill identifies what the player does well and puts them in those situations where they can use the skills that they are good at to help the team win.
Patience with young players
The Bruins could take a page out of the “Patriots Way” book on being patient with young players. They have a bad history of moving out younger players, and as stated above, some of them weren’t utilized very well. Tyler Seguin liked to party a little bit and the Bruins decided they did not want to “baby sit”, their exact words, not mine, so they traded the young stud. Good thing they didn’t have Patrick Kane on their roster.
It just so happens that the Patriots have the biggest party boy in the world on their team in Rob Gronkowski. Gronk and other players lived in a house in Foxborough where they put Greek letters on the front of the house like it was a frat. Gronk has a party bus and he is not afraid to take his shirt off (which probably has a “69” on it) in public daily. Seguin was shirtless once, after winning the Stanley Cup. If that had been me I would have gone pantless too.
If Gronk was a hockey player and was in the Bruins’ organization they would have probably traded him. Hopefully the next time the Bruins get a young stud player who might have a big personality they show a little patience and let him grow, as he’ll be a college aged walking hormone they’d normally want to pull the plug on too early. And in the age of Tinder and TMZ the Bruins are going to face plenty more of this as the next generation of players grow up in a much looser and publicly wilder world.
The Bruins organization does have some similarities with the “Patriot Way.” They definitely preach the “team first” motto, which is at the core of the “Patriot Way” and the players seem to love Claude. But unlike the Patriots, the Bruins have a separate front office who makes personnel decisions and evaluates the on-ice results, whereas Bill does both in Foxborough. The Bruins need to get on the same page in that area and decide what they are, how to affordably move forward, and be clear about it.
Maybe they should throw Bill a few bucks and have him come do a business audit one day.