(CBSBoston.com) – “Before Sweeney fires the coach, or ownership or president Cam Neely does something else more drastic, the Bruins have to assess if this core is the right one at the right time to get the team where it wants to be… The danger for the Bruins if they fire the coach is dealing with the fallout if that move doesn’t work. They’ll probably have downgraded in terms of coaching acumen, both in strategy and managing of players, and they’ll be stuck with the same core of players that might be more to blame.” – Matt Kalman
You can almost feel reality starting to settle in Boston. Something most people have known and accepted for two seasons now. This Bruins squad is performing as, at best, a bubble playoff team. And whether on paper they have enough talent or not to get in the postseason is almost irrelevant when they pick and choose what games to show up for. Showing up doesn’t require talent.
Management and ownership have publicly been in denial. Nothing to see here, everything is fine, daily cliché after cliché quotes to the press. After yesterday’s canceled practice following a disastrous Monday matinée against the last place New York Islanders the Bruins brass are now feeling the heat. The “we just didn’t show up” excuse doesn’t fly anymore.
What’s the solution? Do you fire the coach of a flawed team or do you change the team? Or maybe both? There’s no easy fix. That’s doubly true when management has (publically) avoided (at all costs) admitting rebuilding while preaching how much of a playoff contender they are. Monday’s game blew up that kind of thinking.
Like Matt Kalman’s article I quoted above suggests, the personnel is what likely needs the immediate change. It’s not to say a coaching change shouldn’t be considered, but who’s job is it to execute out on the ice? How much tire pumping, rah-rah, “they came to watch the Chiefs!” pregame speeches can you give to multi-millionaire athletes before they can be expected to show up on their own? I mean, it is almost February.
The real problem is Bruins management waited two years too long to start making decisions like the ones they are contemplating right now. The core has aged a bit, their value isn’t quite the same as it was then, and instead the front office spent their time and assets trading for the Brett Connolly’s, Zac Rinaldo’s, and Lee Stempniak’s (those three players cost Boston three 2nd’s, one 3rd, and one 4th round pick, combined). Management couldn’t get out of their own way. They couldn’t let the team suck for a bit and hit the reset button after trading away some of their best young talent.
The fear for Boston fans now is because the “pretend rebuild” has gone on long enough that a legit asset the Bruins have coveted since the Johnny Boychuk trade, like Brandon Carlo, will be a trade causality in a desperate panic attempt to squeak into the playoffs this year. Not only would the B’s be a playoff one-and-done against a Capitals or Penguins team, but a Carlo-for-bubble-team-help trade would be an absolute PR, ticket selling, trust backfire of epic proportions amongst fans. They’d be storming the Bruins front office with pitch forks and torches.
Toronto and Ottawa both won again last night putting them each one point behind the Bruins in the playoff race with five games in hand for both teams. Yes, five games. It’s pretty hard to imagine any trade the Bruins making that’d get them charging toward the playoffs this year. The numbers don’t really match up. It wasn’t worth that gamble when they tried it two years ago. It definitely wasn’t worth it when they tried it last year. It’s doesn’t seem worth it now.
So go ahead, shake up that core. That’s fine. But do it on the premise of building for the future. And not in the Tyler Seguin trade kind of way. That doesn’t work. Boston has some nice young players in the system coming up. For the sake of your fans and all thing logical don’t screw that up for all the wrong reasons because you didn’t tackle this problem when you should have.
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