PHILADELPHIA — This weekend, Peter Chiarelli and his front office colleagues will conduct the annual exercise of immediate management and long-term stewardship.
With the two-day NHL Draft set to begin Friday night, the Bruins general manager oversees a team that fell two rounds short of the organization’s objective in 2013-14. It was a flat-out failure.
On Tuesday, Tuukka Rask (Vezina Trophy) and Patrice Bergeron (Selke) were recognized as the best at their respective job descriptions. Their hardware underscores the might of the Black-and-Gold roster, and how the Bruins wasted their opportunity to battle Los Angeles in a heavyweight clash for the Cup. They could have given the Kings a good fight.
Rask and Bergeron are in the sweet spots of their careers. Zdeno Chara, who was the runner-up for the Norris Trophy to Chicago’s Duncan Keith, is the NHL’s most feared shutdown presence. If the Bruins can re-sign Jarome Iginla, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on his 37th birthday Tuesday, they will return three balanced, consistent, and dependable lines in 2014-15. Defensemen Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug will be better. Dennis Seidenberg will be healthy.
Next year, the power in the NHL will remain in the Western Conference in the likes of Los Angeles, Chicago, Anaheim, and St. Louis. If the Bruins can remake their fourth line and increase the metabolism of their defense — think faster, quicker, higher-paced — they’ll be in position for a deeper run than the one Montreal halted.
Part of management’s responsibility this weekend is to put the 2014-15 version of the team in an optimal position to win. The sector requiring improvement is the blue line.
The Bruins are heavy on defensive defensemen: Chara, Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid. This is not an ideal formation. The game demands mobility, fluidity, and speed in the areas of puck retrieval and movement the other way.
The Bruins won’t have enough cash for a cheese steak, to say nothing of a pace pusher, on the open market come Tuesday. The transition must take place via trade. If so, Boychuk would net the highest return.
If the solution is to be found internally, David Warsofsky will push for full-time varsity status. Improvement will be expected of Hamilton, Krug, and Matt Bartkowski, the three defensemen best equipped with the wheels and passing ability to get the puck out of danger and up to their in-flight forwards.
But another part of the bosses’ duty at the Wells Fargo Center is to continue the transfusion that has resulted, since 2010, in Tyler Seguin, Ryan Spooner, Justin Florek, Hamilton, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Malcolm Subban. This is a tricky balancing act for a Cup-worthy team that whiffed big-time in the first three drafts under Chiarelli’s watch.
The deadline to qualify restricted free agents is 5 p.m. Monday. It’s unlikely the Bruins will tender an offer to Tommy Cross, the former Boston College defenseman. Cross was the team’s second-round pick in 2007. He had three goals and four assists in 55 games for Providence in 2013-14.
Assuming the Bruins decline to tender Cross, the 24-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent. The Bruins will have no assets remaining from the 2007 draft, which also saw them select Zach Hamill, Denis Reul, Alain Goulet, Radim Ostrcil, and Jordan Knackstedt.
In comparison, the Canadiens picked Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban in 2007. They are first-line and top-pairing contributors. Montreal could have kept a third stud in Ryan McDonagh, the draft’s 12th overall pick. But the Rangers swiped McDonagh in a package for Scott Gomez that stands as the biggest heist since Ocean’s Eleven cruised out of the Belaggio with $150 million.
The Bruins traded Joe Colborne, their 2008 first-round pick, to Toronto as part of the Tomas Kaberle deal. Kaberle helped the Bruins win the Cup in 2011. The trade was a success.
But the Bruins have no players remaining from the 2008 class. Jordan Caron, their first-rounder in 2009, may have played his last game as a Bruin.
The Bruins have survived their misses. But around the league, players from those classes are playing significant NHL roles. Alec Martinez (2007), Dwight King (2007), Drew Doughty (2008), Slava Voynov (2008), Kyle Clifford (2009), and Jordan Nolan (2009) were on the roster of the LA club that hoisted the Cup June 13. GM Dean Lombardi used Wayne Simmonds (2007) and Brayden Schenn (2009) as currency to acquire Mike Richards from Philadelphia.
Drafting and developing players is like ordering a burger at a steak joint. It’s cheap and filling compared to the budget-busting porterhouses and filets. Of the 20 players in uniform for LA for Game 6, 11 came through the draft.
In comparison, the Bruins picked five players who dressed for Game 7 against Montreal: Bergeron, Hamilton, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand. Hamilton is the only player drafted during Chiarelli’s watch.
Under Chiarelli, the Bruins have traded wisely. They’ve gotten excellent coaching. Their goaltending has been terrific. They’ve developed defensemen in Providence such as Krug, Boychuk, Bartkowski, Miller, and McQuaid. But their drafts, especially in this regime’s first years, have fallen short.
The teenager they pick 25th overall on Friday at the Wells Fargo Center won’t help immediately. But he has to be a player who will contribute in several years, when prospects such as Subban, Spooner, Khokhlachev, and Charlestown’s Matt Grzelcyk are taking varsity shifts. There will be a window when Chara, Seidenberg, Bergeron, Krejci, and Lucic can’t deliver like they do now.
The Bruins have to get their first-rounder right. They’ll be missing the input of Jim Benning. The former assistant GM, now at the Vancouver helm, is a rink rat. He was a valuable presence in meetings, the NHL combine, and at the draft table. This will be director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky’s first crack at forming the future according to his vision.
Successful teams have the most good players. The Bruins belong to this club. It’s not easy to retain membership. The replenishing cycle continues this weekend.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.