TAMPA — There was exhaustion evident in Peter Chiarelli’s face and tone as he addressed reporters in a hotel conference room Friday. It was the day after the Bruins had essentially knocked themselves out of the playoffs, after dispiriting losses to Washington and Florida on consecutive days left the Bruins needing significant help to continue playing beyond this weekend.
And while the Bruins general manager emphasized — over and over again — that he did not want to do a postmortem on the season-that-should-have-been for his team, he essentially did just that.
“We put ourselves in this position,” Chiarelli said. “I consider it a failure. And it’s a failure on everybody’s part. But being a failure doesn’t mean there has to be a complete overhaul of everything.
“Guys fail. Teams fail. And they get back on their horse. Again, I consider it a failure, but you don’t always succeed in this business. You don’t always hit the ball out of the park all the time and you’ve got to get back and do your job and we’ve shown we can do that. But right now it’s pretty disappointing.”
So, Chiarelli was asked, will he be around to fix it?
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m not sure. I’m operating that I am, until they tell me that I’m not.”
The Bruins have one game remaining in their 2014-15 season, a must-win Saturday against Tampa Bay that might not actually be a must-win by the time they take the ice. They could, by that point, already be eliminated.
To have a chance, the Bruins either need a regulation loss from the Senators (at the Flyers) on Saturday afternoon or they need the Penguins to get no more than 1 point against Sabres on Saturday. Also, they need 2 more points.
But Chiarelli is not the only one who could be out of a job at the rapidly approaching end of the season, with new Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs having put everyone — from the GM and coaching staff on down — on notice in January after some of the team’s struggles.
So Claude Julien, the team’s coach for the last eight seasons, also could be a candidate for dismissal, even with the extension he signed in November.
“I think he’s done fine,” Chiarelli said. “I look at a couple things. I think he’s mixed and matched with lines. I think he’s integrated some youth into the forward lines. I think he’s done well mixing and matching on the defensive pairs.
“None of us have been used to these type of circumstances, myself included.”
Asked about Julien’s message to players, about whether they’re still listening to him, Chiarelli said, “I don’t think the message has gone stale.”
For now, as Chiarelli acknowledged, there is plenty of blame to go around. But he put a good bit of that on the players, who mostly have not performed up to abilities or expectations.
“There’s obviously issues with the roster,” Chiarelli said. “And there’s issues with the roster that have to be looked at. That’s where we are today.”
The Bruins have had significant trouble scoring, an issue that reared its head in the last two games, which included a third straight shutout at the hands of the Capitals. Boston is just 22d in the league in goals per game, with 2.56. That’s a far cry from last season’s 3.15, good for third in the NHL.
Chiarelli seemed to believe that wasn’t a matter of chances or talent, that it was something a bit less measurable, something he hasn’t seen enough of in his players.
“I don’t see the will,” Chiarelli said. “I don’t see the will, whether you want to put it as complacency or . . . I don’t see that push. I haven’t seen it.”
That, he said, can make the difference between merely getting the scoring chances and actually scoring on them.
“To me there’s a collective will,” he said, “and you see these teams making pushes and I haven’t seen that. We had that going to a certain degree in those five, six games [of the recent five-game win streak], but there has to be a better level of that.”
It’s something, Chiarelli said, that has been addressed with individual players throughout this season — in small meetings, in large meetings. But there were no more meetings Friday, with the Bruins off in anticipation of what will likely be their last game of the season. There was nothing more to do.
Because with injuries and those downturns in performance, the Bruins find themselves in exactly the place they couldn’t imagine being at the start of the season.
The losses of Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk loomed large then, but not this large. There were questions, sure, but Boston was still a team that would certainly be in the playoffs, a team that would have a chance to win some rounds.
Those expectations now appear to lie in tatters.
“It’s been disappointing and obviously it’s not acceptable,” Chiarelli said. “There’s a level of high standards in our city and our market and we haven’t reached it right now.”