On Monday, Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien sat on a podium at TD Garden and addressed the media without knowing their futures. On Wednesday, one learned his.
Chiarelli, who said in recent days this Bruins team was fixable, will not get the chance to do just that. Instead, the Bruins fired him after nine seasons, two trips to the Stanley Cup Final, one Stanley Cup, one Presidents' Trophy, and seven trips to the playoffs.
When asked initially why the Bruins cut ties with their general manager, there were few answers. Both CEO Charlie Jacobs and president Cam Neely did their best to avoid the topic they were ostensibly there to discuss.
"I don't want to get into specifics, I don't think it's fair," Neely said. "I can appreciate the fact that our fans would like to probably get us to be a little more specific as to why, but we believe that we made the decision moving forward to help improve the hockey club."
Asked whether Chiarelli would have been fired if the Bruins made the playoffs, Neely would say only, "It's a good question. But we are where we are, so it's hard to answer that."
Slowly, eventually, a picture began to emerge: of a team that lost its identity, of poor drafting and cap management, of too few goals scored and too many dollars spent.
That, ultimately, was the reason the Bruins decided to move forward without Chiarelli, alerting him in a meeting on Wednesday morning. They also fired three scouts: amateur scouts Mike Chiarelli (Peter's brother) and Denis Leblanc, and European head scout Jukka Holtari.
But this had been building for some time. Neely revealed he had a conversation with Chiarelli as the team approached the trade deadline "to make sure that we were protecting as many assets as we could," as Neely put it.
"I have to look at our organization not just for today but for the future as part of my job, and I just wanted us to be cautious of moving top picks or top prospects for rental players," Neely said. "Just based on where I saw our club at that particular time."
That meant Chiarelli was essentially not authorized to trade picks for a rental at the deadline. He was criticized for not doing more to shore up the Bruins, acquiring depth forward Max Talbot and right wing Brett Connolly. But Chiarelli apparently could do little else.
The major issues related to the team's drafting and cap situation. Three consecutive first-round draft choices — from 2007 (Zach Hamill), 2008 (Joe Colborne), 2009 (Jordan Caron) — did not pan out with the Bruins. Chiarelli also was widely criticized for the Tyler Seguin deal, and for the Johnny Boychuk trade, executed just days before the start of this season.
Boychuk's departure was accelerated by a problematic cap situation, born of too many players signed to big contracts without enough lower-priced, younger talent emerging to fill in the gaps. The cap situation was exacerbated by the Jarome Iginla signing (plus a few bonuses), which resulted in slightly less than $4.8 million in overages this season, crippling the team in terms of what it could do under the cap.
"As you have success and those players get better and you have to pay them more, you need those entry-level players to come in and be able to have an impact," Neely said. "I mean, it's expensive to always get ready-made players.
"It's a nice luxury to be able to have, but when you don't have the cap space to be able to do that, you've got to find entry-level players, and I think there was a period of time there where — I don't think I'm saying anything that hasn't been chronicled — we missed on three or four players on some drafts that I think right now we're kind of paying the price now."
The task now will be to find a new steward for the team, and the Bruins are prepared to look at internal and external candidates, the best of whom are current assistant GM Don Sweeney and former Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero.
The task for that GM will be to determine the fate of Julien.
Boston's coach is in limbo, with a job and a contract and no sense of whether he will be able or wanted to fill those duties. Jacobs and Neely met with Julien on Wednesday, and will speak with him again in the coming days. But they will leave it up to their next GM to decide whether to keep the coach.
That could leave Julien out of the running if openings — and there will be a number of them this offseason — fill up by the time it takes the Bruins to sign a new GM.
"Charlie and I brought that up to him," Neely said. "We told him the situation, we asked him and he said, 'I signed a contract to coach here, I want to coach here.' So he made that clear when he left."
Whether Julien returns, the Bruins will clearly have to shift some of their philosophies, in some ways returning to their roots and in some ways remaking them. As Neely said, "I think maybe we got away a little bit from our identity that we had in the past. I don't think we were as hard a team to play against as we like to be and we were in the past."
Although it's unclear whether Julien will be there to address the issues, it is clear Chiarelli will not.
It was a decision that seemed inevitable back in January, when Jacobs told the team and the organization it was under review if it did not make the playoffs. When the Bruins were eliminated, those words seemed to mean that someone would be gone. It turned out to be Chiarelli.
"I said for us not to make the playoffs would have been a failure. So here we are out," Jacobs said. "The expectation for us is not only to get in the playoffs but to play for and compete for the Stanley Cup, not just to get in.
"This was not an easy decision. I have a great deal of respect for Peter and what he's accomplished here. I can't thank him enough for 2011 and the ride that was, but we felt it was time to move on. And this was the move."