I miss how this feels.
Lost. Distraught. Despair.
Life had gotten all too good there for a while. And on top of that the Boston Bruins were not just the reigning Stanley Cup champions, but they were defending their title with honor. Nearly perfect throughout the month of November going 12-0-1 and just as good in December, they were taking control of the entire National Hockey League.
Then, on December 31, 2011, my world, and the Bruins, came crashing down.
The Black-and-Gold went to Dallas to ring in the New Year with their only contest of the year against the Stars and proceeded to get manhandled in a difficult, 4-2 loss. Since that day, neither of us has been quite right.
Though they still find themselves sitting second in the Eastern Conference, anyone who has watched the Bruins play in the near two months since that fateful day can see they are a shell of their former greatness. They are an abysmal 3-6 in the month of February and have rarely managed to put together a full 60-minute effort in that stretch, the team’s trademark during their Cup run. They have not won back-to-back games since January 12. At one time leading the NHL in goals scored and goals per game, the Bruins are putting up just 1.44 goals a game in February. They have also been shut out four times this month, as opposed to being shut out just twice the other four months of the season.
I may not be able to just pick up the phone to call someone to get what I need to right the ship, but with the NHL’s trade deadline looming on February 27, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli should be working the phones to do whatever he can to shake things up for his team’s floundering offense.
After two months of poor play and now with the extended absences of wingers Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, for there to be any hope of another deep playoff run, there is no doubt Chiarelli needs to start retooling his roster. Since rumors surfaced earlier in the year the Columbus Blue Jackets were calling the Bruins looking to deal star winger Rick Nash, the Black-and-Gold faithful have been salivating at the thoughts of the two-time 40-goal scorer coming to the Hub. Despite their desperate need for that kind of offense, it is safe to say as much fun as the fantasy trades for Nash or even the recent insinuation of sending top prospect Dougie Hamilton to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban are, any sort of major move to upset Boston’s young core and bright future is vey unlikely.
The loss of Horton to concussion issues has become more and more noticeable as his now 11-game absence continues, but with any deal involving a major prospect or key piece from the NHL roster off the table, there is not much chance the Bruins will bring in a player to replace Horton in the next week. What is more likely to be seen out of Chiarelli is a few smaller deals for second-tier players involving either draft picks or mid-level prospects to replace the crucial loss of Peverley for four to six weeks with an MCL sprain and bolster the second and third line depth upfront, hopefully getting Boston out of its offensive funk along the way.
The three most popular names currently linked to Boston in trade talks are wingers Ray Whitney of the Phoenix Coyotes, Mike Knuble of the Washington Capitals and Tuomo Ruutu of the Carolina Hurricanes. All three are players who in some way fit what Boston needs right now and all could be acquired for a reasonable price.
Whitney is a name who always seems to surface in Boston this time of year and an intriguing player for the Bruins. He could add a decent amount of scoring touch, probably the most out of those three names, but is much older at 39 and a smaller player, not nearly as tenacious as the typical Bruins forward. Despite their financial woes and constant questions of how much longer the franchise will be in Phoenix, the Coyotes do currently finds themselves in a playoff spot so it is difficult to tell if they will be giving players away at the deadline. As a result of their playoff status, it could be Whitney will either be off the table altogether or the price would be too high for Boston’s liking.
Knuble, on the other hand, could come at a very cheap price. Also 39-years old, Knuble has found himself a healthy scratch more often than not of late, proving that his days in Washington, if not the NHL all together, are coming to a close. In terms of what he would be able to offer the Bruins on the ice as, at best, a third liner, Knuble is not the most exciting of trade rumors and would have to supplement another deal. He does, however, bring with him a veteran presence to a locker room currently in a rut and, given his age, could be in his last hunt for a Stanley Cup, so would be the kind of player to give the kind of max effort the Bruins need at this point to spark some life into their team.
Effort, however, does not always equate to goals, which is why Ruutu now poses the most interesting offer for Chiarelli and the Bruins. The 29-year old Fin is the kind of player that has the size and the grit to fit in well with Boston’s offensive game. Never really known for his offensive prowess with just two seasons of 20+ goals in his eight-year NHL career, Ruutu’s big and bruising nature could be what the Bruins need to get their identity back. The B’s seems to have become a bit gun-shy in their physical play of late after a rash of suspensions handed down in January, so Ruutu’s intensity could be as beneficial to this team as any points he may put on the board. Though he does not have the scoring touch of Horton, Ruutu does have some scoring pop and pairing him alongside Milan Lucic would make a formidable duo, if not on the score sheet, then certainly against the boards, once again making the Bruins a tough team to play against.
Ruutu would probably be the most expensive name of the three linked to Boston via trade, but given he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, his price tag should not be expensive enough to scare the Bruins away. Ruutu is a textbook Bruin and should be at the top of Chiarelli’s wish list as the best way to improve his team right now.
Any chance of improving the squad in-house just is not in the cards for the Bruins as the team has tried just about everything they can from calling players up to making lineup changes to shaking up the lines. Now they are even experimenting with the move of top center David Krejci to the wing and none of it has been able to pull the Bruins out of their woes yet.
It is time for a change to get life back on track and to get back to championship caliber. There are some out there that say only fresh faces will do.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.