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All Quiet on the Boston Front

Posted By Matt Preston On Jun 15 2012 @ 9:46 pm In Boston Bruins | No Comments

No matter whether you view history as a laundry list of lessons to learn from out of fear repeating past mistakes or as a mere list of surprises preparing us to be surprised again, it is something that should never be forgotten and always be celebrated in one way or another.

One year ago tonight, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup.

Four nights ago, however, that 362-day reign as Kings of the NHL came to an end as the Kings of Los Angeles defeated the New Jersey Devils and the torch was passed to a more than admirable successor.

In those first few days after June 15, 2011, there was nothing but a sense of euphoria for the long-suffering faithful of the Black-and-Gold. Problems with the girl of your dreams and a relationship on the rocks? Stuck in a job going nowhere, feeling like a serf living in the times of feudal law? Sleep in a bed that folds up into the wall? Who cares?! The Bruins were the Stanley Cup Champions.

One year later, on June 15, 2012, there is now a feeling of uncertainty surrounding the Boston Bruins. Just one year later, the Bruins were up to their old tricks of getting a fan base’s collective hopes up, only to be dashed in disappointing fashion in the end. How quickly time flies when one is having fun. Yet, with two weeks before free agency opens and the offseason, in essence, really begins, there is just enough time to make one last comparison to 2011.

With Mark Recchi most likely to retire and all of two unrestricted free agents on the roster, there was little for Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli to do last summer other than sign the team’s top restricted free agent (Brad Marchand) and enjoy the fruits of his labor. With the signing of Gregory Campbell on Monday and the agreement in principle with Chris Kelly, Chiarelli is left with few holes to fill on his roster prior to the 2012-2013 season. His main focus will once again be on his team’s top restricted free agent (Tuukka Rask) and then he just has to plug a hole on the third line and the end of the defensive corps as he did last year in replacing Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle.

The only difference is there is a much different taste in the mouth heading into this offseason. After 2011, why not bring the band back together? They just won the Cup. After 2012, why bring the band back together? Should not there be at least a little new blood following that disappointment against the Washington Capitals?

It certainly is a question open for debate. As bad as the loss to Washington was, the Bruins were a cast of characters that did finish atop the Northeast Division, tied for second in the NHL averaging 3.17 goals per game, were sixth giving up 2.43 and it is not as though they lost to a more talented Washington team, just vastly outplayed by them. There will also be at least one more than noticeable change in the Bruins’ lineup as all signs point to the enigmatic Tim Thomas never again standing between the pipes wearing the Spoked B. There is something to be said when it comes to both continuity and change in sports. Regardless of which side you fall, it is not as though the Bruins were setting themselves up to be big players in free agency to begin with.

Rask should have always been Chiarelli’s top priority this offseason, even before Thomas moved to the mountains, but has to be the focus now. Regardless of the desire for offensive re-enforcements and the cap space the Bruins have (anywhere between $6 and $15 million depending on their ability to move Thomas’ contract and what happens with the impending labor apocalypse), the last two Stanley Cups have proven the importance of reliable goaltending. Plus, any of the exorbitant cap space that will be spent by whoever lands the coveted Parise will handcuff Chiarelli a year from now when it comes time to re-up wunderkid Tyler Seguin.

Once David Krejci inked his extension in December, Chiarelli had no holes to plug on the first two lines once summer hit. These might not be the penny-pinching Bruins of old, but it would have been nothing shy of a surprise to see them make a Parise-level splash in free agency.

Fans can hold out hopes for some top 6 offensive help with a Shane Doan, Dustin Penner or Alexander Semin, perhaps, but would that be an upgrade or merely a lateral move from what they have now, upsetting the roster in the process? The trade market is really the place Bruins fans should look for management to make any improvements this summer.

The desperate need now for Rask should take the Bruins out of the Rick Nash Sweepstakes, but there are still chips to be dangled by the Bruins from both their NHL roster and the farm system. The slowed, streaky play of David Krejci and Milan Lucic over the second half of last season and into the playoffs probably hurt their trade value with their somewhat inflated contracts, but they are still moveable pieces of valuable. And while Dougie Hamilton might be something of an untouchable, the Bruins have prospects in Jordan Caron, Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner who have shown merit and could prove to be desirable chips on the trade market.

Chiarelli has shown a propensity during his tenure in Boston to concoct deals that usually put the Bruins out ahead, which can give Bruins fans hope for offseason excitement. As they say, however, it does take two to tango, so the Bruins are going to have to find the right partner and the right piece before getting too worked up. Should they not be able to find that partner, an offseason like last should be expected, just without confetti.  Without the major shake-up of a trade, all that is left for the Bruins at this point is to quietly add another depth forward to contest for the open third line wing spot alongside Kelly and Rich Peverley, and a bottom three defenseman to take over for Joe Corvo and complete with Hamilton, who is on the cusp of being NHL ready.

As boring as it sounds, at least it gives the Black-and-Gold faithful one last chance to remember the magic of 2011.

Happy Anniversary.

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