Has the Peter Chiarelli approach left Boston? Or is the former Bruins General Manager’s approach still lingering in the front offices at TD Garden? We’ll get closer to the answer to that question in the next 24 hours or so as the NHL trade deadline approaches. During the Chiarelli years, the Bruins were well-known to not make big moves that were needed at the deadline. Instead, they would make small trades for players who had little or no impact. Trading for #6 defensemen and borderline fourth line wingers was common practice under Peter Chiarelli. We need to remember that Don Sweeney learned from him. In addition to making little impact with trades, Chiarelli was also known for locking up borderline players to long-term deals. It was a “keeping the band together” type approach. Chris Kelly was the prime example. Heading into the deadline, both of Chiarelli’s flaws are going to be focused on with the current Bruins situation.
The big question here is will Don Sweeney to prove to be any different? Is he going to make a bold move to improve the team short-term or long-term? Or is he going to stick with the Chiarelli approach? Another factor here is that Sweeney reports to the man who approved of this approach for years in Cam Neely. Neely typically gets a free pass for his impact on a Bruins team that should have been an annual Stanley Cup contender just like the Chicago Black Hawks are. He signed off on the Tyler Seguin trade for Loui Eriksson. He waited to make a change with Chiarelli until he really had no other choice. Take a look at Chiarelli’s drafts in his tenure with Boston. He arguably had the worst drafts of any Bruins GM in history. And that’s a very long history…
Back to how important this deadline is for the Bruins. The Bruins have a 30 year-old winger who has under performed in two of his three seasons with the Bruins in Loui Eriksson. Eriksson has played well this year, but he is still, by no means, a game changing player. Eriksson’s contract ends at the end of this season. The Bruins and the Eriksson camp have reportedly been trying to work out a long-term deal. Eriksson is reportedly looking for five years. Now, if this were Peter Chiarelli, there would be little doubt that he would do everything possible to sign this player. This is the perfect player for Chiarelli. This probably explains why he traded the most talented young player in the NHL in Tyler Seguin for him. He plays well on both ends of the ice. Great. The reality is that it’s not that hard to find a player like Loui Eriksson. As the Bruins quickly found out, you don’t find players like Seguin very easily.
Are the Bruins going to sign Loui Eriksson to a long-term deal? They’re going to have to pay a hefty price to do so and you’re looking at signing a player who has been inconsistent and is entering ages 31-35. Eriksson is not a core player. The Bruins have core players at the center and wing positions. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand are those core players. Perhaps, David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner will join them over time. The Bruins do not have this core on defense. Zdeno Chara is on the decline. Trey Krug is the closest thing the team has to a core player on D. If this team is going to compete in the playoffs this year and for years to come, they clearly need to improve on defense.
The Bruins have a big opportunity here to trade Eriksson and improve. It’s either they sign him or trade him. If they do neither and lose him, then this will be a major failure unless, of course, the Bruins win the Stanley Cup this year. They may have a chance to improve their defense now with a big trade. If not, they should be able to get a first round pick along with a prospect. They’re in great shape on offense and they’re in terrible shape on defense. They’ll have to overpay for Eriksson to keep him and he’ll be past his prime.
In the next 24 hours, we’ll find out if the Bruins have moved on from the Chiarelli approach or if nothing has changed. If the Bruins do nothing but trade for a #6 defenseman, we’ll know that either Neely is running the show or that Sweeney is simply an apprentice of Peter Chiarelli and nothing has changed. If the Bruins trade Eriksson and get a good return, then there’s a strong possibility that Sweeney has his own plan and will be willing to make bold moves to improve the team.
The clock is ticking…