BOSTON — Every year — even after last year’s run at the Stanley Cup — questions arise after a team officially ends its season.
Things are no different for the Boston Bruins after being eliminated Wednesday night in their Game 7 overtime loss against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the first time they had lost in round one since their Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2008 postseason.
For some, like Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Benoit Pouliot, Brian Rolston, Mike Motau, Greg Zanon Joe Corvo (all UFA’s) and Tuukka Rask (an RFA), those questions come to the extent of whether or not they will don the Black and Gold in 2012-13 after contract negotiations. The same can be said for Tim Thomas, whose no-movement clause expires after July 1. For Adam McQuaid and Nathan Horton, the questions remain in the form of their long-term health after missing the postseason due to concussion.
And let’s not forget that the current CBA expires after the season, too (even though their isn’t much gloom and doom to report to the negotiations between the NHLPA and the owners according to coach Peter Chiarelli).
These questions hope to bring some answers for Chiarelli, coach Claude Julien, and the rest of the Bruins as they enter the off-season. That said, don’t expect any drastic changes to shake things up in The Hub of Hockey.
“From the makeover perspective, certainly we’re not going to do anything to make over this team,” Chiarelli said. “You’ve heard me talk about parity in this league. A first round loss this year and there could be another Stanley Cup next year, it’s that close.”
While current New Jersey Devils forward Zach Parise is a marquee name, the Bruins will probably look at more depth guys to bolster their top three lines. That doesn’t mean Chiarelli isn’t considering brining back Rolston, Pouliot or even bumping Jordan Caron to the top line, but rather just a need of adding depth.
Other potential free agents that could fit the Bruins mold includes Andrew Brunette (Chicago), Paul Gaustad (Nashville), Adam Burish (Dallas) and Lee Stempniak (Calgary) just to name a few.
“I’d like to look at a forward to bolster our top nine,” said Chiarelli. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to look at re-signing Pouliot or putting Caron on there, but we’re going to look at the trade and free agent markets.
“I like to add some pieces, but in the major change front, I’m not looking to do anything like that.”
In terms of Thomas, Chiarelli says he is not inclined to move him and would want to keep the duo of he and Rask in tact for next season. However, offers could arise and Chiarelli could listen, but for now that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“I know I’ve seen speculation about a goalie and all that stuff. Certainly I’m inclined to do that,” Chiarelli noted. “Statistically, Tim didn’t have the year he had before, but I thought he had a very good year. We have [one of the best], if not the best, one-two goalie tandems in the league.”
Another issue that doomed the Bruins in the first round was the failure to produce on the power play, especially with a little more than two minutes left in Game 7. Last year, Boston won in spite of its power play — even with Tomas Kaberle in the fold — and Corvo proved to be just as insufficient as Kaberle’s replacement. Both Chiarelli and Julien confirmed that this is an area of concern and an area they need to improve on next year.
On the back end, Corvo is likely gone while Mottau and Zanon’s status is uncertain. It is also speculated that Douggie Hamilton, last year’s first round pick, will be with the big club this fall.
The questions will arise as the offseason progresses. But even with the early exit, Chiarelli will likely only make a few tweaks rather than make a major move or two.
After all, this summer won’t be so short in preparation, which could be the silver lining to it all.