By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Correspondent
Darkness has definitely descended on the edge of the north end of town as yet another key Bruins defenseman has been eliminated from head coach Claude Julien’s arsenal. Torey Krug – the Bruins best blue-liner on their power play and perhaps most gifted offensive defenseman – will be sidelined 2 to 3 weeks courtesy of a slash from the stick of the Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise Tuesday night at the Garden in the B’s 4-3 loss to the team from the land of 10,000 lakes.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli can’t help but be thinking that the karma chameleon that hopped on his back shortly after he dealt the popular and powerful Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders for two second round picks and a boatload of misery is fast becoming a bitch that just won’t go away.
Enter the dead horse and commence the beating there of now.
There was no one other than those that occupy the front office on Causeway Street – or possibly just the GM himself – that thought that the deal that sent one of the pillars of the defensive foundation that the Bruins are built upon was a good thing when it happened, and now it looks as if it is coming back to bite them in the behind big time.
Look, no one is saying that Chiarelli should have known that both Krug and Zdeno Chara would get hurt within a week of each other but unless he totally overestimated the depth on his roster on the back end, he should have known the ripple effect that was likely to happened when you remove a player who had become an anchor on his top two defensive pairings and was so key to the system Julien employs.
The Boychuk deal is just the latest of many moves that have found the Bruins at the top of the salary cap ceiling with glaring holes remaining on their roster.
Chiarelli’s tendency to fall in love with his own players resulted in sketchy deals with the likes of Chris Kelly (4 years, $12 million), Gregory Campbell (3 years, $4.8 million), Brad Marchand (4 years, $18 million) and Milan Lucic (3 years, $18 million).
In the case of Marchand and Lucic, both were about to become restricted free agents and therefore had no leverage at the time they were signed. And while Kelly and Campbell would have been free to sign with any team that they chose to, their contracts (in Kelly’s case the annual salary and in Campbell’s case the number of years) represented a reach by the Bruins GM and resulted in overpaying for players whose skill set is more easily matched by less expensive players.
Now to add insult to injury the most celebrated player the Bruins castaway, Tyler Seguin – who was sent to the Dallas Stars for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow due to his unwillingness or inability to fit into the mold the B’s front office and coaching staff has cast for their players on July 4th of 2013 – has blossomed into a top scorer in the league and would look mighty fine skating along side Lucic and David Krejci on the Bruins top line.
Chiarelli stepped out on a slippery slope when he dealt the fun-loving forward with a penchant to party and an allergy to back checking a couple summers ago. He slid further down the slope when he decided to weaken his team entering this season by dealing a key defenseman to get cap compliant instead of simply casting off spare parts to do so.
Now as the first month of the season comes to a close he finds his team languishing perilously close to being out of the playoffs approaching Thanksgiving, a date of which spells doomsday for those on the outside looking in when Tom the turkey is served and many playoff aspirations are roasted.
For now the Bruins fate on defense lies in the hands of guys like Matt Bartkowski, Zach Trotman, the aforementioned Morrow and David Warsofsky. In the past the crisis might not have been so bad if the rookies had a veteran like Dennis Seidenberg, Boychuk or the emerging Dougie Hamilton to rely on.
But Boychuk is gone because he cost too much, Seguin is gone because he partied too much, and now the season could be slipping away because Chiarelli relied too much on unproven players and overpaid for underperforming pieces to the puzzle.
These moves coupled with the team’s inability to draft effectively when not handed a top 10 pick from the hapless Toronto Maple Leafs under Chiarelli’s watch has a team once favored to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals this season sitting on the edge of NHL playoff oblivion.
After unrestricted free agent holdout Krug and Smith signed with the club for team friendly deals due to their lack of leverage in September, it seemed like going into the season that the only real question mark was who would step forward and claim the right wing on the Bruins top line. But after dealing Boychuk the questions continue to mount for Chiarelli.
Could it be much like their GM over-rated the talent on his roster, the Bruins ownership and big boss Cam Neely have over-rated the talent of their general manager? It seems pretty fair to add that to the list of legitimate questions facing the hockey club that calls Boston home.
Kevin Flanagan can be reached at Bsdkevinflanagan@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan.