Yesterday was “break up day” at the TD Garden. Players came in to pack up their stuff, get their end of the season medical exams and have their exit interviews. Then much like the second and third period of Game 7, they went home.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli gave his end of the season press conference. For the most part, the media took the same approach Bruins management and coaching took with the players… they danced around the tough questions.
This was a Bruins team that was complacent. They went up 3-0 on the Flyers and stopped playing. They spent almost an entire regular season acting as though they were entitled, destined to win. They never had to answer to their poor play or underachievement.
After listening to GM Peter Chiarelli’s press conference, it is clear this attitude stems from the top.
Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien seemed reluctant to answer questions about the Bruins epic collapse, but they should have stepped up and demanded accountability. Accountability from themselves, from the players, from someone. But they danced around the issues, essentially sending a message to the players that this approach is okay.
As Chiarelli sat there with Julien and answered questions, they talked about how they were going to make changes and look at the make-up of the team. But never once did they mention how absolutely unacceptable blowing a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 was.
“The variance between the ups and downs was too much,” said Chiarelli. “We will look to make some changes. We’ll go through the normal process of meeting with our pro scouts. We’ll meet with Claude and his staff. We’ll be talking about the makeup of the team, personnel, style.”
That’s great Peter. But those words ring hollow without action. This team fell to a 3-1 series hole against the Hurricanes due to the very same issues that plagued the Bruins in games 4-7 against the Flyers. What did you do to change that?
When Ryder was struggling, he was never benched. When Dennis Wideman was struggling, he was never benched.
When locker room leader and 4th line energy guy Shawn Thornton, a guy who gives 100% effort every shift, struggled in a couple of games he was benched.
Wideman and Ryder obviously have more potential to score than Thornton, but what kind of message does that send to a team? A guy who gives 100% but makes a few mistakes rides the pines while overpaid, lifeless guys like Wideman and Ryder continued to get big minutes.
Wideman obviously upped his play in the playoffs and Ryder began to show some signs of life, but action should have been taken much earlier. Instead, the Bruins coaching and management staff supported the notion that it was okay for their players to coast.
Chiarelli and Juilen, throughout the season and in their season ending press conference, re-enforced the message to the team that the status quo is okay. Two years in a row now the Bruins have gone out in Game 7’s and taken
games off in the playoffs.
By not coming out and publicly saying their play and demise was unacceptable, and by dancing around the issues Chiarelli and Juilen are excusing their players for their poor performance.
“In the last two years, I don’t want to highlight the fact, but in the last two years we’re one of fives teams to have been in the second round both years,” Chiarelli said yesterday.
The goal of the playoffs is not to make the second round. Boston has not hoisted a Stanley Cup in 38 years. Making just the second round is not okay for a team that was expected to be a serious contender for the Cup this season but blew a 3-0 series lead.
But quotes like this just send a message that just getting by is okay. Making the second round was not a success for the Bruins this year. That is what they were expected to do. They had a miserable regular season, so when they made the second round they tried to spin it as a success.
The Bruins made the second round last year. Chara won the Norris, Julien won the Jack Adams and Tim Thomas won the Vezina. They finished first in the Eastern Conference and then they didn’t show up to play against Carolina.
Apparently the Bruins organization has never understood the notion that if you do not learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it. Two years in a row now the Bruins have flamed out in the second round. But no one is held accountable. The Bruins are breeding a culture that less than your best is okay.
Until that changes, the Stanley Cup drought will continue. And Boston fans will continue to be horribly disappointed. And that is unacceptable.