Chiarelli likely to brew something
Now the pace really quickens. Once the NHL All-Star Game comes and goes, the regular-season schedule is officially in free fall. The Bruins have played 47 games in 2008-09, and the remaining 35 dates leading to the playoffs will disappear from the calendar faster than all those New Year resolutions you've already, uh . . . forgotten.
Coming up even quicker is the March 4 trade deadline. The Bruins, still atop the Eastern Conference, have continued to resemble bona fide Cup contenders, even in the face of mounting injuries and illness, but it's likely general manager Peter Chiarelli will make a move or two in the next five weeks to augment his roster. Perhaps not huge moves (did someone mention Vincent Lecavalier could be available?), but a body or two to add depth at forward and/or defense.
"But anything we do, we have to be mindful of the salary cap, and also mindful of team chemistry," noted Chiarelli, watching his club go through a light skate at the
For now, Marco Sturm (knee surgery) is the only one of the injured designated not to return. His ability to cut in off the wing and snipe important goals could be one area Chiarelli will look to cover. Trouble is, most every other GM with a Cup contender is looking for that guy who can win a game, a series, with one dash to the net.
Otherwise, in terms of other missing bodies . . .
"We expect everyone to make it back," said Chiarelli.
Everyone includes Patrice Bergeron, recovering from a second concussion in 14 months, although no one is certain how soon the talented pivot will be ready to play. Phil Kessel (mononucleosis) is probably at least a couple of weeks from getting back in action, based on the original diagnosis and recovery timeline. Just prior to the All-Star break, coach Claude Julien said he figured Andrew Ference (surgery to repair a leg fracture) and Milan Lucic (shoulder) could be back as early as Tuesday's game vs. the Capitals. Aaron Ward (charley horse) returned Wednesday and made it through the full 65 minutes vs. the Leafs.
The kind of move Chiarelli may be pondering, he said, is something akin to what the Ducks did en route to winning the Cup in 2007. His club in need of a character boost and experience up front, then-GM Brian Burke hired on veteran winger Brad May, swapping Mike Wall to the Avalanche. Burke's first move as Toronto's new GM was to bring May to the Leafs earlier this month.
May did not bring the Ducks much offensive pop. He picked up a lone assist in the 14 games following the trade deadline, and then only one more assist in 18 playoff games. But the point was, May already had played in 64 career postseason games and Burke wanted that kind of experience on a roster that was dotted with young forwards, many of whom had little playoff experience.
"From what I've seen of Boston, they don't need much," said Burke, sitting in his box at the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night, watching his Leafs lose to the Bruins in a shootout. "This is an excellent team Pete's put together, he's got them right in the hunt. Really, I don't see any holes when they're healthy. In Anaheim, May was a factor in every playoff round that year for us. He's physical, with great leadership skills - every game, every round, he was a presence."
Boston's forward corps, full of youngsters such as Kessel (if), Lucic, and David Krejci, received valuable maiden experience in last season's seven-game run in the first round against the Canadiens. Veteran pivot Marc Savard, at age 30, also experienced his first minutes of postseason action. Untested, no. But support and experience could help come crunch time.
If the Oilers become sellers at the trade deadline, free agent-to-be Erik Cole, who won a Cup with the Hurricanes, no doubt will be among the hottest deadline commodities. Big-bodied Keith Tkachuk, here last Monday with the Blues, will be another primary target. Both would seem ideal acquisitions, as Brendan Shanahan would have been had the Devils not taken him off the market at the cost of a budget-friendly $400,000.
But don't get fixated on big names when trying to figure Chiarelli's move. His two main acquisitions over the summer, Michael Ryder and Stephane Yelle, weren't on the primary pickings list. All the attention then, remember, was on Marian Hossa (as it likely will be again this summer). Look cheaper, look older, or look for March 4 to pass with little fanfare.
Looking to get benched
Peter Laviolette, dismissed in December as the Hurricanes' coach, remains in Carolina, hoping he'll get another chance soon to take over a bench, be it in the NHL or elsewhere.
"I absolutely want to get back," said Laviolette, ex- of Westfield State College and former captain of the US Olympic team, reached last week via cellphone as he brought his kids home from school. "But right now, there are no opportunities. So, I guess we wait until the summer, and maybe then there is some movement."
Laviolette was in a similar position not long ago after being dismissed as Islanders coach. He hooked on with USA Hockey, coached the Yanks at the Deutschland Cup, and that in turn led to his return to the NHL with Carolina. He directed the 'Canes to the franchise's only Stanley Cup in 2006.
If something came up again to work for Team Red, White, and Blue, said Laviolette, he would jump at the chance.
"I'd love for USA Hockey to call," said Laviolette, who was behind the USA bench in Turin for the 2006 Olympic Games. "I really enjoyed working for them and working the international tournaments, being faced with different styles of play, all of that. But right now, you know, there are a lot of American coaches out there, and like a lot of them, I'm looking for work. Not much for me to say; we're just in a holding pattern right now."
The 'Canes, distant sons of the Hartford Whalers, stood 12-11-2 (.520) when Laviolette was canned Dec. 3, approximately halfway through a five-year deal reportedly worth $1 million per year. They have since gone 11-9-3 (.543) under the tutelage of Paul Maurice, the longtime Hartford-Carolina coach who was put back on the job when Laviolette was bounced.
Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos recently told Chip Alexander of the Charlotte News & Observer that he was unimpressed with Laviolette's work and bluntly stated, "I didn't like the old coach . . . his public persona and private persona were two different things.
"We had the perfect storm in the year we won the Stanley Cup," Karmanos continued. "We played this all-over-the-ice kind of style. It took about three-quarters of the season for people to catch on."
The 'Canes survived four rounds, defeating the Oilers for the Cup. Not everyone caught on.
Asked the other day if he cared to respond to Karmanos's comments, Laviolette declined.
"I've laid low, and I'll continue to lay low," said Laviolette. "Ed Anderson, the owner in Providence [AHL] when I coached there, always told me, 'No matter what happens to you in coaching, take the high road and you'll be better off.' And I think that's what I'm going to do."
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.