Night of chills
During practice yesterday at TD Garden, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli sat in his usual spot at one end of the rink, overlooking the roster he had assembled. Aside from two new faces in Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot, the rest - minus their beards - were the ones that celebrated on the Rogers Arena ice in Vancouver less than four months ago.
That was exactly the general manager’s intention.
“We took careful planning on not to meddle with it too much, recognizing that we’d lose some key performers,’’ Chiarelli said. “We added a couple players. We’ve also taken into account that the rest of the guys will be better and more experienced.
“We took a bit of a hands-off approach that way. Chemistry was a very important part of our planning.’’
The Bruins were nothing close to broken. So, there was nothing to fix. Chiarelli’s philosophy was simple: stay the heck out of the way.
The summer of 2011 was one of celebration. The only heavy lifting required of Chiarelli was hoisting the 35-pound Stanley Cup over his head. The Bruins signed Pouliot to a one-year, $1.1 million contract July 1. Four days later, after Tomas Kaberle signed a three-year, $12.75 million deal with Carolina, the Bruins acquired Corvo from the Hurricanes for a 2012 fourth-round pick.
The lazy summer was the opposite of the tornado Chiarelli went through the year before.
The 2010 offseason was one of the Bruins’ busiest. They acquired Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from Florida in the Dennis Wideman trade. They re-signed Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi, Daniel Paille, and Blake Wheeler. They extended Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron in the final days of the preseason.
During the season, Chiarelli made the final tweaks. The Bruins traded Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley. They landed Chris Kelly from Ottawa for a second-round pick. They swapped Joe Colborne, their 2011 first-round pick, and their 2012 second-rounder to Toronto for Kaberle.
Because of all those moves, the Bruins had few left to make this summer.
Chiarelli knew that Recchi would retire if they won the Cup. Kaberle, an ill fit following his trade, got the megabucks and extended term with Carolina he never would have in Boston. Michael Ryder scored a two-year, $7 million payday with Dallas. The Bruins had few complaints about seeing them walk.
The plan, starting tonight with the season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden, is for the returning players to jack up their production. It would be unfair to expect Vezina-winning goaltender Tim Thomas to submit a repeat performance. But that’s why the Bruins have Tuukka Rask.
The 24-year-old Rask will see more playing time this season. Nobody within the organization would be surprised if Rask grabbed the No. 1 job for stretches of the year.
Up front, it’s possible that Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Horton could slip as opponents send out top shutdown pairs and checking threesomes against Boston’s power line. That’s where the Bruins expect the No. 2 line of Bergeron between Brad Marchand and Peverley to assume more offensive responsibility.
But there is no player who could make more of a jump than Tyler Seguin. Last year, the rookie had 11 goals and 11 assists in 74 regular-season games. In 13 postseason games, he added three goals and four assists.
This year, with more muscle on his frame and more confidence in his mind, Seguin could double his numbers across the board. He will start tonight as the right wing on the third line, but could shift to center if coach Claude Julien wants more pop in the middle. During camp, Seguin looked more comfortable at center, his natural position, than on the wing.
“He’s been very confident, more comfortable in his skin,’’ Chiarelli said. “Last year, everything was new to him. This year, he knows what to expect.’’
Tonight, the Bruins face off against the team that initiated their 2010 changes because of its comeback in the second round of the playoffs after the Bruins led the series, three games to none. This time around, it was Philadelphia - swept by Boston in the second round last spring - that underwent franchise-shaking alterations.
GM Paul Holmgren shipped out Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. As part of the return, Holmgren imported Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek. He signed Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, and Max Talbot. The Flyers now belong to new captain Chris Pronger and young guns Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk.
“They feel they’ve made some right decisions,’’ said Julien. “They’re the only ones who know whether it’s good or bad, whether it’s going to make them better or whether they’ll stay the same. That’s a decision they decided to make.
“I know we’re going to see a different team. Goaltending was the biggest thing they feel they’ve addressed.’’
With each passing season, Chiarelli will have more influence on his roster. Of the 20 players expected to be in uniform tonight, 13 were acquired with Chiarelli in full control of the team. That number will continue to grow.
Next summer might be busier for Chiarelli. Peverley, Kelly, Paille, Campbell, Thornton, Corvo, and Boychuk will be unrestricted free agents. Not all of them will return. Of the seven, Peverley stands the best chance of being re-signed.
As a result, next year’s Bruins will undergo significant turnover. The 2011-12 Bruins, however, look much like last year’s team. They’ll be very pleased if the final outcomes bear a resemblance.