As losses mount, it’s time to get a move on
What ails the Bruins right now, only three weeks into their season, is more than lack of scoring touch, panache, and finish around the net. It’s deeper, more pervasive, and it’s now painfully obvious that general manager Peter Chiarelli will have to attempt to change the dynamic on his roster if the 2011 Stanley Cup champs are going to mount any kind of defense to their title.
“It certainly shows a lack of focus,’’ coach Claude Julien said, narrowing his own focus to last night’s second period, when the Bruins’ attention and effort strayed hither and yon, setting the stage for their sixth defeat in nine games. “And what that translated to was lack of execution.’’
There it is, folks. Lack of execution, failure to see the job through, close the deal. For three weeks now, this has been a team clearly not ready for prime time, in terms of both effort and X-and-O execution, and as of about 9:30 last night it had sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
“We are giving away way too many chances in our own zone,’’ noted veteran pivot Patrice Bergeron. “We’re not getting the puck out as a five-man unit. We are getting caught too long in our own zone.’’
So, what’s Chiarelli to do? He has a team that generates shots and usually some decent scoring chances, but no one yet has stepped forward to pot them with any regularity, or even now and then. The power play is the best/worst example of this team’s offense, which really isn’t new, because the man-advantage went from bad to awful to desperate in the playoffs. Last night, it went 1 for 6 in combined power-play time of 8:53, and again, it was Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec who actually scored the goal, pulling the puck back and through a napping Carey Price.
Chiarelli is on the hunt. Officially. In an e-mail exchange late yesterday morning, he said he was “diligently’’ making his calls to other GMs, a clear indication of his concern. He would not identify what he is targeting, but it’s a good bet his No. 1 priority is goal scoring.
Veteran forwards Michael Ryder and Mark Recchi departed over the summer, which meant job opportunities for Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron. Neither one has scored a point thus far. Caron rarely is in uniform, and Pouliot really is only identifiable by the name on the back of his sweater. David Krejci again showed next to nothing last night. Big wingers Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton had their moments, but they were few and didn’t amount to anything on the scoresheet.
If Chiarelli can find an able body, he’ll have to make a deal, as he has with varying success since coming here in July 2006. In his first year, he found Brandon Bochenski, who was initially serviceable, but was a lost cause in year No. 2. He made two very nice acquisitions at last season’s trade deadline, acquiring Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, whose versatility remains valuable, even though that can be tough to spot in times like these.
An acquisition now should capture the attention of everyone on the roster, which in itself could be a catalyst for better performance, front to back. Nothing wakes up a sleeping team like seeing names that were chiseled into the Cup just weeks ago get sent out the door. That said, deals this early in the season aren’t easy to find, and none of the other 29 GMs is going to be all that eager to lend a helping hand to the team that won it all.
Vancouver made a big swap recently, acquiring David Booth from Florida, but a key winger such as Booth rarely gets moved this early in the season. It’s far more likely that Chiarelli will have to go after a Bochenski type, a 12th or 13th forward who needs a shot with another organization. A higher profile name is Kyle Turris, the 22-year-old Phoenix center who is a restricted free agent and has yet to close a deal with the Coyotes. The third overall pick in 2007, Turris has yet to fulfill his potential. And even if Chiarelli could land him, Turris would need at least two weeks of training to get into game shape. The Bruins don’t look like a squad that can wait around two weeks for someone to get their act in gear.
“Unfortunately, we’re not sitting here looking at one or two players you can move around,’’ said Julien, who has juggled his lines, to little result. “You’re looking at the majority of the team. That’s where the issue is, and this is what we have to find a way to correct.’’
They shoot, but they don’t score. They too often mismanage the puck in key situations, and last night that had returnee Adam McQuaid making a costly error on Plekanec’s winner in the third period. They acknowledge the need to play with energy, even anger, but they have too few people who follow the talk with the walk. Brad Marchand tried to make that happen with his constant courtship of P.K. Subban last night, one that finally resulted in a fun bout, but that little bit of spark delivered no fire.
Three weeks and still waiting. By the sounds of things, even the ever-patient Chiarelli has waited long enough. In less than a month, his team has slid down the mountain and it now looks as if it’s up to him to provide a way back. Not impossible, but just as it’s not easy to win 16 games in April, May, and June, it’s no simple task to repair a team’s psyche on the fly in October.