Well, it's been almost half a week since the Bruins punched Carolina's ticket to the Final Four. In Boston Bruins fandom, that's plenty long enough to forget about the magical joyride of a #1 seed and sweep over the Habs -- time for some drawn-out 20/20-hindsight analysis of management decisions!
WEEI's Joe Haggerty (Big Bad Blog) rips Chiarelli for his biggest "mis-step" at the trade deadline -- trading for Ducks defenseman Steve Montador. The premise of the article is that there were numerous other defensemen available, Montador was... well, the shittiest one left.
(I should take a moment to air my biases. In my humble opinion, Montador was the worst player on the Bruins' playoff roster. He never came close to fulfilling his limited promise as a deadline acquisition. In fact, he was f.r.e.a.k.i.n.g t.e.r.r.i.b.l.e, to the point that he became difficult to tolerate. Offensively he's a turnover machine with an unintimidating shot, yet he still plays aggressively at inappropriate moments. Defensively he's advertised as "rugged", but has nowhere near the physical presence of a Wideman or Ward... or even a Ference.)
Still, there's little merit to Haggerty's argument that the Bruins should have shot the moon for an elite defenseman. After all, Montador was brought in to provide a little third-pairing depth -- nobody expected he would end up being a top-4 player and manning the point on the power play in a Game 7 playoff scenario.
Haggerty's idea of a "better" trade would have been something like the Pahlsson-Wisniewski deal that helped put both the Ducks and Blackhawks into Cup contention. But he fails to recognize that the Bruins weren't shopping anyone nearly as valuable as Pahlsson. In the end, they merely lost Petterri Nokelainen, a borderline depth forward who was obsolete the moment Byron Bitz pulled on a Boston sweater. Even offering a package of draft picks would be questionabe asset management for an organization one season removed from April elimination.
Avoiding the "impulse buy"
The true heart of the matter is in this argument:
The Bruins GM said several times during the year that the ”window” can sometimes be a narrow one for an NHL team with legitimate Stanley Cup aspirations. The “window” way of thinking is a byproduct of the NHL salary cap. A team can change drastically from year-to-year given the financial situation of any particular team.
It’s also the best reason why Boston’s braintrust should have gone for broke this year.
This sort of thinking drives me crazy, because it's based entirely on impatience rather than strategic planning. Consider the teams which are still in Cup contention this season -- how many of them are operating as if on a one-year "window" to win a Cup?
- Detroit has strung together 15 dynastic seasons by refusing to trade futures for rentals. They do their shopping in the offseason, when real bargains arise.
- Carolina didn't panic during their post-Cup dropoff and have returned to the semifinals without moving any of their elite players.
- Chicago is the Western equivalent to the Bruins, building chemistry between young core players with long-term contention in mind.
- Only Pittsburgh has tried, and failed, to accelerate the process through trades. We saw how that worked out when Hossa signed with the Wings.
Even though Boston could have used a stronger counterattack against the Carolina forecheck, perennial Cup winners are built on Draft Day, not Deadline Day. Chiarelli's body of work happens mostly in the quiet summer months, when veterans renegotiate their contracts and prospects commit to working their way through a competitive farm system.
None of the other deadline-deal blueliners made the difference for their teams when the chips were down, and there's no reason to expect things would have turned out differently for the Bruins.