Bruins fire GM Peter Chiarelli – Boston Herald

Posted: Wednesday, April 15, 2015

It took Peter Chiarelli five years on the job to snap the Bruins’ 39-year Stanley Cup drought. He didn’t get another five years to win a second one.

After nine years on Causeway Street, Chiarelli was fired today as general manager of the Boston Bruins after his team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since his first year in the position in 2006-07. In three of the previous four years, Chiarelli’s teams had won a Cup, an Eastern Conference title and a President’s Trophy.

Now, he’s looking for employment. 

There was no change in the status of head coach Claude Julien per the Bruins’ announcement. Team CEO Charlie Jacobs and president Cam Neely will hold a press conference at the Garden today at 3 p.m.

According to the Bruins, an interim GM will not be named and a search for a new GM will be led by Jacobs and Neely, who could well get more power in hockey operations when all is said and done. It has been speculated that assistant GM Don Sweeney is the leading candidate for the job.

Such is life in today’s NHL, where general managers are now nearly as expendable as coaches have always been.

“We are grateful for Peter’s service to the Bruins organization over the last nine seasons,” Neely said in the statement. “His efforts undoubtedly helped the team achieve great success during his tenure and he helped restore the proud tradition of Boston Bruins hockey.

“We ultimately feel that this change is necessary in order to ensure sustainable success for the club both in the short term and the long term. Our search for a new general manager will begin immediately.”

A former Harvard hockey captain, Chiarelli was hired in the spring of 2006 as the Bruins were trying to find their way in the new salary cap world.

Under the stewardship of Chiarelli’s predecessor Mike O’Connell, the team had bottomed out after the failed Joe Thornton trade and O’Connell paid the price for it.

Chiarelli, who’d been an assistant general manager with the Ottawa Senators, got off to an odd start when Sens owner Eugene Melnyk refused to let Chiarelli out of his contract until after the start of free agency. That time frame happened to be one of the most productive in recent Bruins memory.

At the draft, with interim GM Jeff Gorton running the show, the B’s drafted Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand and pulled off the Andrew Raycroft-for-Tuukka Rask trade. Then at the start of free agency, the B’s signed building block players Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard — both of whom were well-acquainted with Chiarelli (Chara from their time with the Senators, Savard from Chiarelli’s days as a player agent).

Chiarelli had some major missteps in his first couple of years. His first coaching hire, Dave Lewis, lasted just one season. His initial first-round draft pick, Zach Hamill — taken the following year with the eighth overall pick — was a bust. Chiarelli’s draft record was spotty, prompting the eventual firing of director of amateur scouting Wayne Smith and the naming of Keith Gretzky to the post in 2013.

But Chiarelli wouldn’t wait that long to show that he was not afraid a correct his mistakes, and the team would begin its turnaround when Lewis was fired and Claude Julien was hired. The B’s would make the playoffs the first season under Julien and for six more years after that, building toward the Cup win in 2011.

While Chiarelli arrived in Boston with some pieces already in place, including Patrice Bergeron and prospect David Krejci, he did his best work in the building of the Cup champion in the wake of the team’s 2010 playoff collapse against the Flyers, when the Bruins lost a 3-0 series lead. In the offseason, he dealt defenseman Dennis Wideman, a first-round pick and a third round pick for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell.

The roster would be filled with important Chiarelli acquisitions — Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Dennis Seidenbeg, Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. Sensing his team had a shot, Chiarelli was aggressive at the trade deadline that year, obtaining Chris Kelly from Ottawa for a second-rounder, and Rich Peverley from the Thrashers for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart (now two regulars on the Winnipeg Jets’ playoff team). He also paid heavily for defenseman Tomas Kaberle, giving up prospect Joe Colborne (now a regular with the Calgary Flames’ playoff team) plus first- and second-round picks.

Also on the team was an 18-year-old kid by the name of Tyler Seguin. Seguin was a piece that came back in Chiarelli’s first big blockbuster trade that occurred in the 2009 when, with the pressure of a possible offer sheet from Toronto for Phil Kessel, he traded Kessel to the Maple Leafs for two first-rounders, who would become Seguin and Dougie Hamilton, and a second-rounder, Jared Knight (no longer in the organization).

After a first-round knockout in 2012, the B’s returned to the Cup finals in 2013, but not before some trade deadline drama. Chiarelli had made a strong play for Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and, in fact, believed he had a deal in place. But at the 11th hour, Iginla invoked his no-trade clause to engineer a deal to the Penguins, and Chiarelli and the B’s were cast as the bridesmaids while Pittsburgh loaded up again on talent.

But the B’s, who settled on Jaromir Jagr as a rental, would make a strong run in the playoffs, surviving a seven-game series against the Leafs with an historic comeback in Game 7, a five-game pounding of the Rangers and then a stunning sweep of the Penguins.

The B’s would bow in six games to the Blackhawks in the final. It was a pretty good run, but one thing rankled Chiarelli and management staff. It was the performance of Seguin, who should have been blossoming into a superstar but managed just one goal in 22 playoff games. Compounding that lack of production was Seguin’s perceived attitude, which the club felt was immature and unprofessional.

And so in the offseason, Chiarelli made the second huge deal of his tenure, sending Seguin to Dallas for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and prospects Joe Morrow and the since-waived Matt Fraser.

At first, it didn’t affect the B’s adversely. While Seguin exploded in Dallas, the B’s went on to win the President’s Trophy with the help of Iginla, who saw the error of his ways and asked to come to Boston on a one-year, bonus-laden contract.

But the B’s were upset in the second round by archrival Montreal and, after the all-in gamble with Iginla, the chickens started to come home to roost.

The B’s would be in salary cap jail as they had to pay a $4.2 million bonus overage on Iginla. Elsewhere, while there were no egregious contracts in the B’s 2014-15 roster, there were some small overpayments here and there that added up — $3 million for Kelly, $1.8 million for Campbell, $6 million for Lucic, to name a few.

As a result, Chiarelli had to trade Boychuk on the eve of the season, a wildly unpopular move both inside and outside the locker room.

Though clearly a transitional year, the B’s had enough on the roster to get into the playoffs, though they would have to enjoy good health. Instead, a multitude of injuries rendered David Krejci a shell of himself while the thin defense corps was hit the hardest, with significant injuries befalling Zdeno Chara, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and, finally, Dougie Hamilton.

The Bruins did not make the playoffs and Chiarelli paid for it with his job.

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