The Two Trades Which Cost the Bruins’ GM His Job

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Updated: May 9, 2015
Peter Chiarelli
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On the eve of the 2014-2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins were praying that the Pittsburgh Penguins would lose to the Buffalo Sabres. A Pittsburgh loss, coupled with a Bruins victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, would propel the Bruins into the Stanley Cup playoffs as the eighth seed. But it was not to be. The Penguins defeated the Sabres 2-0 and the Bruins’ eight-year streak of playoff appearances came to an end.

Perhaps nobody was praying harder for the Sabres to topple the Penguins than soon-to-be former Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. Earlier in the year, in the midst of an up and down season, which saw both lengthy losing and winning streaks, Bruins CEO Jeremy Jacobs held a press conference and warned that there would be changes coming if the Bruins failed to make the playoffs.

Jacobs’ threat proved not to be a hollow one. Four days after the Bruins’ final regular season game, Chiarelli was fired after an eight-year tenure with the team, which included two visits to the Stanley Cup Finals and one Stanly Cup Championship.

Some have claimed that, considering Chiarelli’s track record, he should have been given one more year. But the truth is that, in his last two years, Chiarelli downgraded the Bruins roster from a Stanley Cup contender to out of the playoffs through a variety of mistakes. While bad drafting and bad contracts (see Kelly, Chris) certainly played a part, the most direct rout to understanding Chiarelli’s firing are the two colossal trade mistakes he’s made in the last two years.

The trade mistake most directly responsible for Chiarelli’s firing occurred earlier this year when he sent defenseman Johnny Boychuck to the New York Islanders. In a desperation move to get under the cap for the upcoming season, Chiarelli handed Boychuck to the Islanders for two second-round draft picks and a conditional third-rounder just days before the start of the 2014-2015 regular season.

Johnny Boychuk, Kyle Okposo

The move backfired worse than Chiarelli could have possibly imagined. Boychuck, a very good defenseman with the Bruins, embraced his increased role on the Islanders and had a monster year, elevating his game to become one of the top defenseman in the NHL and played a huge role in the Islanders’ playoff berth.

To make matters worse, the Bruins’ defense, the backbone of the team, never quite recovered from losing one of their top on-ice talents and one of their emotional leaders. They stumbled out of the gate and were unable to achieve the consistent excellency which had been their hallmark in previous years, a key factor in the Bruins’ lack of a playoff berth.

While the Boychuck trade is the most immediate factor in costing Chiarelli his job, he made a similarly stunning blunder just one year earlier, which may have been even more costly. In the 2013 off-season, Chiarelli traded one of the most talented young offensive players in the game, the then 21-year-old Tyler Seguin, who had already appeared in one All-Star Game, to the Dallas Stars for spare parts.


To be fair to Chiarelli, both he and Bruins’ coach Claude Julien were fed up with Seguin’s off-ice shenanigans. However, expecting a 21-year-old millionaire to behave perfectly at all times is unrealistic (the last team to beat the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals featured a guy named Patrick Kane), and, from all reports, Seguin’s most egregious offense was partying too much.

Perhaps there is a case to be made that trading Seguin was best for team chemistry, but what Chiarelli received in return for the offensive wunderkind was simply unacceptable. The Bruins’ haul consisted of forward Loui Eriksson, forward Reilly Smith, defenseman Joe Morrow and the since waved Matt Fraser.

Morrow is a decent prospect and Eriksson had a solid bounce back year on the wing after struggling with concussions last year. However, Eriksson’s contract is a salary cap albatross at $4.5 million (roughly $1 million more than Johnny Boychuck was scheduled to make this year) and, while Smith has shown intermittent offensive flashes, he has been unable to produce consistently.

Meanwhile, Seguin has exploded as an offensive force to be reckoned with since the trade, ranking as one of the top five goal scorers and one of the top seven overall scorers in the NHL each of the last two years. He is one of the most prolific scorers in the game and Chiarelli traded him away for a couple solid wingers and a decent prospect.

If the Bruins had both Seguin and Boychuck on the team, they almost certainly wouldn’t have spent the final day of the regular season praying for the Penguins to lose so they could sneak into the playoffs.

It’s hard to believe that Jeremy Jacobs wasn’t thinking exactly that when he decided to fire Peter Chiarelli.

Follow @CeeLukes on Twitter


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