Chuck Kobasew was dealt to Minnesota, and three of the team’s top prospects — Brad Marchand, Vladimir Sobotka and Guillaume Lefebvre — have been called up and will be given legitimate chances to stick with the NHL club. Kobasew was well-respected by players, coaches and management alike, but when a team that was pegged as a Stanley Cup contender in the preseason stumbles out of the gate the way the Bruins have, changes are bound to come. Sometimes, it’s the guys you least expect that have to pay the price.
“You never worried about his work ethic,” said Kobasew’s longtime linemate and roommate Patrice Bergeron. “He was my roommate on the road, too. It’s always hard to see somebody go, but it happens. It’s tough, but at the same time, it’s a business. I really wish him the best. He’s such a good guy. The type of guy you always want on your team. But with the way things were going, that’s something that’s going to happen. We just have to deal with this as a team, when somebody like that has to go because of the situation.”
Kobasew’s salary represented a $2.33 million cap between this season and next season. He was a likely trade candidate for a team looking to send a message and clear some cap space. Plus, the Bruins have to make decisions on pending restricted and unrestricted free agents such as Marc Savard, Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuukka Rask next summer.
“It’s combination of a number of factors,” said GM Peter Chiarelli. “Certainly our play has been on and off and that was part of it. The two guys we brought up have been playing pretty well in Providence. It also gives us a little of salary cap flexibility for this year and for next year, so it was a good time for all those things. But it was primarily based on our play.”
Chiarelli is hoping the trio of call-ups from Providence bring a spark and ignite a fire under some the club’s more established players and regulars.
“The fellows we brought up are young, energetic and enthusiastic, and I thought that we needed an injection of that into our lineup,” Chiarelli said. “It’s a little bit of [frustration]. It’s not a complete reactionary move. It’s something that addresses a lot of things. I’m not satisfied with our start. Friday night, I thought we played a terrific game in all areas and then it was disappointing to see [the team's effort on] Saturday. Work is being done and we’re turning the corner a bit, but in large part, on a game-to-game basis, I don’t see the passion that I saw before. We have to get that back.”
That’s not to say that Kobasew didn’t bring all the significant qualities the Bruins are looking for from their players, but this a results business and changes are made when the desired results aren’t there. Head coach Claude Julien agrees that things need to change, but he also expressed gratitude for Kobasew’s service as a Bruin.
“I work with the players at my disposal and we got a couple new faces in our lineup here that will hopefully give us a boost and some energy,” Julien said. “As far as Chuck Kobasew is concerned, I thought he has always been a great player to coach, very professional, serious about everything that comes with the game — conditioning, training, commitment, and as Peter mentioned, there’s numerous reasons for the organization to make a trade. As a coach you have to respect that, and as I said, you work with the players at your disposal and hope that works out.”
Is the bench boss worried that maybe with the offseason departures of Aaron Ward, Stephane Yelle and P.J. Axelsson that there is a leadership void in the clubhouse or that chemistry may be altered?
“There’s an adjustment there,” Julien acknowledged. “You lose Axelsson, and you lose Yelle and Ward, now Kobasew, there is an adjustment. But at the same time, you bring in a guy like [Derek] Morris who is a veteran player and it allows other guys to step up and eventually some of those young guys need to step up in those leadership roles as well.
"But we feel we have a pretty strong room still — and it’s always easy to attack that area when things aren’t going well, but I can assure you that’s not the case. The dressing room is solid, it’s good and it has its leaders doing their jobs. But yeah, we did lose some quality people there and it’s more of an adjustment for other guys to step up and want to be leaders.”
The Bruins will have a new look on the ice Wednesday when they host the Nashville Predators, but will they bring a better effort? Have they gotten the message? Tim Thomas put it best when asked for his reaction:
“My gut feeling was it was a shot across the team’s bow."
Now the question is: Was the shot heard?