Johnny Boychuk: Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli Is A ‘Mastermind’

Johnny BoychukJohnny Boychuk is one of the best acquisitions Boston Bruins’ general manager Peter Chiarelli has made during his tenure, so Boychuk knows what sorts of moves the team’s front office is capable of.

So whereas salary cap constraints — the B’s are currently over the cap ceiling, per CapGeek — have hurt Boston’s ability to make impactful additions in free agency, Boychuk isn’t concerned about the direction of the team with Chiarelli at the helm.

“Our GM is a mastermind. … He’s good with doing things like this (cap struggles) and we have some good players we’ve developed the last couple of years, but nobody’s heard of them over on the west side (of NHL),” Boychuk told Jim Matheson of The Edmonton Journal.

The Bruins have had an interesting offseason. Veteran winger and 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla left via free agency to join the Colorado Avalanche and backup goaltender Chad Johnson signed with the New York Islanders. No major signings or trade have been made. The only notable transactions have been re-signing several players.

While most teams would be really hurt by the losses of players who contributed so much, the Bruins’ extraordinary depth has them well-positioned to replace what they’ve lost.

Replacing Iginla’s 30 goals and 61 points will be a collective effort. Carl Soderberg, who emerged as one of the B’s most improved players last season as a third-line center, should continue to develop and also be motivated in a contract year. His linemate Loui Eriksson, who averaged 29.5 goals from 2009-10 through 2012-13, likely will replace Iginla’s spot at right wing on the first line alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Talented young forwards such as Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Fraser, Justin Florek and 2014 first-round pick David Pastrnak also could provide scoring depth in the bottom-six.

The B’s ranked third in goals scored (258) last season and had 10 players tally double-digit goals. Taking away Iginla’s 30 tallies (five of which were empty-net goals), the Bruins would have finished 12th in scoring — still ahead of six playoff teams, including both Cup finalists. It’s certainly possible that Soderberg, Eriksson and the five young players mentioned above could combine to replace Iginla’s 30 goals. Veteran center Chris Kelly, who scored a career-high 20 goals in his last healthy 82-game season (2011-12), will return to the lineup after missing 25 regular-season games and the 2014 playoffs with injuries.

Besides, goal scoring isn’t the primary building block of Stanley Cup champions. The Los Angeles Kings, who have won two of the last three Stanley Cups, finished 26th and 29th in scoring during those championship seasons. The keys to L.A.’s success last season — as is the case with most champions — were elite defense, quality goaltending (league-best 2.05 GAA) and dominant puck possession (league-best 56.8 corsi-for percentage).

Boston and Los Angeles are the only teams to finish in the top six of GAA and corsi-for percentage in each of the last three seasons, and with very few changes made to each roster over the summer, both teams should remain among the league’s top Stanley Cup contenders despite the lack of elite goal scorers. Defense and puck possession are what matter come playoff time.

Have a Bruins/NHL question for Nick Goss? Send it to him via Twitter at @NickGossNESN
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