Well, this is it.
Almost one year to the day of being eliminated from the 2015 postseason on game 82, it happens again. Déjà vu. Another year with no playoffs in Boston for a team only two seasons removed the Presidents’ Trophy; three from the Stanley Cup Final. Another collapse. For the second season in a row, the Bruins miss the playoffs.
This, all after an offseason where the Boston Bruins preached change. They changed the GM, they changed the core, they changed the identity of the team. At least, that’s what they said. On paper, this team wasn’t going to win the Stanley Cup. On the ice, there was no way of knowing which version was going to show up in any given game.
So since it happened again—no playoffs in Boston for a franchise whose future was once bright, a championship window wide open a mere two seasons ago—what are they going to do now?
They’re going to do it again.
They might fire the coach. It’s not going to be the right move. They might get rid of certain players. It’s not going to be the right move. They might try to get players that will work the system when there’s no real system in place. It’s not going to be…you get it.
For a team that got so used to whatever brief success they enjoyed, they sure are having a hard time knowing what to do when things don’t go their way.
And that’s the problem—the Bruins are living in the past. Before they can do anything this offseason, they need to get out of the mentality that rosters of previous seasons can serve as frameworks for the future. The Bruins have to stick to a philosophy that matches the ever-evolving game of hockey.
They have to know the difference between what needs fixing and what doesn’t. They’ve had trouble with this before. Emotion—whether its in the form of a playoff exit or season-ending curtain call—has helped to change the direction of this franchise. While some of the moves from last offseason were in the right direction, going back this offseason and switching things up again is only going to set them further back.
So what, in short, should be done? First, Claude Julien shouldn’t be fired. A lesser coach—and there are many—would have guided the Bruins down a lesser path with the type of roster handed to him. Give him another year, with a better roster, and see if the results change. Remember, this was a coach that was getting Jack Adams consideration earlier in the season.
Next, fix the defense. Move picks, move prospects, do whatever you can to get a number two and number three defensemen because right now, there aren’t any.
Finally, limit those panic moves. Firing Julien is a panic move, and misinformed one at that, no matter what anyone tells you, but there are others. Don’t be quick to sell on guys that mean something and don’t overvalue players that have already been given too credit. The Bruins were a 90+ point team two years in a row and still missed the playoffs. They’re mediocre right now and the wrong push on either side of the spectrum could send them over the edge.
The Bruins still have the potential to be a good team. I’ll write that for as long as I believe it and I still do believe it. But they’re not there yet and I’m not sure if they know how to take the next step without moving backwards. And that’s a problem. Differentiating between what’s right for the team and what’s not has always been an adventure. To me, a successful offseason is more about timeliness than anything.
When all is said and done, it’s going to be interesting to see how this era of the Boston Bruins will be remembered. Will the playoff collapses in 2010 & 2014 and the 2015 & 2016 late season free-falls usurp the rebirth of franchise success like the Stanley Cup in 2011, the unpredictable run to the Final in 2013, and the Presidents Trophy in 2014?
Depends on who you ask.
And how they tell it.
Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.