Friday, June 17, 2011

Trending Topics: Bruins GM won Cup by resisting temptation

Trending Topics is a new column that looks at the week in hockey according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?

Zdeno Chara lifted the Stanley Cup, then passed it to Mark Recchi who passed it to Tim Thomas and so on. Everyone on the Bruins got their turn with the greatest trophy in all of sports.

Every once in a while during the celebration, you'd see Peter Chiarelli standing in the background, clapping and hugging and beaming. The NBC broadcast didn't show when he picked it up himself, but he had nearly as big a role in getting here as anyone wearing a Spoked-B on their shirt this season.

Often, general managers get noticed for the things they do: sign guys, make trades, buy out others. Chiarelli deserves the most praise, instead, for the things he did not do.

Last summer, there were about a million questions facing the Bruins after they were historically bounced by the Philadelphia Flyers. Was this a team that could compete? What should he do with Tim Thomas? Would Claude Julien have to go?

The simplest answer, and therefore the one very few people advocated for, was to leave things be. The Stanley Cup Playoffs seem to be more random than other postseasons, where low seeds knock off favored teams seemingly with greater regularity than in any other North American sport. And the truth is, though few opted to view it that way, the Bruins were a bad change away from the Eastern Conference Finals.

But that temptation must have been there. The haul he would have gotten for Tim Thomas ? from Philly or from Tampa or from one of a handful of other rumored suitors ?�would have been sizeable; it's not every day a guy that won a Vezina two years prior goes on the market. Plus, Tuukka Rask had proven himself at least as capable a goalie as Thomas during that season. But he opted to hang onto Thomas and got an historic Conn Smythe-, Stanley Cup- and almost certainly Vezina-winning season out of the netminder who just nine months before had been aging, overpaid and coming off hip surgery.

And we probably don't know how close Julien came to losing his job.

(Coming Up: Steve Kampfer outs a fake Brad Marchand; the "Pumping His Tires" meme on Twitter; and your Pearls of BizNasty for the week.)

He's not the league's most electrifying coach. He doesn't swear in press conferences or get especially animated on the bench, and he's rarely praised as a genius like Mike Babcock, Guy Boucher or Dan Bylsma. And after you blow a 3-0 series lead, the prospect of dumping the coach responsible (if that's the word you want to apply here) must be alluring.

But Chiarelli stuck with his guy, seen by many of the team's younger players ? and Mike Ryder ?�as a father figure. The rewards were obvious from the second the season started, even if things got a little dicey in that series with the Habs and to a lesser extent, the Lightning. The team had systems that always looked ugly, but hummed beatifully when they were working, and that was all Julien.

But really, Chiarelli deserves credit for building this team right from the second he took the job. He was technically not allowed to participate in the Bruins' 2006 entry draft, but it's safe to assume he had more than a little sway. Three of the Bruins first four picks that year: Phil Kessel ?�who himself begat Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight and another top-10 pick whose identity we'll learn in two weeks ? followed by Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand.

Think those guys had something to do with this masterful regular season and playoff run?

A few weeks later, Chiarelli's first official move as GM was to sign a defenseman he grew to know well during his time in Ottawa: Zdeno Chara, Bruins captain and a now-perennial Norris candidate with three nominations and a win since 2008.

Chara worked in perfect concert with Dennis Seidenberg from October to June, shutting down every cycle they saw in this postseason like a cop who doesn't get the concept of Bike Week. (Seidenberg himself, of course, was shrewdly wrangled by Chiarelli from Florida with a prospect for another team's second-round pick and two players who haven't seen a day in the NHL since the end of last year.)

The other guy he signed that day was Marc Savard, which is interesting in itself because he built a Stanley Cup winner this season without being able to use much of Savard's $4 million-ish cap hit until the end of the season.

Since then, he's added to the team piece by piece, inexplicably pulling both 26-goal-scorer/Eastern Conference Final hero Nathan Horton and penalty killing wizard/supposed anti-suspension talisman Greg Campbell for Dennis Wideman and an unneeded first-round pick. And even if Horton didn't have much of a physical impact on the Finals, his awful injury early in Game 3 certainly galvanized the team into an indomitable hydra that won four of its next five games, outscoring the best offensive team and defensive team in hockey by a combined score of 21-4.

Dan Paille? Plucked for a third-round pick.

Rich "first-liner" Peverley? Rescued from Atlanta and Winnipeg for disused role players Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart.

Chris Kelly? Had for just a redundant second-round pick.

Mark Recchi? Acquired two years ago with a second-round pick for two mediocre prospects, and re-signed on the cheap ever since.

Every one of those guys was crucial in getting the Bruins through to the Stanley Cup title. Almost miraculously, all of the aforementioned players are also signed for a title defense next year, except Brad Marchand who is a restricted free agent, and Mark Recchi, who is obviously retiring a hero.

Of course, you can criticize Chiarelli too, to some extent. Milan Lucic probably makes too much money, and the Tomas Kaberle trade won't be remembered for being terribly successful under a microscope. Savard's ongoing concussion problems makes that seven-year deal somewhat hard to swallow unless he retires. The Thomas contract looked like a problem until it wasn't, and could turn back into a pumpkin at any minute. Chara might have too big a cap hit considering his contract lasts through his age-41 season.

But for now, the only credibility he needs weighs 34.5 pounds, made out of silver and nickel. Chiarelli is the sport's unequivocal genius for at least the next few months, mastermind behind a ruthless, gutty and physical team with a surprisingly bright future given its current quality.

He has almost all of his team coming back, a remaining raft of picks in this year's draft (including the ninth and 40th overall) and about $7 million in cap space to play with.

Bad news for the rest of the NHL.

Steve Kampfer: Twitter detective

A pretty good indication that the Bruins were feeling good heading back to Boston after losing Game 5 and staring into the abyss of playoff elimination:

Occasional defenseman Steve Kampfer took the time to suss out a Twitter fake.

Do you follow the Twitter account @bradmarshy63? That guy pretends to be Brad Marchand, but he's not. How do we know? Because Kampfer proved it.

First he asked the bogus super pest to give up his account quietly, to which the fake responded by saying that it was Kampfer who was the imposter. Then Kampfer posted a picture of himself and Marchand together.

When the shamarchand persisted, saying that Kampfer had stolen his own picture, the real deal posted another picture.

As Kampfer said: "Game, set match."


Poor Roberto Luongo felt like Timmy Thomas hadn't done enough to "pump his tires," while Luongo had postively showered praise on the world's favorite lumberjack-looking netminder. Twitter users took it upon themselves to remind Bobby Lou of everything he's good at.

@bmenoza: Luongo could stop a comet hurtling towards downtown Vancouver because he would be in proper position.

@WanyeGretz: I've seen greasier people than Luongo in my life

@OvenChicken8: The Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg just to be closer to Roberto Luongo

@JSBMrevolution: Roberto Luongo is taller than Athurs Irbe

@edmontoncritic: If you look at Luongo's save percentage in terms of batting average, Pete Rose looks like the worst hitter in the league

@luhein24: Luongo is the best goalie in the NHL Playoffs to have been pulled four times

And your winner:

@ounyea: The goal lightbulb business has been booming

Pearls of Biz-dom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

BizNasty on pumping Lu's tires: "I wonder what Cory Schneider's doing right now?"

If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.

Raquel Alessi Marisa Coughlan Shanna Moakler Portia de Rossi Jolene Blalock

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