Peter Chiarelli was hired as Boston Bruins general manager on May 26, 2006. On June 15, 2011, he hoisted the Stanley Cup, having successfully built the Bruins up from the NHL basement to the pinnacle of the sport.
Edmonton Oilers fans obviously hope that Chiarelli will do the same with his new team, and so it’s worth looking at exactly what he did the last time around.
The Playoff Roster
This was obviously a pretty good group.
The forwards were led by two feature lines, one primarily offensive and centered by David Krejci and one primarily defensive and centered by Patrice Bergeron. The third line was a multi-purpose unit that could do a little bit of everything while that fourth line was tough but highly functional; Claude Julien didn’t have a problem using them in the defensive zone and Shawn Thornton put up 20 points that year while also filling the enforcer slot. Seguin was a rookie and was broken in slowly as an offensive specialist.
The defence was a lot like the Oilers’ 2006 group. Zdeno Chara was a beast at the top end, playing all kinds of minutes and making everyone around him better. There were three solid, capable veterans rounding out the top-four and the third pairing was Marc-Andre Bergeron and Matt Greene in everything but name. Tim Thomas was of course outstanding in net.
So how was this group assembled?
The list of players acquired via trade is staggering; fully 12 of the 22 (55%) of the players to dress for at least one postseason game were acquired in trade by Chiarelli at some point during his tenure. The list includes:
- Forwards: Mark Recchi, Nathan Horton, Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille
- Defencemen: Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, Tomas Kaberle, Adam McQuaid
- Goalies: Tuukka Rask
A further four were added via free agency: Zdeno Chara, Michael Ryder, Shawn Thornton and Shane Hnidy. And we should also mention Tyler Seguin, who arrived via the draft but whose draft pick rights were acquired thanks to the trade that saw Phil Kessel end up in Toronto.
Chiarelli isn’t afraid of making deals, and he wins more than he loses. It’s of interest to me that most of the supporting cast up front was made up of outside hires, players who were established NHL quantities and who could be hired to fit whatever criteria the general manager drew up. Outside of the scoring line wingers, we can see a preference for multi-purpose forwards; players with primarily defensive credentials but also with the ability to play either an offensive or a physical game. If we look at Mark Letestu, signed to a three-year deal this summer, he fits into the same mould as the Kelly and Peverley hires while Lauri Korpikoski isn’t a bad match for Dan Paille.
Chiarelli’s success in building up the defence via trade is a good sign for the Oilers, too; Edmonton has prospects on the way but the current blue line looks pretty rickety. Style-wise, Andrej Sekera and Griffin Reinhart are both the kind of two-way players that Chiarelli obviously prefers, while Eric Gryba has thingsi n common with McQuaid.
Inheritance and the Draft
What is worth noting is that a number of core Bruins aren’t on the trade acquisition list above. The club’s top two centres – Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci – were both young forwards who Chiarelli inherited when he took over the team. Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas was a holdover, too. Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and (as mentioned) Tyler Seguin were all draft picks after Chiarelli’s hire.
It’s probably not a coincidence that the three holdovers from before Chiarelli are all relatively rare NHL pieces. Franchise goalies and top-flight centres don’t grow on trees, and Chiarelli kept those cards he was dealt.
However, we should also note that Phil Kessel – a 21-year-old with 36 goals who was drafted in the summer of 2006 – was sent away. He’s a tough piece to replace and a hard player to trade away, but Chiarelli did it.
It’s interesting to look at those names and compare them to the Oilers core group of young players. My list includes Connor McDavid, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse (yours may vary) and it’s safe to say all will be considered carefully by Chiarelli. McDavid is irreplaceable and Nugent-Hopkins is the ‘range of skills’ kind of player that Chiarelli clearly likes, but I wonder a little about Hall and Eberle. Both players have incredible value to the Oilers in the here-and-now, but also have value on the trade market and Chiarelli hasn’t been afraid to move comparable-value forwards (Seguin, Kessel) in the past if he thinks it makes sense.