By Allan Muir
As I was watching the Boston Bruins methodically dispose of the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s best record, a thought came to mind: This is a team that, over the past four years, has dealt away two young players who went on to become superstars with their new clubs…and the Bruins are somehow better for it.
And then a second thought: Peter Chiarelli is the most fearless, and possibly the best, general manager in hockey.
It was Chiarelli who determined that Phil Kessel, the fifth overall pick in the 2006 draft and a 36-goal scorer in just his third NHL season, didn’t fit with his vision for the team. And so he dealt the 21-year-old to Toronto for a handful of magic beans, one of which he turned into Tyler Seguin.
Seguin came in and helped the Bruins win a Cup in 2011, but it wasn’t long before he also proved to be an ill-fitting piece. Whether it was immaturity off the ice, his style on it or simply an exploding contract that didn’t fit well under the contracting cap, he was deemed expendable and shipped to Dallas for veteran Loui Eriksson and another handful of prospects.
Both Kessel and Seguin scored a career-high 37 goals this season, tied for fifth overall in the league. Kessel stands sixth in the overall scoring race with 80 points, tops on the Leafs and an new personal best. Seguin was arguably the breakthrough player of the year, his 84 points trailing just Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf.
Both have established themselves as impact players whose absence would severely cripple their new teams…and yet the Bruins didn’t simply survive their loss. They actually got better.