Boston Bruins, 2006-present
Northeast Divisional Titles, 2008-2009, 2010-2012
Playoff Appearances: 2008-2012
Stanley Cup Finals Appearance: 2011
Stanley Cup Victory: 2011
Boston Bruins GM Pete Chiarelli is a rising star in the NHL managerial ranks. In six completed seasons Chiarelli has managed the Bruins to five consecutive playoff appearances, three Northeast Divisional titles, and winning the 2011 Stanley Cup itself (this ending a 29-year drought for long suffering Bruins fans).
Among his peers in the NHL today, Chiarelli ranks with the elite. According to my rating system, he is ranked ninth in career value (between Washington’s George McPhee and Doug Armstrong) and seventh in Average Season Rating between New Jersey’s Lou Lamoriello and Doug Armstrong). Also, by my calculations and not counting this present season, Pete Chiarelli is the second best NHL general manager of the 2010s—only one point away from the top spot.
(You’ll know the name of the best NHL GM of the 2010s two weeks from now).
Pete Chiarelli’s background is similar to Jay Feaster’s and Brian Burke’s in that Chiarelli entered the NHL managerial ranks via the legal profession by way of being a player agent.
He grew up in the greater Ottawa area but attended college at Harvard; playing collegiate hockey as a center there (and was named team captain in the process). One of his teammates at Harvard was future long-time Bruins defenseman Don Sweeney.
Chiarelli got his degree at Harvard and spent one year playing hockey in Europe before hanging up the skates for good and returning home to Ottawa to get a law degree in 1993.
Pete practiced law and became a player agent during the 1990s before being hired by the Ottawa Senators organization in 1999 as their director of legal relations. Chiarelli handled contract research, negotiations and arbitration issues. His work impressed his superiors in Ottawa because by 2004 he became assistant general manager of the team and played a key role in player personnel matters. During that time period Ottawa was coming to fore as a hockey franchise and was no longer being seen as an expansion but a team to be reckoned with on and off the ice.
Chiarelli’s skills attracted the attention of the Boston Bruins who had endured a last place finish during the 2005/06 season. Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs, dissatisfied with the team’s performance made a clean sweep: firing both the head coach and general manager. Pete Chiarelli’s hiring as GM came with a price. The Senators demanded (and got) compensation for parting with Chiarelli (a third round draft pick in the 2006 draft).
Chiarelli made his mark early in the 2006 Amateur draft by selecting Phil Kessel, Milan Lucic, and Brad Marchand. All three men made the grade (and then some) with the latter two playing key roles in the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup victory. 2010 Draft Tyler Seguin has been a solid point generator for the Bruins; making the most of his minutes with great two-way skills. Today Chiarelli’s latest wunderkind is the rookie blue-liner Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton (who is presently tied with Zdeno Chara in points) is slowly growing into his skin as an NHL defenseman after being a first round draft pick in the 2012 draft.
Not content to rely solely on draft choices, Chiarelli augmented the Bruins talent with shrewd trades and free-agent signings: acquiring present day goaltender Tuukka Rask from Toronto and the gargantuan Zdeno Chara from his alma-mater Ottawa in 2006. In 2008 Chiarelli got Johnny Boychuk and Mark Recchi (both of whom played key roles in the 2011 Stanley Cup victory). In 2009 the trading of Phil Kessel to Toronto made sure that Tyler Seguin would become a Boston Bruin. 2010 saw the acquisition of winger Nathan Horton from Florida.
(His one clunker of a trade came in 2007 when he traded Kris Versteeg to Chicago for Brian Bochenski).
To lead this talent Pete Chiarelli pulled off a brilliant coup when he replaced Dave Lewis (who finished in last place during the 2006/07 Season) with Claude Julien (who had been recently let go by the New Jersey Devils). Julien overcame the stigma of being fired by the Devils with only three games left in the regular season by molding the Bruins players into winners, playoff contenders, and eventually Stanley Cup champions. His years with Boston have propelled Julien into the pantheon of NHL coaching greatness. According to my calculations Julien ranks among the top fifty hockey coaches of all time.
The Boston Bruins today are a youthful, well-grounded squad that attacks and defends all areas of the ice; displaying character and resiliency; all the while possessing boundless reserves of upside and potential. If Pete Chiarelli ever gets elected to the HHOF as a builder his work with the Bruins stands as the best evidence of his present and future greatness.
(My next column will feature Washington Capitals GM George McPhee.)