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It's Starting to Sink In

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- Even as the Bruins make final preparations for their victory parade on Saturday, Friday morning Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli explained that the club's new status as the NHL's Stanley Cup Champions is just finally becoming a reality.

"It started to sink in," said Chiarelli from the dais in TD Garden. "The first priority yesterday was to get some rest. I’m not sure if that priority was with the players, but I had some rest.

"But now, it’s starting to sink in. Again, it’s such a long journey. The two months, it’s such a long journey. The time before that, of course, is hard work, and everyone is tired. We went to game seven in three series and it speaks to the resolve of the team to come out on top of those three series. Let alone the last series.

"I think Wednesday night I said words can’t describe the feeling, well it’s a pretty good feeling and it’s getting better. So I don’t mind that," he said.

Chiarelli took a moment to reflect on the deals that helped his Bruins capture hockey's Holy Grail.

"Really it started for me when we got Dennis Seidenberg," said Chiarelli of the championship's genesis. "We had to be fairly aggressive with that deal for a couple of reasons. And you know we obviously had him in the playoffs but he was obviously a big part of our team this year.
"And then the [Nathan] Horton deal [which included Gregory Campbell] was obviously significant, and we felt like we had to be aggressive again there before the draft because there’s a flurry of deals at the draft. And he’s a big, Seids, Horton, they’re both big, strong players and that was something we’ve always tried to have.

"And of course if you fast forward to the trade deadline or before the trade deadline, those were pieces that we had to do, we were pressed. We were going to improve the team regardless of Savvy [Marc Savard], but we needed to backfill, so to speak. And we needed to do it earlier to get ahead of the race and also to get the guys in there a little bit earlier. You know Seids, Horts [Nathan Horton], Pev [Rich Peverley], Chris Kelly, and [Tomas] Kaberle, these were guys that we’ve always been targeting.

"You know you can have a wish list and it’s just going out and executing and getting it," added Chiarelli. "And that’s what the hard part is."

But it's not the only hard part. Boston Bruins hockey had its share of tough moments over the past few seasons, but Chiarelli said the adversity helped the team tremendously.

"To go through those experiences firsthand, to see the pain and experience the pain. And see the pain on the players, to know that they have the character in the first place" was important to Chiarelli, who said he "was really confident that we were going to grow on that.

"I know it’s easy to say in hindsight now," said the B's GM, "but you know there was something that, with the core that we kept following last year’s series loss, we knew that they would grow on that."

But Chiarelli and his staff worked hard to speed up the growing process, particularly in light of Boston's devastating exit from the 2010 playoffs at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers.

"We made sure it was a priority, we addressed it from day one of training camp and in all of our activities," said Chiarelli. "If you go through history, recent history, there’s always those teams that end up winning.

"There’s a year, there’s an experience that they grow from and we just happened to have two successive years that we were able to springboard off of [it]."

Chiarelli was also asked about his club's health during the 2011 postseason, and revealed that the B's were indeed playing hurt.

"Well I know Nathan [Horton], before he was hurt with his concussion was actually hurt," said Chiarelli. "He had a serious separated he was hurt significantly.

"I haven’t had the full report. I have a sense of what the medical report will be just from talking to doctors on a daily basis. We have our guys, I think we’ll only have one, maybe two, surgeries and we’ll get that out there when I get all the information. But we’ve had our guys dinged up, and all teams do. Like Vancouver did and Tampa did and Philly did. Montreal did.

"I think what I can say about the injury front is we were fortunate from that perspective. And again when you look back at past winners, I remember the one year Tampa won I think they had like twenty man-games lost due to injury the whole year in the playoffs. So you have to have an element of luck. And on that front we certainly did."

Keeping the Bruins on top of the NHL will be Chiarelli's job this summer and it will take far more than luck. The Bruins GM conceded that the rest of the league will not be too interested in helping out the Stanley Cup champs.

"It’s not easy making deals anyways," said the general manager. "I don’t know if it’s because we’re an 'Original Six' team, we’re the Boston Bruins, [or] that we have had good teams in the last two or three years and no one wants to help us.

And that’s a natural reaction from other GMs. They’re your colleagues, they’re your friends, but they don’t have to go out of their way to help you. And I feel the same way.

"We’re a very competitive group. So this will only hurt it. Right here the level of difficulty is here to make deals and that will be up here. But if you, we try and be aggressive in timing for these deals, going after guys that we want. And we’re going to continue to do that."

As far as free agency is concerned, the B's have some thinking to do.

"[Michael Ryder's] an unrestricted free agent as of July first. We’ve had our pro meetings, we’ll have probably a follow-up meeting and we’ll have to make some decision on guys and on him and on Tomas [Kaberle] too.

"So my mind is almost, well it’s not even close to getting fresh, but it’s getting there so at that point we’ll put our heads together and see where we want to go."

Chiarelli doesn't expect to be a heavy hitter on the free agency market.

"We’re going to continue to tweak," said Chiarelli. "We’re not going to be huge players and free agency but you know we’re going to look at it.

"And we’ve got areas where we want to look at, but you’re not going to see us hitting a few homeruns or what could be perceived as homeruns this summer. We’re just going to go into it with our eyes wide open and see where we end up.

"But we’re certainly not going to be big players," he said.

With Head Coach Claude Julien and his staff locked into contracts for "subsequent years," Chiarelli said there's nothing forthcoming in terms of extensions, but the Boston GM said that he would be looking to fill the vacant head coach's position for the B's AHL affiliate in Providence.

"[Bruce Cassidy] is a candidate and I would expect probably mid-week to have that staff in place," said Chiarelli. "There are other candidates we’ve interviewed’s been kind of ongoing since we relieved Rob [Murray] of his duties.

"So we’re actually pretty close to getting something done."

In the meantime, however, Chiarelli is going to enjoy a few moments of celebration.

"It feels really good. And you know, everyone talks about a plan, whenever a manager takes a job they always have a plan or else they wouldn’t be doing their job. And I’ve talked to other managers and managers to be, and talked about certain plans," he said. "Pretty much everyone has a five-year plan and so did we. And it’s not like it fell exactly into place but we were adding certain elements, certain elements to get to that point. And it’s happened so I’m a genius.

Chiarelli was kidding, of course, and quickly turned attention away from himself.

"But seriously you just continue to pick away at it with the same thing, and you know the performances we got from guys," explained Chiarelli. "The common theme in the plan was character. I remember talking about hard to play against, closing gaps -- it’s character and at the end of the day that’s what I wanted for us.

"My father was at games three and four and after Game 4 I said to him we’re going to win the Cup and he said I think you will too, but why, I said because there’s too much resolve in the locker room. You could just feel it and at the end of the day that’s what happened."

And Saturday is the big parade and Chiarelli is excited to be able to celebrate with Boston.

"The fans have made us better," he said. "They’ve made us better by demanding a lot. They’ve made us better by their reactions when they are in the building. And you know it’s something that is theirs.

"I’ve said this a couple of times since we’ve won, they can’t take this away from us. Well they can’t take it away from the fans either. And I’ve seen the parades from TV and they look pretty crazy and by all accounts this one will be similar to those, and they deserve it.

"And I know the players are excited about it and so am I. It’s a real cool feeling and you’re able to share it with the players, you are able to share it with the fans.

"It will be a special day."
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