Monday signaled the true end to the Boston Bruins season. What other teams call locker clean out, the Bruins call break up day—an apt description of what happens on that day. Each of the players will go through their exit interview with management. Some of the players will know they will be returning in the fall. For others, there are questions as to their position with the team. And for a few, the end of their time in black and gold has come—usually before they expected. This year’s end was no different.
As the morning progressed, the players came out a couple at a time, giving the media a chance to ask them about their individual season, the team as a whole and what went wrong.
As the season progressed and the inconsistencies of the team affected the players, the game and ultimately the season, one couldn’t help wondering if those frustrations began to take over in the players’ minds ultimately becoming the problems that plagued them more and more as the last of the games found them struggling.
‘You try not to think about it but it’s definitely there and it can be a bit of an obstacle,” said Reilly Smith. “Probably just have to be better at parking it and moving on.”
“I wouldn’t say there was like anything wrong. We had a tough time scoring, I think, I the last ten games,” added Ryan Spooner. “We weren’t getting blown out. All the games were pretty close. Maybe we didn’t get any bounces, but at the end of the day it’s in the past now so I guess we just have to move on with it.”
Moving on though, was something that the team just couldn’t master throughout the season. Shaking off the loss and approaching the next game with resilience was something that used to synonymize Boston Bruins. Instead, losing streaks of multiple games marred the season—the regularity of the skids this year something new and unwelcome.
“When you don’t win, everything’s magnified. A year ago there was a different upset. It was the fact that we had such a great regular season and then we fell short,” explained Gregory Campbell. “Sometimes when things don’t go exactly your way you, for sure you push and you try to find solutions and you try to find answers and sometimes you do something that maybe you don’t even need to do.”
Looking for those answers may explain some of the problems that the team experienced as they missed passes, couldn’t get the puck in the net—sometimes despite astounding numbers of shots on goal—or left wide-open spaces for the other team to glide in and take the lead and often the game.
“The frustration’s there obviously when you don’t win. Every team goes through that when you don’t win, but you have to find ways to not get frustrated and stay with the flow and play the best you can play,” said Max Talbot. “It’s a mental game. You can be physically as prepared as you want to be but at the end of the day it’s going to be the mental that’s going to take over and it’s something that you have to be professional and deal with it.”
The frustrations will remain for some time. The players will evaluate themselves. The team’s management will evaluate the players and also their own role in the struggles. And the owners will evaluate everything and decide if bigger changes need to be made.
As with any end of season, some players are coming to the end of their contracts. Perhaps in a winning year, and with some cap space to play with, there would be less uncertainty for those players. Among those who will be unrestricted free agents come July 1, are Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Carl Soderberg.
For McQuaid, the Bruins have been his home for quite some time. He played for the Providence Bruins and then made the leap to the NHL club where he has had some excellent experiences.
“Obviously I want to be back. I’ve had so many great memories here with this group, this organization. I guess it goes without saying that … I don’t know. I can’t picture not being here,” McQuaid struggled to explain. “I haven’t talked with anybody. I don’t know. It’s a different situation for me this year, some uncertainty. So I guess we’ll see how things play out, but my priority, my goal, would be to want to come back here. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not.”
Soderberg was rumored to be looking for a raise in his paycheck this coming season. And he has gone on the record as saying that he plans to remain in the NHL for at least the next couple of years.
“I want to hear from Boston for sure first,” Soderberg said Monday. “If we can find a solution together this coming couple of months, that would be great.”
And of course the team has a number of restricted free agents as well, including Dougie Hamilton, Niklas Svedberg and Spooner. Hamilton has been described as the future of the Bruins’ defense, so it is likely that the team will come to terms with him. However, given the lack of games that Svedberg got to play this season, it is questionable if he would consider playing second fiddle to Tuukka Rask for another season.
“I’m going to talk to my agent here in a week to see how we’re going to move forward,” Svedberg told media. “Everything influences the decision. So we’ll kind of see in the coming weeks how to approach the next year. I’ll talk to my agent, everything, we just finished the season so I haven’t thought about it that much yet.”
For two of the players though, the answer has already been decided for them.
“I’ve spoken with Dan Paille and Gregory Campbell and I told them that we won’t be resigning them,” General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced during his live press conference Monday afternoon, though he himself was unsure if he would continue to work for the organization.
Prior to his being told, Paille already could see the writing on the locker room wall.
“When things don’t end well, you always expect the bad, but we’ll see,” Paille said earlier Monday. “Not too optimistic but we’ll see how things go.”
By the time the locker room was opened to media, Campbell had already discovered his fate.
“I’ll always have those memories and I’ll always be proud to have worn the jersey. Why I’m lucky is that I did get to play for this team and to really have success here and it was an amazing city to have success in,” Campbell shared. “So people move on, players move on, but the memories I have, I will always look back fondly on and just be really proud and proud of the way I played for the team.”
No one can say that Campbell didn’t give whatever was needed in any game. He would step up and drop the gloves. He would block shots, at the expense of his body. He embodied the spirit of what it means to be a Bruin. Fans and teammates will miss him. However, he is the first to point out that this is a business.
“It is hard, I mean, but that’s part of being a professional athlete and being involved in professional sports. The people that make those decisions…those quick decisions… usually aren’t around for a very long time,” Campbell explained. “You really have to be thoughtful and know that there’s a bigger picture usually and that professional sports is not easy whether you win or lose. It’s a hard business and we’re all very fortunate to be here. But it’s something that’s not easy, so you just really have to be mindful and try to make the best decisions.”
Goodbyes are difficult. Changes happen. And when a team misses the playoffs—a team such as the Bruins—it is expected that changes will come. Hopefully those making those changes will be, as Campbell said, mindful and try to make the best decisions.