(This post is part of a fundraiser for 826 Boston, a non-profit tutoring and writing center. For a donation of $50 or more, readers can get me to write anything about hockey they want, so donate today to make me say stuff by clicking here. I probably don’t believe the nonsense below, which was requested by Scott McLaughlin.)
The Boston Bruins are at a crossroads. No mystery there. Do they push all-in with this eighth-place team that really hasn’t been very good this year? Do they stand pat? Do they start selling off some of the older and more expensive pieces on the roster?
It’s a tough time to be Peter Chiarelli. All those contracts are his contracts, all those guys are ones he acquired via trade, free agency, or the draft (well, not so much the draft). So basically any changes he makes are, in some ways, an indictment of the job he’s done. One supposes he should feel lucky, though, to have built a team that went to two Cup Finals in three years with this roster, but his clubs always seemed to be right on the line of “This could go sour in a hurry.”
So the question is who gets traded. Not “if,” but “when.” Some of Chiarelli’s guys will be shipped out either ahead of the deadline (not super-likely) or this summer (super-likely).
One person who should definitely not be included in the people being thrown overboard is Milan Lucic.
Sure, you look at Lucic’s contract and you say, “Six million dollars?” And you look at his production and you say, “Half a point a game?” And you look at his advanced stats and say, “He’s not driving play?” And you circle back to his contract and you can’t figure it out.
But let me tell you, buddy, I live in Boston, and you have to understand that Lucic is more than just a third-line player with a first-line contract. He is The Boston Bruins. Everything that fans of this team like — hitting, fighting, saying mean stuff to the Canadiens, occasionally scoring goals, having Shawn Thornton’s phone number, and so on — is right in Milan Lucic’s job description. He’s basically Cam Neely without the goalscoring, or Bobby Orr without the being great, or Terry O’Reilly without the mythologizing yet.
Sorry, stats nerds, but you need guys like that on the team. You need guys that stand up in the room and say, “Hey, we’re playing like garbage,” but without saying, “And I’m obviously a big part of that because I have as many goals as Dennis Wideman this year.” It’s about accountability and identity. Lucic brings both to everyone around him, and unselfishly saves none for himself. You need guys like that around when you’re going through a tough stretch, which the Bruins have all year.
He’s a marquee player in this league who has often been described as “the fourth-best forward on the team,” and “the ninth-best player on the team” for a reason. You don’t just extend players like that for $18 million because they scored 30 goals and put Mike Komisarek through the glass the same number of times. You have to keep him around.
He’s definitely not a guy who has to walk around saying, “Do you know who I am?” to people. You know who he is: A guy who definitely shouldn’t have been traded years ago.
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