In the end, it was all about the future. Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli made it clear that his focus was set beyond this year. He would spend his energy trying to make the team better for the long haul.

It cost him the playoffs. It may cost him his job.

On Oct. 4, Chiarelli traded defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders just hours before the Bruins’ final preseason game. The deal was made after the Bruins completed their morning skate and players had gone home for lunch and a nap. When they returned, they were greeted with the news that one of the most popular players on the team was gone.

In return, the Bruins received three draft picks. A hard worker with an infectious smile and a booming shot, “Johnny Rocket” was one of the team’s top four defensemen. As he packed up his belongings, his teammates prepared for that night’s against the Red Wings in stunned silence.

The message was clear. Chiarelli didn’t think he could sign Boychuk beyond the one year remaining on his contract. So he didn’t try. He shipped him off to the Islanders for future picks.

The Islanders welcomed Boychuk with open arms. Last month, the team signed him to a seven-year, $42 million extension. Then they made the playoffs. The Bruins didn’t.


What went wrong for the Bruins? For one thing, their dressing room lacked life. Boychuk was the man in charge of music in the Bruins’ dressing room. He knew when to pump up the volume and get the team going. He was more than a DJ, he was an emotional leader.

So was Shawn Thornton. The man who kept the Bruins’ dressing room accountable at all times was also gone, signing a free-agent contract with the Florida Panthers before the season.

The two absences left a void that remained unfilled to the bitter end. The Bruins tried to address it, signing Max Talbot in part because he is considered a strong team presence. In the end, it wasn’t enough.

The Bruins missed out on the playoffs because Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg suddenly grew old. They lost because Coach Claude Julien suddenly couldn’t find the right touch with his line combinations, sometimes breaking up combinations that were clicking in an effort to get more production throughout the lineup. They lost because Tuukka Rask couldn’t work miracles in net when miracles were needed most.

When these things happen a team can lose its way. That’s when the leadership is needed most.

That’s when Thornton could get a player to deliver more than usual. It’s when Boychuk could stand up and make a group of struggling players laugh or dance.

There is no laughing today for the Bruins and their fans. The playoffs will begin with the Black and Gold on the sidelines, and Chiarelli, who began the season with a move for the future, may not be around to see that future unfold.

Tom Caron is the studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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