Kalman’s Column: Horrible Habs provide cautionary tale for Bruins

It's hard to take your eyes off Marcil.

It's hard to take your eyes off Marcil.

I know, I’m supposed to be done worrying about Montreal now that the Boston Bruins ended the Canadiens’ season with a four-game sweep in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. But I can’t help myself. Trying to move on from the Habs’ soap opera even after their demise is like trying to pull your eyes away from the last few seasons of the original 90210 once Vanessa Marcil was added to the cast.

And on a more serious note, I think it’s important for the Boston Bruins to watch the fallout closely and remember that just one spring ago the Habs were where the Bruins are now. After earning the top record in the Eastern Conference, Montreal dispatched Boston in seven games and advanced to the second round, where they ran into a red-hot Philadelphia Flyers team.

In the best example of the fragility of success in the NHL, the 2008-09 Canadiens’ season started with Stanley Cup aspirations. It ended with a No. 8 seed and a four-game loss to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. Along the way, there was a road trip without Alex Kovalev, despite him being in fine health; allegations of players cavorting with organized crime figures; serious injury to Robert Lang, Andrei Markov and Mathieu Schneider; a goaltender controversy for the better part of the second half of the season; a coaching change; and a failed to attempt to make a trade for one of the league’s brightest stars — Tampa Bay’s Vinny Lecavalier. The Tampa Bay center even had to hold a separate press conference during All-Star Weekend in Montreal to address the rumors of his reported spot on the trade market. While laying some of the blame for his team’s flameout on the injuries and off-ice distractions, Habs general manager/head coach Bob Gainey tried to get Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton to take the rap.

The Bruins won’t have to worry about trade rumors derailing their team as long as Peter Chiarelli is GM. Chiarelli keeps his negotiations so close to his vest, they’re encrypted — and no, the password is not ‘bosco.’ In fact, if Chiarelli keeps operating the way he has in his three seasons at the helm, the Bruins will be able to avoid a Habs-like drop-off and maybe even begin to mirror the stability of rock-like franchises Detroit and New Jersey.

You start with the securing of the team’s core, which Chiarelli has skillfully done under the cap in recent years. Unlike the Habs, who played this season with 10 potential unrestricted free agents — including captain Saku Koivu, who says he might not be back — in their last year of their deals, the Bruins won’t have to face free agency in those kinds of volumes in the next couple years. This summer, only P.J. Axelsson, Mark Recchi, Stepahne Yelle, Manny Fernandez, Shane Hnidy and Steve Montador — solid players but not marquee names by any stretch — have their contracts up. Next season, only Marc Savard, Shawn Thornton, Aaron Ward and Andrew Ference will be in the final years of their contracts. That’s not a group large enough to create a distraction.

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