Peter Chiarelli, Keith Gretzky and Today’s Boston Bruins

keith gretzky

Twitter, for the most part, has been a simply horrible place to be if you are an Edmonton Oilers fan this season. Whether it’s the two factions of fans fighting a civil war, the laughter from other markets, or the constant sadness, Twitter just isn’t what it used to be.

All that being said, there are some interesting debates and points that are brought up on the social media platform. One of them involves the Boston Bruins, suddenly a power-house again, and Edmonton’s current management group. Why is that? Well, Boston has tons of young players that were drafted and developed coming through the system and playing damn good hockey.

I’ve noticed people debating how much Chiarelli and Gretzky actually impacted today’s Bruins. It’s a good question, and one that many people have stretched the truth on on both sides.

Setting The Table:

Peter Chiarelli was hired as the GM of the Boston Bruins on May 26, 2006. For the purpose of this exercise, any Bruin drafted prior to then will not be counted as a Chiarelli or Gretzky move. In addition to that, we will not be crediting Chiarelli with any moves done prior to mid July of 2006. The reason? He technically couldn’t run the Bruins until after the NHL entry draft and start of free agency. Jeff Gorton served as the interim GM at that time.

It’s tough to know Chiarelli’s exact involvement during those two months when he was hired but still with Ottawa. I reached out to a few people on this matter and heard it was mostly Gorton, so for argument’s sake we’ll go with that.

As for Keith Gretzky, we’ll count his work from the 2014 entry draft on, as he took over as Director of Amateur Scouting in August of 2013.

The Current Boston Roster:

So, let’s see exactly who Chiarelli and Gretzky can get credit for, and what results we can draw from this, if any. We’ll start with the forwards.

Chiarelli doesn’t get credit for Patrice Bergeron, as some have suggested, because Bergeron was a second round pick in 2003 and actually made his NHL debut during the 2003-04 season. Another common misconception is Brad Marchand, who was drafted in 2006 before Chiarelli took over the Bruins. (Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel fall into this category too)

David Krejci (2004 draft pick), David Backes (2016 UFA), Riley Nash (2016 UFA), and Tim Schaller (2016 UFA) also were obtained without the work of Chiarelli or Gretzky.

In fact, the only forward Chiarelli signed that is on the roster is Frank Vatrano. Chia signed Vatrano out of college (Umass-Amherst) just prior to getting fired by Boston. At this time, Vatrano is struggling to get into the Boston lineup.

Chiarelli and Gretzky do look good when it comes to the draft, however. Together, they drafted David Pastrnak in 2014 and Danton Heinen later that year. Chiarelli selected Ryan Spooner in 2010, while Gretzky gets credit for post-Chiarelli picks like Jake DeBrusk (2015). Not only that, but under Gretzky’s scouting department the Bruins found prospects Noel Acciari (NCAA UFA) and Sean Kuraly (traded from SJ for Martin Jones).

Defensively, Gretzky shows really well here. He had a major hand in the selection of Charlie McAvoy in 2016 as Boston’s first rounder, and Brandon Carlo as the club’s second rounder in 2015. Chiarelli also looks good here, as college UFA signing Torey Krug is a huge cog in Boston’s group, while Matt Grzelcyk (2012 3rd rounder) looks good in his early stages.

Chiarelli gets credit for finding Adam McQuaid (Trade with CBJ, 2007) and Kevan Miller (Undrafted free agent, 2012). Zdeno Chara (signed by Jeff Gorton) and Paul Postma (2017 UFA) are non-Chiarelli/Gretzky guys with the team, although there is some debate as to if Chiarelli helped guide Chara to Boston with him in the spring of 2006.

In net, Chiarelli gets no credit here. Tuukka Rask was acquired from Toronto at the 2006 draft for Andrew Raycroft. This was before Chiarelli took over the Bruins. Anton Khudobin, current backup, was signed by current GM Don Sweeney.

Final Thoughts:

Most of, if not all, Chiarelli’s NHL additions have been traded or allowed to leave Boston as UFA’s. In fact, not a single player Chiarelli signed as a pro remains on the team. All the holdovers come either via the draft or as college free agents/junior players acquired prior to turning pro. It’s clear Boston wanted to clear out most of Chiarelli’s work, although in his defense the core was already intact before he arrived in 2006. He didn’t have a ton of work to do when it came to that group.

I don’t think Chiarelli comes out of this looking great, to be honest. I don’t really credit him for setting up this Boston team at the NHL level too much. As mentioned above, there is essentially nothing left from three years ago. That said, most of Chiarelli’s additions were tinkering around the established core and his additions were usually older veterans who were at the end of their deals or who have retired by now.

I’ll give him some credit, however, because he found guys like Krug, McQuaid and Miller from junior and college. I was most impressed with his ability to find players there. Ryan Mantha could be a great example with the Oilers.

Keith Gretzky, on the other hand, comes out looking really good. Gretzky did excellent work with the 2014 and 2016 drafts, netting Boston a franchise forward in Pastrnak and defender in McAvoy. The impressive part? Neither of these picks were in the top ten.

Gretzky also netted a strong pick in DeBrusk in 2015, while also grabbing Carlo in the second round. Yes, they missed on some great players (Barzal, Connor, Boeser) in that opening round, but it was a good draft overall by Gretzky. Boston’s record with college free agents and college/junior trade targets was also pretty good under Gretzky, as Kuraly and Acciari have both made the NHL on a full time basis.

His Danton Heinen pick is looking like the best value in here as the former 4th round has established himself as a legit top-nine forward.

When credit is handed out for this year’s tremendous story in Boston, Keith Gretzky shouldn’t be forgotten. He takes a lot of heat because of his last name, but his track record as Bruins Director of Amateur Scouting is actually quite impressive and he had a massive hand in procuring a dman good group of young players in Boston.

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