- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Less than 24 hours after Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli publicly explained how a trade for Jarome Iginla fell through because the veteran forward chose Pittsburgh over Boston, the Bruins' players showed no animosity toward the future Hall of Famer.
The Bruins held practice at Ristuccia Arena late Friday morning in preparation for their road game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. After the 80-minute skate, coach Claude Julien and several players said they believe they can compete for a Stanley Cup without the addition of Iginla -- or anyone else, for that matter.
“That was his entitlement,” Julien said. “He’s got a no-trade clause, and when you look at what Pittsburgh’s done, you’ve got to respect the guy’s decision. It was his decision to make, and he made that. It’ll be at the end of the year he’ll see whether he made the right decision or not. Certainly there’s no animosity here. We’re a good team. If he came here, he would have made us better. He’s not here because he went somewhere else. We turn the page because it’s about us right now, it’s not about him.
“I’m still one of those guys who believes we have a really good team here," he added. "Just because we haven’t played our best lately doesn’t make us less of a team. My belief is we will get better here and we’ll move on. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Bruins assistant captain Andrew Ference was a teammate of Iginla's in Calgary and said he thinks the nondeal is a nonstory.
"You can do fantasy hockey all you want. You can do that with any guy around the league,” Ference said. “We’d love to have [Tampa’s Steven] Stamkos; he’d probably help our power play. I’m sure you could keep doing that, but until something happens, until someone is putting on your sweater, I don’t think there are too many guys who get wrapped up in it. It makes for good TV, I guess, and it’s fun for people to speculate, but within the locker room, we have what we have. If something gets added, it gets added. I don’t think too many guys get wrapped up in it.”
During Chiarelli’s news conference Thursday, he made a point to say the Bruins weren’t going to lie down for any team, especially the Penguins just because their roster is loaded with talent. The Bruins host the Penguins at TD Garden on April 19, and if these teams meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs, no doubt it’ll be high drama given the recent events.
According to Ference, winning a Stanley Cup should be motivation enough no matter what happened with Iginla.
“It’s not sore feelings or insulting,” Ference said. “We have a great team. It’s fully in his right to make that choice where he wants to go. That’s what he’s earned throughout his career with the type of contract that he had, and so be it. It’s no less or more motivating to go win a Stanley Cup. I don’t think anybody’s feelings in this room have changed about that. If you need to look for that much external motivation, I don’t think you’re fit to win one anyways.
“From a team perspective, we’ve had high expectations of ourselves the whole way through and it hasn’t changed," he added. "We fully believe in our ability to win, and that hasn’t changed.”
Thanks to social media, everyone in the hockey world knew the Bruins were on the verge of acquiring Iginla from the Flames in exchange for defenseman Matt Bartkowski, prospect Alexander Khokhlachev and a first-round draft pick. It did not come to fruition because Iginla picked the Penguins, saying he wanted an opportunity to play with Sidney Crosby.
Bruins assistant captain Patrice Bergeron is a close friend of Crosby's (and a Team Canada teammate) and said he understands Iginla’s decision.
“He’s definitely a great player, probably the best player in the world,” Bergeron said of Crosby. “It is fun to play with him, but it’s his decision and there’s nothing we can do about it.
“They’re a great team, so there’s always motivation to play Pittsburgh, so I don’t think it should change anything. We’re confident in our team, and it’s always been that way. To me, it doesn’t matter.
"It comes down to the game’s got to be played on the ice. It’s never on paper you win games. They’re a great team, obviously, but so are we.”
Realistically, there has to be some sort of disappointment for the Bruins. Still, they said all the right things after practice, and seem focused on improving their game down the stretch and into the playoffs.
“I can guarantee there’s no deflation here,” Julien said. “We’re a good team, and our guys believe in themselves in there. Would he have made our team better? Sure. We know what he brings, but we’re still a good team. We’ve got good chemistry in that dressing room, and right now we’re very comfortable with what we’re going to move forward with and we’ll get the most out of everybody because they’re committed to it.”
Chiarelli explained to Bartkowski the business aspect of the game, then the GM reiterated what he said during Wednesday’s news conference, that the young defenseman is a talented player. On Tuesday, the Bruins signed Bartkowski to a one-year, one-way deal worth $650,000, which seemed to be a precursor to a trade. When the Iginla deal did not go through, Bartkowski said he was happy.
“It was out of my hands,” Bartkowski said. “During the game, I was hearing rumors and everybody was saying, ‘It’s a done deal,’ and stuff like that. Then at 12:30, look on the Internet and he’s traded to Pittsburgh, so I was pretty relieved and happy because I wouldn’t have signed that deal if I didn’t want to be here and didn’t like it here. I was pretty happy when I heard it didn’t go through.”
Since Chiarelli already had the discussion with the young defenseman, Julien did not talk with Bartkowski.
“Players know, just like coaches, that we’re expendable and it’s part of the business. I look at it in a different way where no matter what, [at least] somebody wants you, and you’re good enough that you’re considered, so I certainly wouldn’t take it as an insult. To get that kind of player, you had to give up something good, and that’s what he is, a good player,” he said.
There was one player in the Bruins' locker room who seemed anxious to play the Penguins on April 19.
“Every time we play against them, it’s a tight battle, so I’m sure it’s not going to be any different when we play them in three weeks,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “We love having challenges in this room. We seem to thrive in them, and it’ll be a good game.”
6dPierre LeBrun and Joe McDonald