The Curious Case of the Boston Bruins and Peter Cehlarik

( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Andrew Johnson | Follow me on Twitter @Justyouknowhyyy

As George Michael once said: “You gotta have faith”

Faith is powerful. It allows us to hold on to hope when all seems lost. Faith is what makes the beginning of the season, whenever it may be, in this case, the most exciting time of the year. Faith fuels a certain optimism that colors everything around it. But something interesting about faith is that the worth of it is predicated entirely on whether or not it is in the right place.

Enter Peter Cehlarik. A third-round pick (90th overall) back in the 2013 entry draft, Cehlarik is a Left-Winger with hulking size, a lightning-quick wrist shot, and an ability to take over games on the lower levels. Depending on who you ask, those abilities are enough to guarantee that faith is going to be rewarded; unfortunately, something has gone sideways in that optimism that surrounds the player known as “Celery.”

First, a little background is needed here. After being drafted, the now 25-year-old Cehlarik spent his first season in Sweden’s First Division (Sweden’s AHL) for Asploven, potting 13 points in the first 18 games before being called to Sweden’s big league. Spending his next three years for Lulea HC of the SHL, he put up a modest point total typical for a developing player (21 goals and 24 assists in 124 games).

Cehlarik came over the Atlantic in 2016-17 and had a modest breakout season that saw him score 20 goals in 49 games in the AHL for the Providence Bruins; Cehlarik’s production was enough where Boston brought him up for an 11-game audition where he was only able to muster two assists but showed enough to the powers-that-be that it was only a matter of time before he would be leaving the Dunkin’ Donuts Center behind for good in favor of the TD Garden. Only a little more seasoning would be needed to see that faith through.

Cehlarik showed he could score consistently in the AHL

2017-18 however, was a tough season for Cehlarik. After being one of the last cuts in training camp, Cehlarik ended up missing time due to various injuries but was still able to pot 23 points and 35 games for Providence and even his first goal in a Boston uniform. Despite the tough season, Cehlarik showed patience to work through his injuries and cash in when an opportunity presented itself.

A good net-drive pots Cehlarik’s first goal

Unfortunately, it would be Cehlarik’s 2018-19 that would ultimately come to define his time in Boston. Even though he was the last cut from training camp, Cehlarik was the first man up in January for a game against the Philadelphia Flyers. Cehlarik caught lightning in a bottle that night. Despite a 4-3 loss, Cehlarik contributed to all three goals scoring 2 of those goals, assisting on the other, and generally wreaking havoc all over the ice. Looking as if he had cashed in on that faith, rewarding that patience. However, just one night of individual glory was all the Bruins got as Cehlarik struggled to maintain any momentum from that first game, scoring only three points in his next 19 games and seeing his ice time dwindle to less than 12 minutes a night by the end of his run.

Faith: Rewarded?

Bruins coaches were not seeing what they needed to be seeing, and it was only after a game against the New Jersey Devils where it was clear that Head coach Bruce Cassidy had finally seen enough. Playing Cehlarik less than nine minutes and subsequently benching him for the entire third period, Cassidy called Cehlarik to the carpet, directing his ire at Cehlarik’s “routes” and lamenting about “speaking to him numerous times about taking his responsibility away from the puck more seriously.” Two damning, loud, declarative indictments to come from anyone, let alone your Head Coach. Bruce Cassidy had finally pulled the trigger on his shot across the bow. Cehlarik’s response to the criticism was less than ideal. Only playing 11 minutes or less in three of his last five games with zero points in each of them, it was almost as if Cassidy’s pleas had fallen on deaf ears, but the worst would be yet to come, as we would later find out.

Cehlarik had heard Cassidy loud and clear, it was just that he did not care.

( Photo Credit: Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports )

The 2019-20 season saw Cehlarik suit up for just three games collecting only one assist, his play led to being waived without a claim, and it was finally then that we would hear Cehlarik’s side through the Slovakian media. Taking to task the organization’s view of him, Cehlarik zeroed in on Cassidy’s coaching methods. claiming that Cassidy “does not like” Cehlarik and that Cassidy is “waiting for (me to make) a mistake to send (me) down,” before finally adding, “I am NHL ready, but they do not think so.”

Whether or not you agree with Cehlarik’s self-assessment is a personal judgment call. Cehlarik has proven to have enough talent to at least get an extended look in the NHL. Unfortunately, it is hard to ignore that Cehlarik’s response to constructive criticism that was originally kept in house was to ignore it to the point where its volume was loud enough that everyone else heard it. Those actions by Cehlarik give an impression of immaturity at best and an inability to be coached at worst. Over his time in Boston, Bruce Cassidy has become a well-respected coach in the NHL, and there was little doubt that that night in New Jersey and the subsequent sniping at a respected coach and the team that invested years of time and energy into his development has all but torpedoed Cehlarik’s value.

Since these tumultuous few years in Boston, Cehlarik has since headed for more Swedish pastures. Currently signed to SHL’s Leksands club, Cehlarik is averaging exactly one point-per-game over 21 games as of this writing and is still Bruins property by technicality only. Boston extended a qualifying offer this off-season, which means his rights remain with the Bruins as long as they continue to submit qualifying offers at the end of each year until his age-27 season, after which he would become an unrestricted free agent. One can only hope that continuing his torrid pace in Sweden and obtaining the maturity and wisdom that age brings will see him in the NHL once again. Cehlarik’s next chapter will not be with the Bruins, so, unfortunately, we here in Boston can only view Peter Cehlarik’s time as nothing more than an exercise in misplaced faith.

Cehlarik’s lightning release is a staple of his game

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