Today is Part 5 of a five-part “Breaking Down the Boston Bruins” series taking place this week on Boston Hockey Now. Today we’re going to look at the current and future state of Bruins management as we head into an important offseason.
Now that Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has retired, B general manager Don Sweeney may be the most polarizing figure within the Original Six organization.
The Bruins have been a playoff team for almost a year, his first season at the helm, since Sweeney took over and the Bruins have drafted and developed core players like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Jeremy Swayman since the 2015-16 NHL season. Sweeney made big trades for the likes of Rick Nash, Taylor Hall and Hampus Lindholm at the NHL Trade Deadline in his pre-hockey ops game and the Bruins were only casualties in the first-round playoffs. only a few times with a 2019 trip to the Stanley Cup Finals was also sprinkled.
It’s not easy to keep the Boston Bruins playoff truck going as key players like Zdeno Chara, Rask, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci age out of the program, but so far Sweeney has found a way to do it while fully understanding the championship. waiting in Boston.
“I think I’ve been in this city long enough for people to know in terms of the pressure and what I’m necessarily going to put into myself and hopefully hold myself to the norm, that’s why I’m holding this job. The Jacobs family, the organization, the history of the Boston Bruins, you know, the standard we’re held to is exactly what I aspire to. To be perfectly clear and honest, it’s the aspiration to be best in class, on and off the ice,” Sweeney said. “When we’re not, we want to hear about it. You know, criticism is what it is, and nobody likes to hear it. Call it constructive criticism, I don’t necessarily think it’s constructive, but it’s appropriate. You must hear them. You must have reviews. You have to look in the mirror and understand what this guy who is looking at you is saying.
“It’s a big part of my makeup. But I think that’s what we’re trying to accomplish, what we’ve been trying to accomplish. I stand up here and say, if I can put together the best team, if Patrice wants to keep playing, that’s the spirit we aspire to maintain. Winning is part of it. Absolutely part of that. What we tried to do over the course of you know, since I came back as part of not playing the game, is did we accomplish that all the time? No. It’s hard to win 50 games in a season, but you don’t hang your hat on it. You have to pass, and I say, we left it on the table. We didn’t accomplish what we hoped to do during the season. Only one team does it, but we aspire to be that team. You will go through the pockets. Every organization probably goes through them where you have to take a step back, be very realistic. Maybe it’s injuries, maybe it’s cycling, whatever. You have to go through this in professional sports and we can. But as it is, we have a competitive, really competitive group. We have been competitive. We want to stay competitive and play the right way. This is what we will try to do. »
“We haven’t achieved what we hoped to do during the season. Only one team is doing it, but we aspire to be that team… we are here today acknowledging that we have failed.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 18, 2022
But there is also the flip side to all of this.
Sweeney’s draft record will never be great because the Boston Bruins continually traded first-round picks while heading into their Stanley Cup window while trying to win it with guys like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand , David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy. The 2015 NHL Draft will always be an albatross around Sweeney’s neck even if he doesn’t watch those amateur players, and the big miss with Zach Senyshyn when players like Mat Barzal, Thomas Chabot, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor were available was A Killer. Let’s be honest, it probably cost them the Stanley Cup in 2019 when players like Karson Kuhlman filled important roles in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues, and it certainly cost them other deep playoffs as they didn’t have that kind of impact in their first players.
There are also the failed attempts by the Boston Bruins to use their free agency to fill their power forward spot after trading Milan Lucic, who continues to be one of the most feared players in the NHL even today. It certainly slows down in its twilight years. Matt Beleskey, David Backes and now Nick Foligno have all failed as veteran solutions to this problem when it’s pretty clear that NHL clubs need to draft and develop their own rare and powerful players who become important factors in the playoffs.
When asked if the Boston Bruins could really use a player like him in playoff battles, Cam Neely said yes while putting him to the service of foot scouting.
“It would be great to have someone like that, there’s no doubt about that,” Neely said of the need for a power forward. “I think all the teams would like that, and the teams that have it, they hang on to it. They don’t let them go. It’s just a matter of the scouting department getting to work and trying to find someone for us.
Some might say the Boston Bruins tried that with the draft of Trent Frederic and Johnny Beecher, but let’s be honest here: the Tom Wilson/Milan Lucic guys don’t play American college hockey, so draft college kids with the idea that They’ll become Bullies don’t really hold up when put into practice.
It’s when you draft a big raw, rough-necked kid from the OHL or the ‘Dub’, while investing a high draft pick to do it, and get the best years out of it rather than paying for the older ones , broken-down version in NHL free agency.
It all led to a long and difficult review of Sweeney as general manager, who entered last season as a lame duck executive who needed to prove it to Bruins ownership. He did just that while meeting the NHL trade deadline landing with Lindholm’s big move and ensuing contract extension, and now Sweeney is on track to sign a contract extension at the future that all parties expected to resolve fairly quickly.
“I really wanted to see how the year went. We had a lot of changes in the last off-season, so I really wanted to see how it went. Obviously you get January, February, March – really good months for us. The team really bonded. I thought we had a lot of depth and I was happy with what he did at the deadline,” Cam Neely said last week when asked about the Sweeney contract situation. “I’m going to sit down with Donnie [Sweeney] in a day or two and hopefully hammer something away.
Until that officially happens, there will be a level of uncertainty in the air and the injury situations with Brad Marchand and Matt Grzelcyk, as well as the uncertainty of an NHL playing career for Patrice. Bergeron, mean the waters will be choppy for Sweeney and Co. going ahead at the start of next season. It also means it’s hard to predict exactly what the off-season game plan will be until they know exactly what Bergeron plans to do next season.
“It may take years for you to draft a player like [Bergeron], develop a player like that, and you count your blessings every day,” Sweeney said. “That’s ultimately what it’s all about, to be perfectly honest. That’s how it usually goes for most organizations. When you have an iconic player, a player who’s going to get into the Hall of Fame is usually how it goes. It won’t be any different for the Boston Bruins to find the next guy – I don’t know if there will be another one or not.
Sweeney will have the certainty of a new contract to lead the show in Boston, but there will always be supporters and detractors for the polarizing general manager as he lays out his vision for a black and gold band that is clearly rebuilding itself in the fly. .
It’s by no means an easy task for Sweeney and the rest of the Boston management group, but it’s the job they signed up for.