Top Heavy Bruins Need a Path to the Future

by | Jan 10, 2022 | Bruins, Dirty Water Sports

As we begin a new calendar year, the question remains the same. Are the Boston Bruins headed in the right direction?

General Manager Don Sweeney has been on the job for six years. During his tenure, he’s led the team to one Stanley Cup Final in 2019. In his other five seasons at the helm, the team has either missed the playoffs, or failed to make it past the second round.

For the most part during Sweeney’s tenure, the Bruins have been a playoff caliber organization. And for that, he deserves credit. The problem is there isn’t any clear path toward improvement. No direction. Zero plan. That constitutes a failure of the utmost proportion.

While in the leadership role, Sweeney has unquestionably made solid moves: trades that have benefited the team, and deadline acquisitions that have helped. However, his mistakes have been numerous. The NHL Draft has perhaps showcased the most.  Case in point came in his first season on the job. With three early and consecutive high coveted picks in the first round of the 2015 draft, Sweeney selected Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn. While DeBrusk has shown glimpses of being a serviceable NHL player, none have turned into valued roster pieces or assets. To make matters worse, with the pick immediately following Sweeney’s selections, the New York Islanders took Mathew Barzal, a player who has turned into a perennial All-Star, a dangerous scorer, and someone who looks to be on a crash course for the Hall of Fame. Ouch.

Yes, Sweeney has had his moments. He drafted Charlie McAvoy in 2016. A stud. A player who has turned into a franchise caliber defenseman. Someone you can build your organization around. Let’s give credit where credit is due. But outside of that pick, what has Sweeney done to build around McAvoy to make the Bruins a championship caliber team?

The Bruins have talent and skill. The problem is, it’s top heavy. Outside of McAvoy, the team’s best players are indisputably all on offense. In fact, all on the first line. The Perfection Line as it’s affectionately known is centered by captain Patrice Bergeron, with Brad Marchand and David Pastranak on the wings. Cases can be made that all three have been top 30 players in the league for many years. But after McAvoy and the Perfection Line, what’s left?

The Bruins have virtually no young players in the pipeline that are highly valued by anyone outside of their own organization. None on the NHL club, and none in the system. There’s a serious lack of talent evaluation that has left the organization hamstrung. There is no depth.  Outside of the previously mentioned four All-Stars, the club is extremely thin on both sides of the ice. After the 2021 season, David Krejci, the team’s second line centerman, left to play overseas. This left a gaping hole on the roster. Sweeney made no moves to address this in the offseason, choosing to add fourth line depth pieces, a couple average defenseman, and a $5 million dollar per year goaltender instead. Which begs the question, what in the world is his plan for that position? He signed free agent goalie Linus Ullmark to an outrageous 4-year deal, while exciting and inexpensive rookie Jeremey Swayman was sitting right there in front of him. Additionally, it appears the Bruins are bringing Tuukka Rask back. I’m sorry, what?? Tuukka? Why? Sweeney has completely made a mess of the goaltender situation, spent money in the wrong places, while simultaneously leaving gaping holes on the second line, and defense corp. It’s been a train wreck.

Yes, Brandon Carlo is a nice player. He’s a serviceable D man, and someone you can pair next to McAvoy. But he has a lengthy injury history. After that? There is no one on the blue line that should excite Bruins fans.  When it comes to putting the puck in the net, the lack of depth is eye popping. Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, sure, nice players. But are they guys you can feel confident will help produce that much needed secondary scoring when it matters? Nope. Then there’s Taylor Hall. A former overall No. 1 pick, and league MVP. Now 30 years old, he has been a shell of his former self, and certainly not someone who has shown to be reliable. After that? The cupboard is bare.

The big picture is this: The 2021-2022 Boston Bruins are an aging roster in need of a rebuild. Unless Sweeney has a secretive plan up his sleeve to land Connor McDavid and Victor Hedman, it’s time for a fire sale. It’s been a glorious run.  Core players like Bergy, Marchy, Tuukks, Pasta, and Krejci have given Bruins fans a plethora of incredible memories. In just one decade, that group led the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Finals, winning one. Not many organizations can say that. But all good things must come to end. 

The message to Sweeney and club president Cam Neely is clear. It’s time to let go. Sell off your best pieces, and add younger talent. Start building that next great Bruins team. Make the passionate and loyal Bruins fanbase proud. Rip off the band aid before it’s too late. It will be tough to swallow at first. But it will all be worth it.