As the “do you fire Claude?” saga continues heading into today’s game against the Detroit Red Wings one of my biggest questions regarding the Bruins is who is actually running the Bruins? And can we ever really believe the answer?
Ol’ Charlie boy (Charlie Jacobs) says that it is up to Cam and Don to fire Claude, but is it really? When you have executives from other teams telling Jimmy Murphy that the Bruins are a mess this does not have a good look:
The Bruins are currently in NHL purgatory similar to the Toronto Maple Leafs before they blew it up. And they’re stuck between being in the cellar and being in the playoffs. I do believe that the Bruins have much better pieces in place than the Leafs’ ever did, but if the Bruins are not careful they will find themselves in the same spot and have wasted Patrice Bergeron’s and Brad Marchand’s prime years.
It is certainly trending in the direction of the Bruins not making the playoffs. The games in hand for Toronto and Ottawa is a legit concern, as well as every other team, since the Bruins have played the most games in the NHL. The last place Islanders have 47 points (5 fewer points than the Bruins), but have 5 games in hand. If (and it is a big if) the Islanders win all five games they would be 5 points up in the Bruins. Buffalo and Tampa Bay both have 47 points and both have games in hand, Buffalo with four and Tampa with two. Simply put, there is a legitimite chance the Bruins could find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference once all teams have the same amount of games played.
With all that being said it also is not out of the realm of possibility that the Bruins could win a round in the playoffs. With the first two rounds formatted for divisional play the Bruins benefit from being in a bad division. After Montreal’s hot start even they have come back down to earth. If any team in the Atlantic was playing relatively well they would have caught Montreal by now. As of today the Bruins are on thw outside looking to the playoffs. If they make the playoffs it most likely would be as the 3rd seed in their division. That would match them up with either Toronto or Ottawa. Could you honestly say, even in the Bruins current state, that they could not beat Ottawa,or Toronto in a 7 game series? Meanwhile Montreal’s first round opponent would be the Rangers. Who would you rather have? Again, this is where the between a rock and a hard place saying comes into play.
In my opinion this is the swan song for this edition of the Bruins. If they have another playoff DNQ Julien will definitely be gone. Maybe even Sweeney, as well as Neely. Personally, I think Don deserves one more year. At least give him a chance to start seeing the impact of some of his draft picks/prospects before showing him the door.
The good news; when done right it does not take long to rebuild in the NHL. Look at the jump Toronto has made this year. The Bruins have good pieces with Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Pastrnak, Backes, Vatrano, Krug, and Carlo all either under contract or under team control for many years to come. McAvoy will be in the lineup next year, plus other legit prospects that will push for a roster spot. Would it be the end of the world if the Bruins were in the draft lottery one more time with a chance at Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier? It might be worth it.
If I were in the Bruins management group I would let this year ride. I’d make my decision on the coach at the end of the year. If I am in playoff contention I would only add if it did not cost much, but nothing major. If the playoffs are not looking good, sell. Most likely the Bruins wouldn’t get much for guys like Liles, Nash, Moore and even Hayes if someone was willing, but at least the Bruins would acquire more draft assets, which is where this group is excelling.
The NHL landscape is going to change this summer with expansion and the Bruins are setup very nicely for the expansion draft. They will not lose anyone significant so they have that going for them. But they have to figure out who they are, who’s really calling the shots, and get it done.