Alright Bruins fans, Dr. Daddy Daycare is here. And while my close friend and BostonPucks.com co-founder David Wayne has led you to the brink of jumping, I am here to provide a few reasons to back you off the ledge.
I am usually a pessimistic person but in terms of the recent Claude Julien firing I think everything is going to be okay. It might get worse before it gets better, but in the end it’ll be okay. Follow along…
The timing of the firing was brutal, I get it. But in all honesty what was Don Sweeney supposed to do? If he fired Claude on Sunday he would have caught shit for doing it on Super Bowl Sunday. If he had done it on Monday, same thing. It didn’t matter when he did it, because he’d still get crushed for it. Not to mention the Bruins were off on Monday and they could not have gone on the ice on Tuesday without an explanation on why Claude was not on there. Now, the timing of the press conference could have been much better. They could have scheduled it during the afternoon and not during the Patriots Parade.
I thought Sweeney did a pretty good job during the press conference announcing Claude’s firing. In a nut shell, he said he could not commit to Claude long term so he cut the rope. He wants to see what he has in the on-ice personnel with a new coach calling the shots. He also admitted to the roster having some shortcomings and owned up to it.
However, it seems a new coach is not going to change a thing. The Bruins are going to miss the playoffs for the third season in a row for the first time since 1967. But does this team need to be entirely blown up? They have a good core, but a bottom-6 forward group that is shit salad. Yes, that is on Don Sweeney. And if Tuukka didn’t play out of his head for the first few months of the season Claude could have been gone months ago. Christ, you could argue Claude should have been gone after two playoff DNQ’s in a row. Regardless, he was a dead man walking coming into the season. Everyone knew it.
Lately Tuukka has not been the same dominating goalie since the turn of the New Year. And I think Claude and Sweeney both share blame in this. Claude has been coaching for his job and has over worked Tuukka. Sweeney has not acquired a suitable backup goalie. Claude also has not allowed for any backup goalie to get enough time to get into any rhythm. You just have to look back at last week to see Tuukka started back-to-back games against Tampa and Washington. Personally, I do not think Zane McIntyre got a fair shake. He certainly played well enough to get a start, or two.
Of course we all know Sweeney has struggled as an NHL GM too. Not a lot of his moves have gone well. Mainly the Jimmy Hayes-for-Reilly Smith trade and his biggest mistake, not trading Loui Eriksson at the trade deadline last season. But he is not the guy who set this team back by trading future super star Tyler Seguin because he likes to party a little bit. Where would the Blackhawks be today if they traded Patrick Kane after he punched the taxi driver?
Sweeney also did not trade Johnny Boychuk. When Sweeney took over, this team was in salary cap hell, with a depleted farm system and an aging roster. Currently Peter Chiarelli is looking like a savior in Edmonton while he left the Bruins in a mess. Between you and me, I could have stepped in as the Oilers GM and drafted Connor McDavid. Sweeney was put in a no-win situation.
However as some of Sweeney’s trades for NHL talent have been brutal we still have to wait and see how some of the trades he made for draft picks and prospects pan out. He basically traded Milan Lucic for Jakub Zboril, Trent Frederic and Sean Kuraly. Hopefully Zboril can live up to the expectations and play up to his first round talent level. Trent Frederic is looking like a great pick, and Sean Kuraly has already played 5 games at the NHL level.
Although not an immediate on-ice return, the Dougie Hamilton trade might have been his best work yet. Maybe even better than the Brad Marchand contract extension. With the draft picks Sweeney received for Hamilton he picked up OHL scoring sensation Zach Senyshyn, a Bergeron clone in Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and do it all defenseman Jeremy Lauzon. Not bad for a player in Dougie that did not want to be in Boston anymore (Hamilton signed for less money in Calgary than the Bruins were offering). JFK and Lauzon could be in the Bruins lineup as early as next year.
I am not saying Sweeney is not to blame for this whole shit show that is going on with the Bruins because he does carry some blame, but not all of it. He has a solid player development background and has made a positive impact in that department. It’s just not NHL ready yet. All 6 players the Bruins selected in the first two rounds of the 2015 draft are projected to make it to the NHL. That is just unheard of. Six NHL players out of the same draft is down right crazy. It could match the Red Wings 1989 draft when they selected Mike Sillinger, Bob Boughner, Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Dallas Drake and Vladimir Konstantinov. Four of those guys played over 1000 games in the NHL. Konstantinov played the least games with 446.
Although a great guy, Sweeney is not perfect. But I also don’t think he’s done as bad of a job as most people do. I also think he gets unrealistic pressure from ownership to make the playoffs, which is wrong. The Jacobs family needs to be honest with themselves and know what is best for the health of their club long term. Sweeney preaches the necessary patience but will ownership really allow it? If it takes a few playoff DNQ’s to have the right team moving forward to make the playoffs 10 years in a row then so be it. What is scary to me is if Neely and Sweeney do get turfed that leaves Charlie Jacobs in charge. I would hate for Ol’ Glossy Face to get more power in the player personnel department. I also have zero confidence that he would be able to hire a good replacement.
I am just not confident that Sweeney is 100% in charge of this roster. If he isn’t the guy, he needs to stick up for himself and build the team the way he had planned all along through drafting and developing, which is the right way. Look at all the teams that are true Stanley Cup contenders. They all have home grown stars and then mixed in young inexpensive talent and some free agents to plug a holes. Rarely in today’s NHL are you able to go out and sign a top end skilled free agent that ends up working out. The NHL is not MLB where you can fix a team’s flaws through free agency. Sweeney has not been able to fill in the holes around the stars and this is his fault and no one else.
Some fans and media are giving Sweeney crap for not making a trade in almost a year. I do not think that is fair. I also do not think he really could have done much to make this team better. He could have traded for Shattenkirk, but that would have cost both first round picks in the 2016 draft and David Pastrnak. If he would have done that it would have caused a shit storm because the Bruins would have signed Shattenkirk to a huge extension ($7 million for 8 years) and he would not have lived up to the hype. He is not a #1 defenseman, sorry. What else could he have done? It is not like free agency is busting at the seems with top end talent.
Regarding Neely and Sweeney being on the hot seat; in the end they both will go down together should this thing fail. I personally do not think Neely gets fired. I think Neely will resign and then a new President will fire Sweeney. I don’t think the Jacobs family has the balls to fire a Bruins legend.
This team needs to get better and that is on Sweeney to do it. It is not going to happen overnight and nor should it. I am looking at this situation as a glass half full, but holy shit this organization like a reality TV show mess. The crazier the story gets, the more interesting it is, and the more you want to see what happens next. And you know you really shouldn’t be proud of the fact you’re still watching.