The Boston Bruins have gone from having the best record in the NHL to what appears to be a rebuild in just 15 months. The Bruins dominated in the 2013-14 Regular Season with a league best 117 points. This was the most points any NHL team has had since the 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks also had 117. The Bruins then went on to lose in the second round to Montreal. The team’s performance has gone downhill from there. They failed to quality for the 2015 Playoffs with just 96 points in a very disappointing and underachieving season. This offseason has been as deemed as an extremely important one and a need for changes has been stressed by the team and the fans. Peter Chiarelli was let go. On May 20th, the Bruins announced that Don Sweeney would take over as General Manager. Sweeney served as an Assistant GM under Chiarelli since 2009 and has been with the organization for 24 years as a player and in the front office. In addition to the GM change, there was speculation that a change may be made with the Head Coach. On June 5th, The Bruins announced that Claude Julien and his staff would return for the 2015-16 season. With the front office positions and coaching staff now in place, the next order of business was the roster. The team has had little flexibility to make moves because of their salary cap situation. However, decisions needed to be made to give the team more flexibility with free agency starting on July 1st. This brought us to Friday, June 26th, where some moves that were made has a lot of Bruins fans questioning the direction of this team.
On Friday, the Bruins made the following trades leading into the 2015 NHL Draft.
Carl Soderberg traded to Colorado for a sixth round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Doug Hamilton traded to Calgary for the 15th, 45th, and 52nd picks in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Milan Lucic traded to Los Angeles for Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and the 13th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Adam McQuaid signed to a four year, $11 million contract.
This goes without saying, but these moves left Bruins fans wondering what the direction of the team was and it got people very interested to see what the Bruins would do that night in the draft. Trading picks for a top defenseman? How about a first line wing to play with Krejci? The Bruins held the 13th, 14th, and 15th picks in the first round and had 10 picks overall in the draft. Movement was expected and needed.
The Bruins drafted the following players in the first round.
13th pick – Jakub Zboril. Zboril is a defenseman who played in the QMJHL last year. He was generally projected to go around the middle of the first round and was viewed by many as the third best defenseman in the draft.
14th pick – Jake DeBrusk. DeBrusk is a winger who scored 42 goals in the WHL last year. He was generally projected to be drafted late in the first round.
15th pick – Zachary Senyshyn. Another winger who played in the OHL last year. He was projected to be drafted towards the end of the second round.
Without going into further details, the Bruins went on to draft three centers, two defensemen, one wing, and one goaltender with their remaining picks. The Bruins did not trade any of the picks for any current NHL players. Oh, but they signed Adam McQuaid…
Wow! This organization completely changed over the course of 24 hours. Sweeney and Cam Neely have talked a lot recently about the future of the organization. Translation: Rebuild. The Bruins traded three core players. This is all coming after trading Johnny Boychuck last year for two second round picks. This was an elite NHL team that continues to lose key pieces to their roster. The salary cap issues that Chiarelli and the Bruins front office created is the root cause of these trades. However, this team appears to have a real issue with getting back a good return when they move players. This goes all the way back to the Joe Thornton trade to San Jose back in 2005. This was never more evident than in 2013 when the Bruins traded Tyler Seguin to Dallas. Seguin is already a top NHL scoring talent at age 23. He has scored 37 goals in each of the past two seasons and was 6th in the Hart Trophy voting in 2014. The main pieces of the Bruins’ return were Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith. These aren’t exactly guys you build a franchise around. Neely and the Bruins will tell you that Seguin was not a fit in their system. Yet, he scored 29 goals for them in his second season where he was just 20 years old. So…now we’re at it again. Doug Hamilton for a guy that was projected to be drafted in the second round? No thanks.
Free agency starts on July 1st. The Bruins may be able to make some more moves and create some space to sign a big name free agent. This much is clear: They have to at least do something to get the fan base buying what they are trying to sell. Right now, no Bruins fan is going to believe Neely and Sweeney if they say that they think they have improved the team for next year. This team has clearly regressed for the short term as of right now. Time will tell if they can make some changes to their roster and contend next year. There is still time to do that and, perhaps, they have a plan that will surprise all of us. However, as for right now, these trades and these picks are not exactly getting people believing in the short term direction of this team.
Lastly, although it’s not on the most positive note, it’s been very interesting to see the moves of both the Bruins and the Celtics over the past week. Both teams have received their fair share of heat from the fans and media over the past few days and it may end up being deservedly so. However, when you look at the direction of the Celtics, you see a plan, a vision, and a guy in charge that Celtics fans can have full confidence in. Danny Ainge is a master-mind and he knows how to do what’s best for the team. Do Bruins fans feel the same way about Neely and Sweeney right now? Granted, Sweeney is still very new to his job and deserves a chance, but he was a very big part of the drafting and roster of the team for many years. Neely is the guy in charge. This team has struggled in the draft for years and they continue to trade their top talent. Chiarelli deservedly received a lot of criticism, but what about Neely? He was on board with the Seguin trade and he has overseen the poor drafts. Most NHL analysts are speculating that this year’s draft was a very poor one of the Boston Bruins. If their goal was to create excitement by drafting young talent, they came up very short.
When Ainge has a vision and a plan, fans believe in it. It’s very hard to say that Neely and Sweeney have that right now.