The Bruins season ended with a 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. The B’s have now missed the playoffs in two consecutive seasons after a Stanley Cup appearance in 2013 and having the best record in the NHL in 2014. Has the Bruins management been accountable? The Bruins were arguably the elite team in the NHL from 2011 – 2014. As we sit here today, they now have not been a top 16 team for two straight years.
So, what happened? How could a team that was championship caliber suddenly be in the bottom half of the league? As we posted on March 27th, the opinion here is that Claude Julien should not be blamed. Unfortunately, Julien is likely to be the one to take the fall here. If most NHL experts were to put together a Top 10 list of NHL coaches, Julien likely would be on just about every list.
For the fans who want Claude shipped out, do you remember what the Bruins team was like before he arrived in Boston? The B’s didn’t win a playoff series for eight consecutive years. Repeat: Eight Years, ZERO playoff series wins! In Julien’s nine years as Bruins coach, the Bruins have won ten playoff series including two Stanley Cup Finals appearances and a championship. OK, enough about Claude. If you want to hear the argument to keep him, please click on the link above to the “Don’t Blame Claude” post.
Today’s post is going to focus the real reason why the Bruins have gone from an elite franchise to a losing one. The fact that the Bruins missed the playoffs in two consecutive years proves that last year was not a fluke. There are some serious roster issues here and the moves that have been made need to be looked at closely. Whether it be Peter Chiarelli or Don Sweeney, the Bruins General Managers have been the core problem with this team. The man at the top, Cam Neely, is given a free pass on this consistently. The team has gone from having a roster of skilled NHL caliber talent to a roster littered with players who have bottom end talent under his leadership.
Let’s take a look at the moves the Bruins have made that have put them in this position. We’ll look at drafts, trades, and free agent moves.
We could go all the way back to 2007 to pick apart the Bruins draft picks. The Bruins drafted Zach Hamill with the #8 pick in the draft in 2007. Hamill never scored an NHL goal. How about Jordan Caron in 2009 with the 25th pick? He was a nice second line AHL winger who never made an NHL impact. Let’s start with 2010 which is the year that Cam Neely took over a President of the Bruins.
In 2010, the Bruins had the #2 pick in the NHL draft. Edmonton took Taylor Hall which made Tyler Seguin a no brainer pick for the Bruins. Leading into the draft, these two players were both discussed as franchise players. That proved to pan out especially in Seguin’s case. The Bruins had the guy. We all know what happened and we’ll get into it in the trades section in this post. The Bruins also drafted Ryan Spooner in the second round that year. In 2011, the Bruins took Doug Hamilton with the #8 pick in the draft. 2012 brought in Malcom Subban. 2013? Six picks made and zero NHL games played amongst the group. 2014 brought David Pastrnak to the Bruins. The jury is out on the 2015 NHL draft. The Bruins had three consecutive first round picks. The general consensus was that two of them were major reaches.
The Bruins made 41 draft picks between 2010 – 2015. Seven of those picks have played more than 10 NHL games. To take it a step further, only Seguin, Hamilton, Pastrnak, and, perhaps, Spooner have made a significant impact in the NHL. 41 picks in six years of drafts and four quality NHL players as a result so far. Seguin fell on their lap. It would be hard to argue that was a great pick. Many experts had him going #1. The Bruins were taking him or Hall no matter what. The Hamilton pick and Pastrnak pick were quality picks. Spooner was a good value in the second round. We’ll find about last year’s picks soon.
As an NHL front office, would it be safe to say that just by pure luck you’re going to hit on a few picks over a six year span? So far, the Bruins have hit on four out of their last 41 if you include Seguin. That’s roughly 10% of their picks becoming quality NHL players. Again, the 2015 draft could bring some talent to the team, but as we stated earlier, we could also have a larger sample size by going back to 2007 to find a common trend.
The Boston Bruins have two players on their standard roster as a result of the past nine years of NHL drafts. David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner. Overall, the Boston Bruins have failed in the NHL Draft under the leadership of Cam Neely, Peter Chiarelli, and Don Sweeney. Two players in nine years of drafts is unacceptable.
Let’s take a look at some of the major trades the Bruins have made since the 2013 Stanley Cup run. The Bruins have made a number of trades, but the focus here will be on the impactful trades as we look at the last two seasons.
2013 – Bruins traded Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Joe Morrow. Where to start. How about this? Since 2013, Tyler Seguin is ranked 4th in the NHL in scoring with 234 points over a three-year span. The three players above him are Sidney Crosby, Jamie, Benn, and Patrick Kane. The age range of those three players is 26-28. Tyler Seguin is 24. Seguin is the best young talent in the NHL.
How about the return? Well, you could make the argument that Eriksson had a very good season this year. He scored 30 goals. However, if you want to use the same criteria as we did with Seguin, Eriksson has 147 points in the past three years which ranks 87th in the league. We’ll get to Reilly Smith later. As we look back three years later, this trade was nothing short of a complete disaster. The Bruins had the next great player in the league. For those who make the argument that Seguin could not play in Boston, he scored 29 goals and led the Bruins in scoring in 2011-12 at age 20. That’s a fact, folks.
Do you think the Bruins would have been a playoff team the past two years with Seguin?
2014 – Bruins traded Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders for 2015 and 2016 second round picks and a conditional third round pick. This move was a salary dump as the Bruins mismanaged their cap and had to move a top-four defenseman as a result. Boychuk was a huge part of the Bruins success in their championship runs. He’s had career years in his two years with the Islanders and has become a top-two defenseman. The Bruins return? That’s next…
2015 – Bruins traded 2015 and 2016 second round picks to Lightning for Brett Connolly. Remember what the Bruins return was for Boychuk? Essentially, at the end of the day, the Bruins got Brett Connolly in return for Johnny Boychuk. Connolly has been a major disappointment. The strength of his game is goal scoring talent. In 76 career games with the Bruins, Connolly has nine goals. Enough said…
2015 – Bruins traded Doug Hamilton to the Flames for #15, #45 and #52 picks in the NHL draft. We’ll see about the return. Zachary Senyshyn was picked at #15. He’s a right winger who was not projected to be a first round pick by most NHL experts. The Bruins moved on from Hamilton at the age of 22 just as he was becoming a top defenseman. He still isn’t even close to his prime. Here’s a rare case where the Bruins got a high-end draft pick right and traded the player before he even reached 23rd birthday. In a calendar year, the Bruins moved on from two top defenseman and replaced them with Brett Connolly. And we’re wondering what happened to the Bruins defense this year?!
2015 – Bruins traded Milan Lucic to the Kings for the #13 pick in the 2015 NHL draft, Colin Miller, and Martin Jones. It was time to move on from Lucic and the return here could be very good. The Bruins traded Jones. Miller was up and down this year, but you can see the potential. With the #13 pick, the Bruins drafted defenseman Jakub Zboril. We’ll see how that works out. This could be a good move for the future. However, this move certainly did not help the Bruins in 2015. Lucic is not the player the Bruins thought he would become. However, he’s still a top-six forward. He scored 20 goals and 55 points for the Kings this year.
2015 – Bruins traded Reilly Smith to the Panthers for Jimmy Hayes. This trade is easy to evaluate as a one for one. Smith had 25 goals and had 25 assists. Hayes had 13 goals and 16 assists. Smith is 25 years old and Hayes is 26. In addition, the Bruins extended Hayes with a three-year contract. It looks like Smith may pan out to be a top-six forward which could have helped justify the Seguin trade. Having said that, Loui Eriksson is a free agent this offseason. If he walks, the Bruins would be left with Jimmy Hayes and Joe Morrow as the long-term return for Tyler Seguin. Oh my…
2016 – Bruins traded a 2016 fourth round pick and a 2017 second round pick for Lee Stempniak. Bruins traded a 2016 third round pick, 2017 fifth round pick, and Anthony Camara for John-Michael Liles. These were trade deadline moves to work to help the team in the short term. Liles is 33. Stempniak is 35. The Bruins approach during the previous offseason was to trade talented players for draft picks. Less than a year later, they traded second and third round picks for players who are not part of their future. The direction with moves has been inconsistent. Stempniak and Liles did not make much of an impact this year as the Bruins failed to make the playoffs.
2013 – Bruins resign Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask to eight-year contracts and resign Dennis Seidenberg to a four-year contract. Bergeron was a no brainer. He’s the heart and soul of the Bruins. His number will be raised to the TD Garden rafters one day as an all-time great Bruin. He’s the best defensive forward in the league and he scored over 30 goals this year. Credit is given to the Bruins here for making this happen. Rask was coming off a career year in which he won the Vezina Trophy. The deal certainly hasn’t been what the Bruins expected so far, but it’s hard to fault the Bruins for signing an elite goalie. The term is longer than they would have liked, but that’s what it took to keep him. Seidenberg’s game has been on the decline since his contract was signed.
2015 – Bruins sign Matt Beleskey to a five year contract. Beleskey plays hard. He has toughness and grit that has been lacking on the Bruins overall. He scored 15 goals and 22 assists this year. Is he worth 5 years for $19 million though?
Since 2013, the Bruins have moved on from the following core players: Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, and Milan Lucic. These players have been replaced with Loui Eriksson, Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey, and Colin Miller. Through the draft, the Bruins have just two players on their standard roster in David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg are well past their prime and it’s showing. The Bruins defense has gone from the best in the league to bottom-tier. Oh yeah, and remember the consistent fourth line of Greg Campbell, Shawn Thornton, and Daniel Paille? They’re gone too.
The Bruins let Chiarelli go. Neely promoted his assistant in Don Sweeney. Neely has overseen all of the above moves and watched the roster talent decline year after year. Remember, the Neely regime didn’t draft Partrice Bergeron. They didn’t draft David Krejci. They didn’t draft Brad Marchand. They didn’t draft Tuukka Rask. What talent has this front office brought in? Is Pastrnak going to be moved like Seguin and Hamilton were?
Ask yourself this question: Is Claude Julien a worse coach than he was two years ago? Or, has the level of talent on the ice been severely downgraded?
When Bill Parcells was head coach of the Patriots, he stated, “they want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
Claude Julien doesn’t shop for the groceries. He hasn’t cooked a four course meal in two years.