Bruin’s Misconceived Notion Of Bigger=Better

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By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

The Big Bad Bruins. Everyone who’s not a fan despises them; everyone who is a fan loves them. From the 1970s to the Cam Neely teams and even the more recent Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara led squads. They were fun to watch and most of all, the teams played well. But over the past five or so years, Bruins fans and management have been obsessed with that same narrative in the current Bs team. But that narrative has been forced time and time again, and it’s time to stop fantasizing, trying to replicate those teams. 

The fact of the matter is that every single move the Bruins have made in an attempt to get bigger has backfired. Now I would love a guy like either of the Tkachuks or even a Brendan Lemieux type player, but that doesn’t mean make a stupid move to acquire someone big, as the Bruins have made. Let’s go through all these recent attempts to get bigger.

Zac Rinaldo for a 3rd Round Pick

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I mean, I have zero, and I mean zero idea why the price for a guy with eight goals in 223 career games is a 3rd round pick. It’s not like a 3rd rounder is some amazing asset, it’s not, but when Cody McLeod went for a 7th just last year, anything above a 5th seems preposterous. And as a shock to absolutely nobody, Rinaldo put up a single goal and two assists in 52 games with Boston before being sent to Providence, never to be seen in a Boston uniform again. 

Jimmy Hayes for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard

Boston Bruins v Washington Capitals
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I guess this had a little more sense to it, but not much more. Jimmy Hayes was coming off a career year, where he hit highs in goals (19), assists (16), and points (35). And at the age of 25, there was still a thought that the Dorchester, MA native, could be in store for yet another career year when he got to Boston. But as you all know, the risk did not pay off. After a decent 13 goal, 29 point season, Hayes was nowhere to be found. He put up just two goals in the 2016-17 campaign and failed to get suited up in their 1st round exit to the Ottawa Senators. A real shame given how good of a guy he is.

Instead of giving up a 3rd rounder, the Bruins elected to deal the young skilled forward Reilly Smith. He had already eclipsed Hayes’ career-high with 20 goals and 51 points with the Bruins and didn’t look out of place in their eventual playoff loss to the Montreal Canadiens. But following a 40 point season where Boston failed to make the playoffs, Bruins’ management thought it was a good idea to deal him to get bigger. And wow, did that backfire.

Since his departure from Boston, Reilly Smith fits the EXACT bill the Bruins need right now, a dynamic top-six forward. In 53 playoff games, the Ontario native has tallied 15 goals and 50 points all while helping the Golden Knights reach a Stanley Cup Final. But he’s small, so he can’t produce in the playoffs, right? He’d be the perfect winger to complement Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (as he has in the past) and allow David Pastrnak to play with David Krejci, all at a great $5 million a year price.

Signing Matt Beleskey

Boston Bruins v Anaheim Ducks
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After an excellent playoff and 22 goal season, the Bruins decided to lock up the free-agent winger to a four-year deal. The Matt Beleskey era didn’t even start poorly. He didn’t quite replicate his goal-scoring in Anaheim (tallying 15) but ended up hitting a career-high 37 points. Unfortunately, the Bruins failed to make the playoffs that season, and it did not get any better the following year for Beleskey.

The Bruins ended up making it back to the postseason that next season, but it was no thanks to Beleskey. The big lefty scored just three goals in 49 games, and even with all the injuries the B’s had upfront in the first round of the playoffs, only found his way to three games against the Senators. The next year he was shipped to the Rangers with half his salary retained as a cap dump in the Rick Nash trade. His cap hit of 1.9 million just came off the books this offseason after straining the Bs for years. 

Signing David Backes

Image result for david backes
( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA Today Sports )

Yet another failure of a free agent signing by Don Sweeney. David Backes was one of my favorite players in the entire league when he was in St. Louis. He was fearless, hit everything in sight, was a tremendous leader, and added skill to his gritty style of play. But after all the mileage on the then 32-year-old’s body, a five-year deal was a disaster waiting to happen. A two or three would’ve been perfect. 

Similar to Beleskey, Backes started off pretty well in Boston. In his first two seasons (131 games), Minnesota native scored 31 goals and 71 points, good for about 20 goals and 45 points per 82 games, which is just about what you’d expect in a lesser-role playing on the 2nd and 3rd line. But as expected, the former captain took a big step down in his play.

In his third year, he bounced around the bottom-six and put up the lowest point total in his career (20). After getting scratched in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals against his former team (still don’t agree with the call), you knew the writing was on the wall for the veteran. It took the Bruins until the trade deadline to deal Backes (with $1.5 of the $6 million he’s owed a year) along with a first-rounder and prospect Axel Andersson to the Ducks for Ondrej Kase. Yet another contract that will hurt the Bruins for years to come.  

Nick Ritchie for Danton Heinen

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So there’s still time for this trade to turn around, but it didn’t get off to a great start. Despite being a versatile player that could realistically find a role on any of the Bruin’s four forward lines, the Bs shipped Heinen to the Ducks. In return, the Bruins received Nick Ritchie. The guy is hard as nails and is never afraid to drop the mitts, but he didn’t do much for Boston aside from that in his short stint. He always seemed to be a step behind the play and didn’t gel with the team and management would’ve liked. The good thing? Ritchie has an offseason and training camp to get in better shape and generate some chemistry. Let’s hope this move doesn’t go the same way the past few have.

As for moves for bigger players that HAVE actually worked out for Sweeney? It’s basically all bottom-six guys signing for close to the league minimum. Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, and Riley Nash if you put him in that same realm, but I think that’s honestly it. The B’s just seem to always try to get bigger but never do it the right way. However, I will still commend them for not giving Lucic his big deal.

I’m really not sure what else to expect from Don Sweeney this offseason. There were rumblings of an Anders Bjork for Alex Chaisson swap, which I would’ve HATED, and I probably would’ve had to add another excerpt to this article if it went through. But this offseason so far? It’s been ok. They haven’t made a bad move yet, and I love the addition of Craig Smith, but it’s been a bit too quiet for my liking. It’s a long offseason, and I hope Sweeney has a plan. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t make a move to just make a move, and we see a better product on the ice next year.

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