By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn
It is no secret that the Bruins like local guys. Part of that comes down to the management, but it also comes from the fans. In New England, we have an intense pride when someone from our region elevates themself to the highest level of sports. When one of those players happens to make their way back to one of our hometown teams, that intense pride is exponentially multiplied.
It is also no secret that the fans in Boston are a bit crazy. It can be a really tough place to play if you are not performing well, but when the fans like a player, we will pretty much defend them to the ends of the Earth (sometimes to a fault). So, when a local kid like Ryan Donato got his shot with the Bruins in 2018, with all of New England rooting for him to become a superstar, why did he fall short?
It is easy to think, “well, he just was not very good.” That is partially true. Donato had a good stretch when he was first called up at the end of the 2017-2018 season. He scored five goals in 12 games after finishing his college career. He made a decent impact on the team but was unable to score in the playoffs, something he still is yet to do in the NHL. The next season though, he managed to score just six goals in the first 34 games of the season before being traded to the Minnesota Wild for the pride of Weymouth, Charlie Coyle.
Yes, he was not great in his second season. However, who is to say that if the Bruins hung on to him, he could not have turned it around and had a good second season? Plenty of talented young players have had disappointing starts to their careers and then found their stride later on. Unfortunately, though, he was an asset that other teams saw value in, in a season in which the Bruins needed to make a move in order to be a legit team. It worked pretty well, too, as the Bruins came up one win short of being world champions.
Did the Bruins give up on Donato too quickly? The numbers would suggest that letting go of Donato was a good decision. Since leaving the Bruins, he has scored just 90 points in 208 games with the Wild, Sharks, and Kraken. We will never get to know now if Donato could have been a contributor for the Bruins or if he would have stalled out just as he has in the Western Conference. To be fair to him, though, he was not exactly playing on great teams out there. Maybe he would have found success playing in a different role with the Bruins.
I think if the Bruins had given Ryan Donato a chance on a line with David Pastrnak, maybe there is a chance we might have seen him turn into the player he was at Harvard. We cannot forget, though, that this was during the time when the “perfection line” was nearly unstoppable. Breaking up that line to take a chance on an unproven rookie was not an option.
Ultimately, I do not think it was necessarily Ryan Donato’s fault that he did not succeed in his first full season in Boston. Even when adding the games he played at the end of the previous year, he still did not get to play a full season with the Bruins. I really believe there is a chance that if he had more time, it could have worked for him here. As it is, though, Donato had a tough start to the wrong season, and the Bruins’ management made a good move to acquire a really solid center. Still, I find myself wondering what could have been.
*All stats in this article come courtesy of hockey-reference.com*