Bruins’ Sweeney Is Proving He’s A Top GM: Part III – Drafting

        (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

So we’ve already established the fact that Don Sweeney had a near complete rebuild to undertake when he took over the position of Bruins General Manager. After trading away some popular veterans and having some rocky times through free agency, Sweeney found himself with some low-risk veteran players, and a number of draft picks in the early rounds over a number of seasons. With a clear strategy of “draft and develop,” the most defining aspect of Sweeney’s career as GM for the B’s organization is how well do the players selected on draft day ultimately perform/pan out. Knowing that none of his draft selections have had a complete career, we can only assess the players based on their performances at their current levels and where they stand in regards to an NHL roster spot — regardless of which organization they are currently with. So how has Sweeney fared so far in this most crucial aspect of his position?

Drafting

Even though the 2016 draft was the first draft where Sweeney carried the “General Manager” title, the 2015 draft was the first one that Sweeney really had a hand in the players who were chosen. So going to back to the first draft Sweeney heavily participated in with this organization, how has he performed and where are his draft selections now?

2015

Jakub Zboril                          Jake DeBrusk                                        Zachary Senyshyn

Brandon Carlo                      Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson                  Jeremy Lauzon

Dan Vladar                            Jesse Gabrielle                                      Cameron Hughes

Jack Becker

After some wheeling and dealing — combined with some down seasons for the Flames and Kings — Sweeney found himself with three consecutive picks in the first round along with three picks in the second round for the 2015 draft. Many felt that a combination from the six picks in the top 61 would be enough to boost Boston about 8-10 picks higher in the first round so they could select the top defensive prospect Noah Hanifin, a native of Norwood, Mass. Unfortunately, none of the teams above them were willing to help Sweeney in such a manner — causing Hanifin to be selected 5th overall by Carolina. Sweeney thus found himself with three consecutive selections to make.

Jake DeBrusk Photos - 83 of 91(Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Zenyshyn will forever have their careers linked to one another as Sweeney picked each one at 13th, 14th, and 15th overall. Senyshyn has been a bit derailed in his development due to various injuries, however, he along with Zboril have shown great strides in their growth and both competed for spots on the NHL roster this season. Even though they are both starting in Providence, they will be able to offer great depth this season and as veteran pieces start to fall off the roster to free agency. Debrusk, on the other hand, posted 43 points over 70 games last season and won himself a spot on the second line next to David Krejci. The biggest surprise from this group came from 20-year-old Brandon Carlo stepping up in the 2016-17 season and stealing a top-four spot on the blue line fresh out of the draft.

 (Photo Credit: providencebruins.com)

Coming out of a seven-round draft, any general manager would be thrilled to have two NHL regulars and two future NHLers only three years later. Sweeney, on the other hand, put himself in a better position than that by having six remaining selections. With those other selections, he chose Dan Vladar, who is showing incredible growth at every level and will be a regular in Providence with Zane McIntyre this season and will most likely surpass him as the next NHL goaltender behind Rask. If his development path continues as it has been over these past 3 years, it is clear that he currently stands as the heir apparent to Tuukka. Lauzon also has shown consistent development and growth even though he was quickly designated for Providence out of the preseason, there is currently a nice logjam on this team along the blue line that means Lauzon can focus on fine-tuning the finer points of his game and wait for his chance to steal an opening in the lineup.

With Forsbacka-Karlsson and Gabrielle joining Zboril, Lauzon, Senyshyn, and Vladar in Providence, this would be a fantastic draft (despite the recent attitude problems they may be dealing with when it comes to Gabrielle). Staying off the radar have been Hughes and Becker have been playing their game in the NCAA while Hughes joins the Baby Bruins for the first year of his ECL this season. Compile these strong, young players with the future picks that Sweeney and the organization will make, some will certainly be moved for picks and other pieces – that won’t mean they were bad draft picks.

2016

Charlie McAvoy                               Trent Frederic                                  Ryan Lindgren

Joona Koppanen                             Cameron Clarke                                Oskar Steen

After having (and making) 10 selections during the 2015 draft, having only six selections in 2016 seemed like so few in comparison. After finishing up his career at Boston University,  1st round pick Charlie McAvoy skipped over Juniors and the AHL as the Bruins had to dig deep into their blue line depth during the playoffs in 2016-17. This caused them to burn the first season of McAvoy’s ELC. His 3 points in 6 games and average 26:12 of ice-time during the playoffs, was enough to prove that even at only 19 years old he was ready for the NHL. Now that he is a top-pairing defenseman, partnered with Zdeno Chara, and his abilities on the power play and 5-on-5 have solidified him as an anchor on this blueline for many more years to come.

 (Photo Credit: Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Like JFK and Studnicka, Trent Frederic performed admirably in the preseason this season while vying for the third-line center position. Ultimately, like JFK, he was sent down to Providence, but Frederic proved that he too is not far from being ready to make the jump to the NHL level. With Bergeron and Krejci having 4 and 3 years remaining on their contracts JFK, Studnicka, and Frederic all have the ability to take their time and develop their game without the pressure of needing to be NHL-ready right now. Even if Clark, Koppanen, Lidgren, and Steen don’t develop as projected, this draft would already be a success for Sweeney as McAvoy and Frederic look like they will be key pieces in the NHL for many more seasons. I don’t see all four of these guys making it to the NHL in a Bruins sweater as there is so much competition in the organization. That means they could be dealt away for either draft picks or in a package for veteran talent.

2017

Urho Vaakanainen                       Jack Studnicka                               Jeremy Swayman

Cedric Pare                                    Victor Berglund                            Daniel Bukac

(Photo credit: bostonbruins.com)

So far from this draft class, the first three picks Sweeney made are really standing out, and this group is being led by Jack Studnicka. At only 19, Studnicka put himself in the running for the open third-line center position after just five games in Providence last season. In his three seasons with the Oshawa Generals, Studnicka has scored 26, 52, and 72 points while playing in 62, 64, and 66 games played, and he has averaged slightly more than a point per game for most of his career at all levels. Although he made a great push for the open third-line center role this season, you can’t read too much into his being sent back to Oshawa because he isn’t even eligible to play for the Bruins in Providence.

Again, when it comes to the number of people currently battling for NHL roster spots, the benefit for Urho Vaakanainen is that he can work on his game at his own pace. He has proven thus far to be a solid two-way player on the blue line, which is what the Bruins will need as more defenders are due up for contracts. The 19-year-old defender moves the puck well and makes quick decisions and will have at least one season in Providence to fine-tune the skill set he already possesses. His progression has allowed him to make the roster going into this season as Torey Krug will be starting the season on IR with a re-aggravated ankle injury. Swayman, also only 19 years of age, is working his way through the University of Maine and his progress made the Bruins confident enough in their depth between the pipes they subjected Zane McIntyre to waivers earlier this preseason. McIntyre cleared through the waiver process and will split the time with Dan Vladar as projected; however, his clearing waivers could be a case of an unwritten rule between GMs to not claim other teams waived players as they cut down to 25 players going into the season. If he gets called up during the season to replace an injured Rask or Halak, I’m not sure McIntyre clears waivers again.

2018

Axel Andersson                               Jakub Lauko                                     Curtis Hall

Dustyn McFaul                                  Pavel Shen

Sweeney made it clear going into the draft that he was going to try to swing a deal to obtain a 1st round pick as he was without one going into Dallas because of the deal that brought in Rick Nash. Having the fewest picks of any draft to date, Sweeney was able to steal Axel Andersson and Jakub Lauko. Out of nowhere, Lauko was this season’s Brandon Carlo, and at only 18, he made the roster out of the preseason. Lauko is able to play the left side and the center positions while offering solid skating, speed, and a shot that can find the back of the net.

To recap; Don Sweeney has drafted a total of 27 players across his four drafts with the Boston Bruins. Of the 27 players, he already has FIVE players in the NHL with McAvoy, Carlo, and DeBrusk playing crucial roles on this Bruins team, with another 10-12 players who are vying heavily for NHL roster spots or will be over the next year or so. Presuming none of the other players develop their talents fully (an unlikely possibility) that would put Sweeney at having found 15 NHL players (let’s be conservative) out of 27 draft picks. That would be a success rate of about 56%. Although that doesn’t seem like a very high percentage, we will certainly need to re-evaluate these draft classes in another year or two to have a final number. Given the short period of time that has passed since their selection this is an incredible draft rate to fine NHL talent, and more importantly, Sweeney has been able to identify players at areas of need before a critical moment for the organization.

Over the next five seasons (assuming no trades are made) Sweeney will need to have replacements for; Bergeron, Krejci, Chara, Miller, Krug, Backes, and Rask. It would see that Sweeney has potentially been able to check off a number of these slots with the likes of; JFK, Studnicka, Carlo, Vaakanainen, McAvoy, Frederic, and Vladar. This is going to be an incredibly fun season for watching the Boston Bruins, however, it will be just as exciting to watch the Baby Bruins down in Providence as we look to see which of these youngsters can push some of the veteran players (like Kampfer, Wagner, Backes, or Nordstrom) out of a job.

Bruins’ Sweeney Is Proving He’s A Top GM: Part II – Trading

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney(Photo credit: John Wilcox)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

As we continue to dissect just how good Don Sweeney has been during his time as the general manager for the Bruins, it is important to remember that he had to rebuild a large majority of this organization while continuing to keep the team on the ice good enough to contend for a playoff spot. Sweeney also recognized that by not completely dismantling the team, he would not have a season that would earn a top 5 overall draft selection for the team. He knew Instead, he would have to take a different approach. He determined that the quickest way to bring a high volume of young talent would be to trade for it and get it through the draft. To increase his chances at the draft he knew he would need to acquire early round draft selections. Let’s take an in-depth look at the deals he has made thus far in his career and see if he has “lost” as many of the deals that fans seem to think.

Trades

After taking the reigns over from Peter Chiarelli, Don Sweeney pulled off 5 trades in a matter of one week. From June 25th through July 1st, Sweeney dealt away Carl Soderberg, Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith, Milan Lucic, and the contract of Marc Savard. During this time he also brought in Martin Jones and after 4 days with the club, moved him out to the west coast in a deal with San Jose. Since this rapid succession of dealing, Sweeney hasn’t brought in many names of high significance until this past season when he traded for Rick Nash. With many fans being very critical of the pieces that Sweeney dealt away, let’s take a look at just how supposedly bad these trades have been.

2015

  • Carl Soderberg to Colorado Avalanche in exchange for; 2016 6th Round Pick
  • Dougie Hamilton to Calgary Flames in exchange for; 2015 1st Round Pick and two 2nd Round picks
  • Milan Lucic to Los Angeles Kings in exchange for; Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and 2015 1st Round Pick
  • Martin Jones to San Jose Sharks in exchange for; Sean Kuraly and 2016 1st Round Pick
  • Reilly Smith and Marc Savard (his contract) to Florida Panthers in exchange for; Jimmy Hayes

Sweeney and Neely made it clear that their plan for the rebuild was through drafting and developing. So, in these two deals Sweeney brought in a total of 4 additional draft picks for the organization giving them two selections in the first round and two additional picks in the second round. With Dougie Hamilton being so alienated that he no longer wanted to be in Boston and Carl Soderberg making it known he would test his value in free agency, these two deals brought in a lot more than they would have gotten had the two players walked during free agency.

(Photo Credit: Christian Petersen)

Even though Martin Jones has proven to be a solid NHL caliber goaltender, Sweeney made the correct choice in flipping the 26-year-old netminder to San Jose in exchange for Sean Kuraly and a 1st round pick in 2016. This was the correct decision because the Bruins already had Tuukka Rask locked in for another 6 years, a proven elite NHL goaltender. With only a handful of NHL experience, Jones being jettisoned for picks and a prospect was the better way to go, especially since the draft pick allowed them more options for youth and Kuraly (the prospect) could help fill a need at the center position over the next few years.

Despite a very successful season playing next to Marchand and Bergeron, moving Reilly Smith was certainly a move of selling while a player was hot. His 91 points in 163 games with the Bruins was enough to package him with Marc Savard’s contract that would carry a $4.27 million cap hit. Despite being a fan favorite, it was known for a while that Savard would never skate again, and his contract would help Florida hit the cap floor that season so obtaining a 25-year-old winger who just posted 35 points in 72 games could have paid off well.

(Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett)

After his first week of trading and dealing, Sweeney left himself with three picks in the first round and three picks in the second round of the 2015 draft. As it would turn out, the three picks in the first round would all end up being consecutive, and between the six picks in the top 61, many thought they had enough ammunition to trade up for top defensive prospect Noah Hanifin. Instead, they came out of Sunrise, Florida with six players: Jakub Zboril, Jake Debrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, and Jeremy Lauzon. This will be a crucial season for these youngsters to prove how good Sweeney’s first week of trading really went.

2016

  • 2016 4th round pick plus 2017 2nd round pick to New Jersey Devils in exchange for; Lee Stempniak
  • Anthony Camara plus a 2016 3rd round pick and 2017 5th round pick to Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for; John-Michael Liles

After his busy 2015 season, Sweeney was able to spare a couple draft picks over the next couple of seasons to bring in some veteran players to see if he could push along the young players and lead them to success. With the bleak play of Beleskey, Connolly, Loui Eriksson, and the Reilly Smith-replacement Hayes, it was clear that this team was starting to lose some fans. Sweeney brought in a couple of veterans who could help in the short term to bridge the gap until some of the young players were ready for consistent NHL playing time. Stempniak posted 10 points in his 19 games with the organization while John-Michael Liles was a key depth piece for Claude Julien to play on the blue line for 53 games.

2017

  • 2018 Conditional 6th Round pick to Winnipeg Jets; in exchange for Drew Stafford

With a team that was starting to show early signs of being ready to compete for a cup sooner than originally expected, Sweeney still had veteran players who were not playing up to their full capabilities. With young players like Noel Acciari, Austin Czarnik, and Danton Heinen playing out of position, the Bruins needed a wing forward who could help relieve the pressure from the young guys. Only costing Sweeney a single, late-round draft selection, the acquisition of Stafford was a perfect example of the low risk, high reward type move that Sweeney now leans towards when it comes to veteran players.

2018

  • Rob O’Gara plus 2018 3rd round pick to New York Rangers; in exchange for Nick Holden
  • Frank Vatrano to Florida Panathers; in exchange for 2018 3rd round pick
  • Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey plus 2018 1st round pick and 2019 7th round pick to New York Rangers; in exchange for Rick Nash
  • 2019 Conditional 5th round pick to Chicago Blackhawks; in exchange for Tommy Wingels
  • Adam McQuaid to New York Rangers; in exchange for Steve Kampfer plus 2019 4th round pick and a conditional 7th round pick

After a season that saw Sweeney and Cassidy dig deep into the farm system for defensemen in the playoffs, Nick Holden was brought in late in the season to add more depth at a crucial position as the team looked to compete in the playoffs again. The 3rd round draft pick might have been a little too high for a player like Holden. However, the loss of O’Gara was minuscule as he had never been able to make the jump from the AHL and his roster position in Providence had become more crucial for the up-and-comers. This deal, while perhaps a slight overpay, also paved the way and established a relationship with the Rangers for more trades in the future.

Like Jimmy Hayes, the 23-year-old Vatrano was a native of Massachusetts. He showed a lot of promise when he was first drafted and started his way up through the system. Injuries limited the forward to only 108 games over his three seasons in Boston. After a couple of injuries, it became clear that he was consistently getting passed over by other players, so he too became expendable as the B’s organization was preparing to see an influx of young talent coming up from juniors. These youngsters are also why Tommy Wingels was not resigned after his 18 games in Boston. He provided some depth and versatility while he was here, but it was clear he wasn’t in the long-term plans for the team.

The slight overpay to get Nick Holden out of the Rangers organization clearly helped get the ball rolling on more trading between the two clubs, as I alluded to earlier. This allowed Sweeney to use the value of Spooner’s built-up performance on the power play and then combine it with a 1st round pick and a late round (conditional) pick to get the under-performing Beleskey contract off the books. With only 45 points over 143 games, and a plus/minus of -12, it was clear that Beleskey just wasn’t working in Boston. With almost $12M remaining on his deal for 3 more seasons, it seemed near impossible to clear his contract as his value was so low. But, being able to subtract the Beleskey situation and bring in a top-talent like Rick Nash helped push Sweeney and his team into a long playoff run.

Sweeney has made obtaining draft picks a priority during many of his trades–an area you can now see shows just how good of a job he’s been doing with the organization. The trades made have afforded the B’s GM a number of solid draft picks in the early rounds. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what round a player gets selected in, as we know firsthand from the career-best play of No. 37 Patrice Bergeron. Once selected, all draft picks have an unpredictable road to the NHL. But in the case of Sweeney, as I’ve laid out, he’s scoring a lot more than hitting the post.

As for my next post, Part III of my series will focus on how we’ll finally start to see “the big picture” of Sweeney’s draft plans and how they’ll impact the team this season and beyond.

Bruins’ Sweeney Is Proving He’s A Top GM: Part I – Free Agency

Don Sweeney - Steven Senne(Photo credit: Steven Senne)

Written By: Chris Nosek  |  Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

Last season (in my first article with the Black N’ Gold) I wrote a piece about Don Sweeney’s patience being a major asset to this organization during the 2017-18 offseason. Now, just under a year later, he is proving even more that he was and still is the best person for the GM position in the Bruins organization. With the moves he has made combined with the ones he is making now, Sweeney is currently setting up the Bruins to be contenders not just for the 2018-19 season, but for the next 10-plus years. During these years, Sweeney will widely be regarded as one of the league’s top general managers as well. There are many Bruins fans who will completely disagree with this thought because of certain moves he has made; so let’s take a dive into each move he has made during his time leading this franchise so far. In this series, we will examine each way he has acquired players and see just how successful he has been for this team.

Free Agency

Clearly, free agency has been the weakness for Sweeney and his staff. However, when you look at the players they have brought in, there has been a clear shift in the type of player targeted. If you examine each free agent class year after year, it becomes obvious that they are learning from their decisions.

2015

Matt Beleskey                       Jimmy Hayes                       Gregory Campbell

Ryan Spooner                       Matt Bartkowski                 Brett Connolly

Matt Irwin                             Jonas Gustavsson                Christopher Breen

Matt Lindblad                      David Warsofsky                 Paul Carey

Rob Flick

In his first offseason, Sweeney targeted one of the biggest names on the market in Matt Beleskey and was able to land him for 5 years. At the age of only 26, Beleskey looked like he could bring to the Bruins lineup a physical style of play that the team hadn’t had on the left side of David Krejci since the days of Milan Lucic. Hayes, Connolly, Bartkowski, Campbell, Warsofsky, Lindblad, Carey, and Flick were all extended with Hayes having been brought in originally via trade (more to come on that later).

(Photo credit: Claus Andersen)

The biggest flops in this class were Beleskey, Connolly, and Hayes. Although these guys never really found their game here in Boston, we are left to wonder if they would have fared better under the coaching of Bruce Cassidy instead of Claude Julien. It quickly became clear with his future signing that Sweeney learned from these problematic veterans and would shy away from them in the future.

2016

David Backes                         Anton Khudobin                      John Michael-Liles

Riley Nash                              Dominic Moore                        Joe Morrow

Brian Ferlin                           Chris Casto                                Alex Grant

Tyler Randell

Showing a different approach than in 2015, Sweeney shifted to targeting veterans who would have to fight for a roster spot and would have to earn their keep. Khudobin was brought back after Gustavsson showed he just wasn’t cut out for the NHL level, but “Dobby” still had to beat out McIntyre and Subban for the backup role behind Rask. Moore, Morrow, and Nash were all brought in to compete for starting positions, and both Moore and Nash not only earned them but also kept their spots. In fact, Nash not only flourished in his second year with the team but also saw time filling in for Bergeron on the top line for a handful of games.

 (Photo credit: Kim Klement)

With Backes signing the only contract longer than 2 years and for more than $2.5 million (his contract was for 5 years at $6 million per year), he is clearly the biggest risk in this group. Having just come off his 10th season with St. Louis, Backes posted 45 points in 79 games. With versatility and durability, Backes was clearly brought in to put with the youngsters as the third-line center while having the ability to play the wing as well. With 460 points in 727 career games in St. Louis, Backes played in all 82 games three times and at least 78 games six times, including all 48 in the locked-out and shortened 2012-13 season. After only 38 points in his first season in Boston, last season he was unable to stay healthy and ended up missing almost two months after requiring surgery that removed part of his colon. The positive note for Backes’ 2017-18 season is that he was able to post 33 points in only 57 games — a much-improved scoring rate over his first season with the club. This third season, which has seen him come into camp more lean and agile, will be the defining season of this contract for both player and GM.

2017

David Pastrnak                           Ryan Spooner                             Malcolm Subban

Zane McIntyre                             Ken Agostino                              Tim Schaller

Paul Postma                                 Brian Gionta                               Austin Czarnik

With a free agent class that saw big-name players like Justin Williams, Thomas Vanek, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Radulov, and even Joe Thornton, many were looking for Don Sweeney to bring in one of these top guys to fill in some of the major holes on this team. Instead, Sweeney negotiated extensions with Pastrnak, Spooner, Subban, McIntyre, Schaller, and Czarnik. With one of the league’s top right winger talents under the age of 25 now locked up for the next 5 years, Sweeney could shift his focus to the young guys in the system to figure out which ones to continue extending and which ones could be packaged together to bring in other pieces.

Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy, left, smiles after his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Boston, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Photo credit: Charles Krupa)

So did Sweeney make the right decision to allow the youngsters to play instead of bringing some of the veteran names? To find out how “bad” this decision was let’s compare the offensive production from the two groups; players who Boston could have had and the players who Boston put on the ice this past season.

Group A: These players signed deals as UFA’s last offseason and were mentioned as players Sweeney should pursue.

Group B: This group of forwards played for the Bruins last season next to Krejci and on the third-line wing.

Group A: Justin Williams, Thomas Vanek, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Marleau

Group B: Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Rick Nash, Ryan Spooner, David Backes

The players in Group A put together a great season with a combined 183 points over 325 games played, giving the collective great average of 0.563 points per game. This is a very respectable figure; however, compare it to the almost identical pace of 0.568 points per game that the Black and Gold (Group B) were able to put up with the crew they put on the ice.

2018

John Moore                                     Jaroslav Halak                             Sean Kuraly

Joakim Nordstrom                         Colby Cave                                   Chris Wagner

Anton Blidh                                     Mark McNeill                              Cody Goloubef

Coming into this new season, it is clear that Sweeney wants to continue to build off the success from the young players who stepped up last season rather than spend money on big-name free agents like he did early in his career. With Kuraly being re-signed, it is clear he has earned himself a starting role as one of the bottom-line centers. With Cave and Blidh being brought back for depth in the AHL, Nordstrom and Wagner will be given a chance to win NHL roles but need to be careful because they have young guys nipping at their heels for the same NHL spots.

 (Photo credit: Carlos Osorio)

Sweeney did manage to book meetings with the two biggest names on the market this offseason in John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk. With the contracts these two players received, it would have been outrageous for Sweeney to do what would have been required to bring one of them in. Kovalchuk landed with Los Angeles for 3 years and has a $6.25 million cap hit each season, and managed to get a no-movement clause for the first two seasons of the deal. Tavares received an 8-year contract with a cap hit of $11 million each season and a full no-movement clause for its entirety from his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. Either of these contracts would have been horrendous for the Bruins to take on and would have been much more disastrous than the Beleskey contract, Hayes contract, and even the Backes contract ever could have been for this team.

Sweeney may not bring in the biggest name every season, nor does he make the biggest “splash” in free agency every year. He has, however, proven that he learns from his mistakes, using due diligence and patience to ensure the free agents signed have a higher reward than the risk they carry. With the free agency side of his role clearly improving year after year, Sweeney will need to prove himself in all aspects of the job in order to put this Bruins organization in the best position for success moving forward.

And as you’ll next read in Part II of this series, a top GM in the NHL like Sweeney knows that acquiring asset and players via trade can be just as effective as free agency on a team’s present and future.

COMING SOON: PART II

Where Do The Bruins Stand In The Rebuilding Process?

(Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

Back in 2015, the Bruins promoted Don Sweeney to be their new General Manager and start a rebuilding process for the organization. Now that we are entering his third season in the role, it is time we start to evaluate where in the rebuilding process the organization lies. Is this rebuild going in the right direction and if not, what changes should be made to potentially “right the ship?” As fans, all we want is a team that is in the playoffs each year with a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. With the early success in the process this past season, many would say we should be competing for a cup this season or next. So how accurate is this?

First, let’s remember exactly what the team looked like when Don Sweeney took over the reins from Peter Chiarelli back in 2015. Despite being only two seasons removed from its second trip to the Cup finals over a 3-year span, the situation was a lot more tumultuous than it appeared. Peter Chiarelli had just traded Tyler Seguin and Johnny Boychuk, both of whom were expected to be big pieces in keeping the success of the organization moving forward. 

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 19: Johnny Boychuk #55 of the Boston Bruins takes the shot against the Montreal Canadiens at the TD Garden on December 19, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)(Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

Seguin was a young, top-line center who proved he was versatile enough to also play on the wing as he did so next to Bergeron and Marchand with great success. Boychuk was a solid second-pairing defender who played well in his own end and brought some great physicality and a hard slap shot in the offensive zone. If these were the only two setbacks that Sweeney had to overcome the rebuild would not have been such a big deal and would be expected to be much shorter in time. Instead, he also inherited a disgruntled Dougie Hamilton, who made it known he wanted out of Boston and a completely alienated Alexander Khokhlachev. Khoko was so disgusted with the organization that he decided to go play in Russia rather stay in Boston.

With other veteran guys starting to dwindle in their play, it seemed like a daunting task for Sweeney to retool this franchise and keep it competitive. Sweeney and Neely soon made it clear that the plan was to stockpile draft picks and as much young talent as possible. Between the trades of Hamilton, Lucic, and Carl Soderberg; Sweeney was able to bring in a total of seven draft selections, and all but one of them would be in the first two rounds of the draft. He also brought in young players like Colin Miller, Jimmy Hayes, Sean Kuraly, and Martin Jones in these deals — all of whom were 25 years of age or younger. Jones, Kuraly, and Miller have all proved to be solid players, and overall these moves paid off for Boston — or would have if they didn’t lose Miller in the expansion draft to Vegas or flipped Jones to San Jose. 

Photo: The Bruins surprised everybody when they took (left to right) Jakub Zboril, Zachary Senyshyn, and Jake DeBrusk with picks 13-15 at the 2015 NHL Draft. (Courtesy of Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)(Photo credit: Dave Sandford)

After all his wheeling and dealing was done, Sweeney ended up with the 13th, 14th, and 15th overall draft picks in 2015 along with three picks in the 2nd round. This one draft resulted in the Bruins taking home 10 players in; Jakub Zboril, Jake Debrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzen, Dan Vladar, Jesse Gabrielle, Cameron Hughes, and Jack Becker. So far with Carlo and Debrusk proving to be solid NHL players and Zboril, Senyshyn, Lauzen, Gabrielle, and Fosbacka-Karlsson all developing nicely, this season will be the most important for this Bruins rebuild. Right now there aren’t enough spaces for all those players to make the NHL club this season, but over the next 2-3 seasons a lot more spots will open up for them to step in.

Although he wasn’t named to the general manager position until 2015, Don Sweeney was the assistant GM and mostly oversaw the development of the young players. Taking a huge role in the 2014 draft, Sweeney was a big reason why this team ended up drafting; David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, and Emil Johansson. Heinen and Pastrnak play two of the biggest roles on the team right now, and Donato and Bjork have shown flashes of brilliance but needed a little more time to develop their bodies. Those four are projected to be on the roster for the 2018-19 season, and this type of drafting success is exactly what ANY team could hope for.

Although this current rebuild is not yet complete, it is looking like Don Sweeney could turn what could have been a 5-year rebuild process and done it in only three seasons. This preseason we will give us answers on the growth and development for the remaining draft class from 2014 and 2015. Next season will show us how the remaining players from the 2016 and 2017 class will project; with successes coming from those draft classes more players could make the jump quicker than expected. Charlie McAvoy is already a top-tier defender in the NHL and Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, and Trent Frederic all look like they could be ready for the NHL in the next year or two.

The experience this team gained from losing in the Eastern Conference Final last season will prove tremendously valuable moving forward, and while we can only truly call the rebuild complete when we see them back in the Cup final again, it looks like they may fall short for another season or two, but once they get back we will see them there for many seasons to come. Casual fans of this team need to really start paying attention to what this team does on draft day because before they know it, Don Sweeney will be considered one of the top general managers across the NHL.

Chris Nosek’s 2018-19 Bruins Roster Prediction: Youth Movement Continues

(Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

As the start of the new hockey season is quickly approaching, it is now time for the questions and speculation about who will be on the roster this year, and who will be the one to beat the odds as a young player and compete for a roster spot on the big club. Two seasons ago, 19-year-old Brandon Carlo came out of nowhere as a 37th-overall draft choice to make the big club and earned a spot on the top pairing with Zdeno Chara. So this season, who will be the big surprise to make the roster? Which youngster will step up and make the team forcing a veteran out of their position?

“Then it’s a matter of the younger guys — can they push one of the more established guys? That’s what it comes down to. That’s when you know your team is good, when the younger guys push the older guys and if they are better, then we make room for them.″ – Bruce Cassidy

Not long ago my colleague, Max (@tkdmaxbjj), posted his thoughts, predictions, and projections for the upcoming season — seen here in his article Mainville’s Full 2018-19 Boston Bruins Predictions. One of his predictions includes his thoughts on the starting line combinations for the upcoming season, and although I agree with him in many areas, there are a few spots where we differ in opinion. Also, with the 20 guys in the lineup each game, who are the three guys that sit each day? One major question for this year is whether or now Sweeney will make the unusual decision to carry eight defensemen on the roster.

Forwards

    Brad Marchand                  Patrice Bergeron              Danton Heinen

    Jake DeBrusk                       David Krejci                       David Pastrnak

    Ryan Donato           Jakob Forsbacka- Karlsson         Anders Bjork

     Joakim Nordstrom            Sean Kuraly                        David Backes

When it comes to the starting 12 forward positions, one of the top units will consist of the second-year left-winger Jake DeBrusk getting paired back with David Krejci as last season they were extremely effective playing together. They will be rejoined by 22-year-old David Pastrnak on the right side as Cassidy has made it known this was a line combination he was anxious to get on the ice at the end of last season, but injuries and poor play altered those plans.

(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports )

Moving Pastrnak back down with Krejci opens up the wing next to Bergeron and Marchand. Bjork is the plan to put there, however, given the fact that he is still recovering from his injury last season it remains to be seen if he can get out of the gate with enough momentum. I think that Danton Heinen will start off on that unit coming out of camp. Until Bjork hits the ice this preseason, he won’t have done enough to take the top-line wing position while Heinen posted 16 goals and 31 assists last season mostly in a third-line role.

Anders Bjork will have a great shot at taking the top right wing spot from Heinen but will start on the third line until he is able to show he is fully healthy and ready for NHL action. He will find himself on a line with rookie Ryan Donato on the left side as it is becoming more and more clear that the plan is to convert the 19-year-old into a left side winger. The question of who will center this line is completely up in the air and is probably the biggest question on the roster and Cassidy and Sweeney have made it clear they have no one penciled in for this role and that ANYONE can take the opening.

NHL 2017 - Sep 28 - BOS vs PHI - Center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (#23) of the Boston Bruins names spans the width of his jersey

(Photo Credit: Bob Fina)

With three of the top young prospects vying for the third line center role, at this point it is almost anyone’s guess as to who will step up and take it. I believe that the current favorite to win the job is the 21year-old Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson. As the only one with NHL experience (albeit only one game), he is entering the final season of his ELC as it officially kicked in when they called him up at the end of the 2016-17 season. As someone who has drawn many comparisons to this team’s top centerman, his skill set will go well with that of Donato and Bjork. I think the biggest threat to Forsbacka-Karlsson taking this role will be Jack Studnicka. The 19-year-old, former 53rd overall draft selection, has averaged just about a point per game at every level he has played, and if that type of production continues, Sweeney would be hard-pressed to send the kid back to Providence.

( Photo Credit: JOHN TLUMACKI / Boston Globe Staff )

I must agree with Max that David Backes will find himself on the fourth line despite his $6 million contract. Coming into camp 10 pounds lighter should help with the speed that was lacking in his game last season, and if he is fully healthy from his colon issue and the concussion from the postseason, then he might have a shot next to Bergeron on the top line. I just don’t see him bouncing back that much, and his presence on the bottom unit will help spread out the leadership through the lineup. His partnership with Sean Kuraly and Joakim Nordstrom will prove to bring a very physical presence with a nice scoring touch. The fourth line with Backes, Nordstrom, and Kuraly could prove to be one of the most effective in the league if everyone stays healthy and plays at the top of their game.

Defense

                           Zdeno Chara                        Charlie McAvoy

                           Torey Krug                            Brandon Carlo

                            John Moore                           Kevan Miller

Even though he has taken a small step back, Zdeno Chara will not be separated from his current puck-moving partner Charlie McAvoy. The new 1-year contract that Chara signed shows that they are still expecting him to be every bit as good as he was last season. Cassidy does need to look for every opportunity he can find, especially during the beginning part of the season to cut back on Chara’s minutes — which has been said for the past 4-5 seasons. With Carlo and Krug healthy again this season, not only will they be the second pairing as they have since the emergence of McAvoy, they are both going to need to show all they have because both are due for new contracts at season’s end.

( Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports )

The third and final defensive unit has certainly generated the most buzz and has only gotten more interesting since the trade of Adam McQuaid. It would appear that Kevan Miller has played his way into securing the right side of that pairing. After Cassidy took over coaching duties from Claude Julien, Miller’s play improved so significantly that he was chosen to be protected over the younger Colin Miller at the expansion draft. I wish we could see more of him playing with Matt Grzelcyk. However, I think we will have to wait until further in the season to see that. At the beginning of the year, he will be paired with newcomer John Moore, while Grzelcyk will remain the team’s 7th defenseman.

Goaltenders

                                                   Tuukka Rask

                                                   Jaroslav Halak

Barring a major shock in camp, Boston will only carry Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak to play between the iron. Although Halak has been a starter before, Rask is the clear starter for this team and Halak is meant to provide a more consistent and reliable backup than was Anton Khudobin. With Malcolm Subban being shipped to Vegas last season and McIntyre taking a step back in his development, Sweeney needed to find a veteran presence to hold down the spot until either Vladar or Swayman prove they are ready to make the big club. Should an injury to Rask or Halak occur, McIntyre is the only one of the three youngsters with NHL experience so he will get the call-up. We can only hope he would be ready by then should it be a long-term injury.

Final Three Spots

Matt Grzelcyk                            Noel Acciari                         Chris Wagner

As mentioned above, the team will almost certainly be carrying Matt Grzelcyk as their seventh defender leaving just two more spots open on the 23-man roster. They may opt to send him down to Providence because Zboril or Lauzen — two of the top defensive prospects closest to making the team — don’t have to clear waivers to get back to Providence.

( Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports )

So with two more open spots, who are going to be the ones lucky enough to take these spots? First, there is Noel Acciari. He gets bumped from the starting 20 as Nordstrom has a more natural fit on the left side and he hasn’t done enough to outplay Kuraly for the center position. Acciari’s versatility to play both the wing and center he will certainly be one of the first ones off the bench should an injury occur, or a player requires a day off.

The last roster spot will be given to Chris Wagner (assuming he has a solid camp). First and foremost, he was just brought in on a 2-year contract, and he would require clearing waivers before going down to Providence. Jack Studnick, Trent Frederic, and Peter Cehlárik could all put up a solid fight for the last roster spot, however none of the proven consistency at the NHL level enough to stay, just yet. Cehlárik may be the one who pushes the hardest for it. However, his injury history has really put a damper on his development and a little more time in Providence may be a good thing for him.

Worst Contracts On The Bruins & What To Do With Them

Sweeney:Neely - Ted Fitzgerald.jpg(Photo Credit: Ted Fitzgerald)

By: Chris Nosek  |  Follow Me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

Every team paying its players in any professional sport will ultimately have at least one contract that hurts the organization in some way. The players who are being paid on these contracts are often the ones who are most criticized either for being overpaid or for a decrease in performance. Other leagues allow for a new contract to be drawn up that could supersede a “bad contract” for the team as long as both sides agree to it.

With the hard salary cap structure in the NHL, teams are often stuck with bad contracts or will often suffer repercussions for getting out of them for years after they move on from the player. The Bruins are not exempt from this and have a number of contracts currently on their books that will hurt them this season or in the coming years. Let’s take a look at five of the top contracts that are putting Sweeney and his staff in a tough predicament.

5) Zdeno Chara

Zdeno Chara - Kim Klement(Photo Credit: Kim Klement)

Let me be very clear; even though he is 41 years old, bringing back Zdeno Chara for another season was absolutely the right decision and something that Sweeney needed to do. However, that doesn’t make his contract a “good contract.” So let’s take a look at the contract. Chara has a 1-year contract that will pay him $5 million for next season, and he will go against the salary cap for the full $5 million this season. Cassidy and Sweeney better have a strong plan in place to limit their captain and keep him UNDER 20 minutes of ice time per night. Even though he can still play like an elite top-pairing defenseman, they really need to limit his minutes during the regular season to keep him from for the playoffs.

If the Chara conundrum stopped right there, then he would probably not be on this list because it is only for this season. However, there are still many questions regarding both the player and his contract. First and foremost, there is the potential for another $1.75 million to go against the Bruins salary cap for next season if Chara hits all the incentives in this contract. Also, if the team gets off to a slow start and is out of a playoff spot by the trade deadline, would they look to trade him so a younger defenseman can get the playing time? Lastly, if Chara decides not to retire, retaining him would cost more money next season in addition to the $1.75 million in incentives that could carry over. Right now, the best option is to try to send the captain off into retirement next season with the celebration of a nice large trophy while minimizing the $1.75 million next season because the $866,667 remaining from Jimmy Hayes’ contract will finally come off the books.

4) David Krejci

David Krejci - Eric Canha(Photo Credit: Eric Canha)

When Krejci first signed his 6-year contract guaranteeing him $43.5 million he was one year removed from a 70 point season in which he played in 80 games. He also helped anchor the Bruins up the middle to their second Stanley Cup Final in three seasons. This deal looked like it could be a steal to have a good second line center locked up for so long — especially with a proven ability to put up a point per game in the playoffs. However, turnover on his wings combined with some injuries hampered Krejci’s ability to put up points and thus has made his $7.25 million cap hit a massive weight on their roster.

There has been great debate over the past two seasons about whether Boston should look to move the centerman — who would need to approve any deal his name is involved in. Despite being able to fetch the team a massive return to help their rebuilding process, the full no-movement clause in his contract has kept Krejci in Boston despite his inconsistent play. The clause will expire at the end of this season, and it is up to Krejci to play well enough to ensure Don Sweeney doesn’t want to utilize the eight-team list he will get at the start of the 2019-20 season.

At 32 years old, the Bruins’ highest-paid player has missed 30 games over the duration of this contract due to injury and has shown extreme inconsistency in his play. Although the Bruins haven’t helped him by giving him consistent wingers, Krejci’s play has fallen pretty significantly. Should the decline continue, looking to move him will look a lot more practical. However, for this season they should put Pastrnak and Debrusk — two wing players he has proven track records with — and hope that he can find his old form again.

3) John Moore

John Moore - @nhlbruins(Photo Credit: @NHLBruins)

Due to the versatility that John Moore brings to the Bruins organization, it’s tough to hate this contract. In many ways, this contract makes a lot of sense. It makes even more sense when you see as the defense sits right now, there are no defenders locked up for two years from now — except for the recently signed entry-level contract for Urho Vaakanainen. Even though it is fair to assume that both Carlo and McAvoy will be re-signed, it never hurts to have a player locked up anyway. With the possible versatility that Moore brings to Boston (which you can read about in Mike Cratty’s piece The Potential Fluidity of John Moore’s Role as a Bruin), it makes complete sense to lock him up for a handful of years at the age of only 27.

The main reason why John Moore’s contract makes this list is because of what it does to them for this season. Even at a very reasonable cap hit of $2.75 million per season, his contract hurts because of all the other defenders that Boston has under contract this season along with a number of young guys who are working to break into the NHL level. With guys like Lauzon, Zboril, Vaakanainen, and Grzelcyk fighting for NHL ice time, the Bruins have depth guys that need testing already in the system. With only the top four spots fully secured by Chara, McAvoy, Krug, and Carlo, there are two starting spots open for all the young guys to fight for along with Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid.

The Moore contract forces Sweeney into one of a few different options:

1) carry eight defensemen on the roster, or
2) send Grzelcyk (Carlo and McAvoy are eligible as well, but wouldn’t be chosen over Grzelcyk) back to Providence, or
3) cut/waive Miller or McQuaid and have them leave for nothing, or
4) trade someone currently on the roster; Krug being the guy who would net the biggest return.

The option that Sweeney goes with remains to be seen — thankfully, the final decision doesn’t have to be made just yet.

2) Adam McQuaid

Adam McQuaid Fighting - Charles Krupa ( Photo Credit:  Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images )

Adam McQuaid is a 31-year-old, physical, veteran defender who most teams would love to have on their roster. His current contract that hits the Bruins salary cap for $2.75 million each season hurts the Bruins because they have never gotten a full season of play out of the 8-year veteran. Since signing his current contract, McQuaid has missed 25% of games dating back to the 2015-16 season. Without this contract on the books, the $2.75 million could have instead gone into free agents who were available over the past two seasons – or even re-signing Jarome Iginla, who showed he had good chemistry with other guys on this team.

With his current contract ending at the end of the season, the best option with McQuaid is to try to find a team who is willing to take on his full money value in exchange for a draft pick. Right now having the open roster spot and freeing up the cap space is more important for this team so either a younger player can fight for ice time, or they can bring a veteran in at the trade deadline. Giving a youngster NHL time for their development is more important during this rebuild than keeping the often-injured veteran on the squad.

As much as I love to watch McQuaid as a player, he has only hit the 70-games played threshold twice in his career while remaining under 40 games played FOUR times. If the Bruins can find a trade partner it is critical to move the defender as many teams will opt not to deal for him when keeping him in Boston forces them to either carry eight defensemen, trade a younger player, or cut McQuaid allowing him to be picked up for nothing.

1) David Backes

David Backes - Bob Dechiara(Photo Credit: Bob Dechiara)

Coming from an incredible run of posting 460 points in 727 career games with the St. Louis Blues, David Backes looked like a guy who could provide Boston with versatility and some top-six scoring ability. He found a spot on this team as he would be able to provide solid depth at center on the third line after the departure of Carl Soderberg to Colorado and the ability of Ryan Spooner to step into the role still in question. Backes found himself playing the wing on the third line instead as he no longer had the speed required to play along Krejci’s right side and Riley Nash overtook him for the center position. This found Boston paying $6 million to a third-line winger who wasn’t good enough to break into the top-six grouping.

Last season, Backes had one of the worst of his career, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that he was diagnosed with diverticulitis and had to have part of his colon removed mid-season. As a result, he only played in 57 games and never truly found his game. Having watched his game decline year over year since departing St. Louis, many are now starting to question exactly what Backes can bring to the table next season. With so many young forwards bucking to make their own move to the NHL level the question now comes up: where does David Backes fit in on this team?

With the top two lines only providing options on the right side, and one of those spots going to David Pastrnak, only one spot on the wing is open. Most people are penciling either Anders Bjork or Ryan Donato for that spot (while Danton Heinen may also be a solid fit as well) which would leave David Backes on the third line again. Having a $6 million player on your third line for multiple years and a no-movement clause is not a formula for sustained success. If this were their only season issue with or their last season left with David Backes, then it wouldn’t be as much of a problem for the organization. However, they are also seeing an extremely inconsistent play and a number of injuries that keep piling up.

After suffering a concussion, a leg laceration, and his colon surgery last season, the Bruins have to wonder what other nagging injuries Backes suffered and exactly what he will bring to the table for this season. Sweeney can only hope that it would only cost one prospect paired with Backes for a team to be willing to bring on his salary and free Boston of this albatross contract — assuming it’s a team Backes would waive the no-movement clause to go to. Right now, the Bruins’ best option is to hope that he can find his production again while being on the third line, then look to move him at the start of next season when Backes submits his list of 15 teams once the no-movement clause turns into a modified no-trade clause. If Backes can’t find his game again, the Bruins could be stuck paying him $6 million to sit on the 9th floor while some of their younger guys help this team to succeed.

Honorable Mention: Torey Krug

Any team would give a massive haul to have a 27-year-old defenseman who can put up close to 60 points in a season. Any team who would let that kind of player walk as a free-agent would be considered insane. It wasn’t long ago when Torey Krug signed a 4-year contract that would pay him $21 million. At the time many thought this contract was a drastic overpay for a defender who is only 5-foot-9; now this contract makes Krug one of the best bargains in the league.

So how does Torey Krug find himself anywhere near this list? His contract will hurt Boston because it is going to end at the end of the 2019-20 season. This may only be an issue if the younger defenders develop and progress over the next 2 seasons as many think they can. When Krug hits the market in 2020, Boston will also be looking to negotiate new contracts for Kevin Miller, Matt Grzelyk, Jakub Zboril, Emil Johansson, and Jeremy Lauzon. They will also have just given new contracts to Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy in the prior season. Just how much is it going to cost to lock Krug into another contract while he is still under 30 years of age, and how long are they going to need to commit to him?

Boston is not in the position that they should be considering trading one of their best defenders going into this season. The thought of trading Torey Krug this season is completely asinine as he has another year on his contract and there is no one who is ready to step up in his place once he departs. If McQuaid, Miller, and Chara are no longer in Boston in two seasons (which they shouldn’t be), then the core of the Boston defense will be two players under age of 23, plus Torey Krug and John Moore. If Boston had signed Krug to a deal with a longer term, then they wouldn’t have to worry about Krug’s contract during this crucial time during their rebuilding process. The good news is that if Sweeney does decide to move Krug going into next season, the return will be significantly higher than the price Boston paid to get Rick Nash for half of last season.

What Remains In Bergeron’s Tank For The Bruins?

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings(Photo Credit: Sam Minton)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

From the moment he stepped on the garden ice as an 18-year-old rookie, fans of the Bruins knew they were going to love their new young center, Patrice Bergeron. Scoring 39 points in 71 games during his rookie season, Bergeron proved that he knew how too play “Bruin’s Hockey.” The love the fans had for him continued to grow with every goal, every win, and every time he stepped onto the ice. The Stanley Cup victory in 2011 showed just how much love the city has for Bergeron and him for the city that took him in. It took until 2010 for the rest of the league to realize the special player that was in Boston, but since 2010 he has been nominated for the Selke Award eight straight seasons and has brought the hardware home in four of those.  

It is now up to Bruce Cassidy and Don Sweeney to step up and protect their top center from himself. He is now 33 years of age and still has 4 years remaining on his current contract -during which they are looking to remain in playoff contention probably each of those four seasons. After being on one of the leagues top scoring lines, it is hard to imagine pulling the reigns back on playing him so much. What makes it even tougher to cut a guy like Bergeron’s minutes is the fact that he has proved, like many others in the league, that he will do anything to step out on the ice for his city unless he is dead, dying, or in a coma. Many point to guys like Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr as evidence that Bergeron still has a good 8-10 years left to his career and that resigning the forward is a huge part to this teams future. Unlike his current and former teammate, Bergeron has a long history with both injuries and concussions. 

Almost everyone is aware of the major concussion that Bergeron suffered early on in his career when he was just 22-years-old. Suffered at the hands of Randy Jones, and shown in the above video, first of Bergeron’s major concussions occurred on October 27th, 2007. This one hit put the rest of his career in jeopardy, and it almost never happened. If this was Bergeron’s only concussion, then slowing him down wouldn’t be as much of a priority and seasons beyond this contract wouldn’t be in question. However, Bergeron went on to suffer three more major concussions on December 20, 2008, May 6, 2011, and April 2nd, 2013. He also has a laundry list of other injuries that he has sustained over the course of his career as well. 

  • Broken Ribs
  • Separated Shoulder
  • Groin Surgery
  • Fractured Foot
  • Fractured Thumb
  • Broken Nose
  • Sports Hernia
  • Punctured Lung
  • Multiple Concussions

It seems that coming out of every season, number 37 is lined up for recovering from something serious. Now that he is 33-years-old, the question remains just how much more his body can take. With this team clearly prepared to be in playoff contention for the remainder of his current contract, Bergeron will play one of the most vital roles in this organizations success in the playoffs, and they need him to be healthy. It is clear that Sweeney and Cassidy will need to be the ones to keep Bergeron from overexposing himself and making his own body shut down. With the increase we are seeing in early retirement one has to also wonder if Bergeron will give any thought to hanging up his skates when his current contract runs out. If the Bruins are looking to retain him longer and want to have him healthy for a deep playoff run, they need to start monitoring his time on ice going into this season. 

Bruins Roster Analysis: Figuring Out The Forwards

 

Prov. Bruins - downtownprovidence.com(Photo credit: Downtown Providence)

Written By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

At this point, we have reviewed the starting lineup from the Bruins last game against Tampa Bay and the situation on defense. Now let’s take a deeper look at the others who helped this team on the offensive end during this past season. With a lot of young, talented players and some seasoned veterans lets see who else might have skated their last game in the coveted black and gold sweater.

Anders Bjork – LW

(Anders Bjork scores during the preseason game on September 25, 2017, while skating on the RW of Bergeron line)

Coming out of camp, Bjork had secured his spot on the left side of David Krejci on the second line. Although he put up only 12 points during his 30 games, he showed great chemistry with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner. After four shifts on the ice in a game against Anaheim, Bjork wouldn’t skate again during the 2017 season. This allowed for fellow rookie Jake Debrusk to de-thrown his fellow 21-year-old for the top six forward spot. So what does Sweeney do with Bjork now? With his contract going through the 2019-2020 season, Bjork will certainly have another opportunity next season to get his spot back on the second line, but with how well Debrusk played that might be a tough task.

During the preseason this past pre-season, he did spend some time on the right side of Patrice Bergeron (see video above) and it seemed to go well. I would see how he can adapt to playing on the right side once more and see if you can find some chemistry with him, Krejci, and Debrusk. Doing so will increase the competition for that spot which will help all the younger players with their development and you could see a better player slot into another line because of the competition. Right now, Bjork has proven he can be on this team and play well, therefore with the pending possible departures moving the 2014 draft pick isn’t the wisest of decisions at this time.

Austin Czarnik – C

(Austin Czarnik scores his first career NHL goal against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers)

With only 10 games played this past season and a total of 59 in his NHL career, Austin Czarnik should not be with the Bruins for this upcoming season. The 25-year-old who was signed as an unrestricted free agent back in 2015 has had a number of opportunities to be able to break through at the NHL level and hasn’t quite done so. He has shown some upside, but right now there are other younger players who this team can continue to groom to take on more ice time. With guys like Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacca-Karlsson, Anders Bjork, and Jake Debrusk all about to be battling it out for starting positions, I wouldn’t expect Czarnik to beat any of those guys out for a starting role. With his contract coming to an end and unrestricted free agency on his horizon, Austin Czarnik will find himself wearing a different sweater than an 8-spoked letter for next season despite the promise he has shown during his brief ice time.

Ryan Donato – C

Ryan Donato, USA, NBC Sports

(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Ryan Donato found himself having a whirlwind season that saw him going from college star to Olympic phenom, to NHL rookie in the span of just a couple of months. With all the different trade rumors flying around because of the draft, I have to say that I am very happy that Donato’s name hasn’t been mentioned, yet. Having posted 43 points in 29 games during his final season at Harvard, 6 points in 5 Olympic games, and 9 points in 12 NHL games, Ryan Donato should not be going anywhere. Clearly, he loves to shoot the puck, and he is very capable of putting it on goal in a place the goaltender can’t stop it. Unless an elite, franchise-altering talent is being discussed Ryan Donato’s name needs to stay away from any and ALL trade discussions. Honestly, even with some of the biggest names that have been mentioned on the trade market – Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban, or Oliver Ekman-Larsson – I’m not even sure that I would do a deal that needed to include the 22-year-old forward.

As a natural goal scorer, I would bring Donato into next season and give him every opportunity to win a spot playing on the right side of David Krejci. This is the position he was put in last season, so let’s see if he can win the job from some of the others in the system and keep it. I wouldn’t mind seeing him try to take over that third line center position, but I feel like his scoring touch can and will be more effective if paired with a centerman who can set him up for more goals.

Jakob Forsbacca-Karlsson – C

NHL 2017 - Sep 28 - BOS vs PHI - Center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (#23) of the Boston Bruins names spans the width of his jersey

(Photo Credit: Bob Fina)

Often discussed as the favorite to win the third line center role going into next season, Jakob Forsbacca-Karlsson is high on a lot of people’s lists simply because the organization burned a year of his ELC back in 2016-2017 late in the season. After all, why burn an entire year of a player’s ELC to get him in ONE game if he wasn’t ready or thought to be close to being NHL ready? Having lost the role to Riley Nash this past season, he should be given a chance to compete for it again, but he is really going to have to impress if he wants to continue to stick around.

His youth and potential make him a solid prospect to include in a deal if you are looking to shed some cap money with a higher paid veteran, however, I wouldn’t hurry to dish him off either. Having received comparisons to a young Patrice Bergeron, the 21-year-old didn’t crack into the lineup this past season. His one NHL game wasn’t a Seguin-esq breakout game, but he also didn’t make any costly mistakes either. Right now isn’t the time to give up on him. He should be brought into preseason next season and be made to compete for more NHL minutes with the other youngster on this roster.  

Brian Gionta – RW

The 39-year-old Gionta was brought in after his run in the Olympics because Sweeney wanted to add some veteran depth for what was poised to be a deep playoff run. Costing only $700,000 Giota only contributed 7 points while playing in only 20 games for Cassidy’s squad. He was quickly surpassed by the faster youngsters and saw himself off the game day roster too much. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides in the offseason that this was his last go around, but whether he decides to retire or not he will not be back in Boston next season.

Tommy Wingels – C

Tommy Wingels, Adam Clanzman

(Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman)

Acquired from Chicago for a 5th-round draft pick, Wingels was brought in as an additional veteran, like Gionta, to provide depth that Cassidy could plug into the lineup and know what he would be would be getting. He too had a very minor cap hit of only $750,000, but the draft pick will be upgraded to a 4th-round selection because the Bruins made it to the second round of the playoffs. Playing in a total of 18 games for the Bruins, and averaging just under 12 minutes of ice time per game, Wingels will and should not be returning to Boston next season as a member of the Bruins. 

In Summary: 

The young players of Donato, Forsbacca-Karlsson, and Bjork all still have something to prove. They should all be brought back for the start of next season and all should be able to compete for the open spots in the starting lineup. Gionta and Wingels will be allowed to walk simply because they aren’t able to bring enough to the table. Czarnik will not be coming back either and between those three, Sweeney will be able to free up a total of $2.125 million of cap space. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it could be the space they need to be able to get a solid backup goaltender, depending on the other moves they make – which I don’t think there will be too many.  

Bruins Defensive Roster Analysis- Remaining Defenders

 

Krug, Carlo, Marchand vs Devils, Steven Ryan:Getty Images

(Photo Credit: Steven Ryan)

Written By: Chris Nosek   |   Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

Now that we have examined the players who were on the ice to finish the season let’s take a few minutes to review the other defenders who contributed during the season and a couple who are poised for significant contributions next season.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres

(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman)

Brandon Carlo

Over the past two seasons, Brandon Carlo has been one of the best defenders on this team. First, he was paired with Chara as a rookie and showed an ability to stabilize the blue line and shut down top lines. After ending the season as a plus player, he was next paired with the more offensive-minded Torey Krug. In the 76 games played in his sophomore season, Carlo still managed to be a plus player while continuing to shut down the opposition. With only 16 careers points, Carlo is clearly not an offensive powerhouse. He has, however, proven that he is capable of shutting down some of the leagues best players. At only 21-years-old, Carlo can still grow into an even better defender, and no I’m not worried about the fact that he has missed the playoffs for two seasons because of injuries. This team is going to need an elite shutdown defender who can log 20+ minutes on a nightly basis to take over when Chara retires any year now. Carlo has earned himself at least one more year to prove that he is that defender of the future and shouldn’t go ANYWHERE.

Torey Krug

Back in 2011, the one thing on most people’s trade deadline wish list was a “puck-moving defenseman.” This team has one now. Not only do they have a puck-moving defenseman, but he fits the team’s personality and came up through the system. Now at only 27-years-old Torey Krug has been thrown in more trade rumors and speculation than ever before. I get it; he’s one of the best pieces on this team to move because he has two years left on his contract, a cap hit of only $5.25 million, and is one of the few players on this team without a movement restriction in his contract.

Yes, dealing Krug would net you a very high return and would certainly bring in more than the two draft picks and Joe Colborne you gave up for Tomas Kaberle back in 2011. However, now isn’t the time to deal him off. Whether you believe McAvoy or Grzelcyk is good enough to replace Krug as your main puck mover on the back end, moving on from Krug right now is a mistake. If Krug stays healthy AND another defenseman makes him expendable, he would be one of the most coveted targets for other teams at the trade deadline. If Sweeney is looking to move him, the haul he would get at the trade deadline will be much higher than what he will get now. Continuing to wait on any deal involving Krug is clearly the right move.

Urho Vaakanainen, NBC Sports, Haggs

(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Urho Vaakanainen

Urho Vaakanainen is certainly a player who you must pause before just throwing his name out there in a trade conversation. Just one season removed from being drafted 18th overall, the 19-year-old may not have tallied much on the score sheet, but as a defender, he was impressive in his abilities to move the puck. Sweeney just inked him to his three-year Entry Level Contract, which leads me to believe that not only will they have a close eye on him during the upcoming development camps, but he will probably make his jump into Providence this season. As with almost all prospects, I don’t think he will be “NHL ready” without spending some time of his ELC in Providence.

In a “win now” world, many might be quick to throw him in a deal if it means dishing off a larger, less appealing contract to another team (ie; including him to seal a deal to move Krejci or Backes’ much larger contracts). This would be a mistake. Right now, he could be looking at taking over an NHL defensive spot in the next two to three seasons which would be perfect for this organization given when other defenders have their contracts running out. If you move on from him now, and some of the other young players in front of him now don’t pan out then you’ll be scrambling for a defenseman when you didn’t have to be. If he proves to be “NHL ready” now, then he makes older, veteran defenders move expendable…dare I say – Torey Krug. For now, sitting pat on Vaakanainen is the right move.

Jakub Zboril

Some people are starting to want to write Zboril off as a draft bust because he spent last season in Providence while others from the 2015 draft were thriving in the NHL. Having not moved him in a deal to jump back into the first round of the draft this past weekend, Sweeney showed that he hasn’t given up on the 21-year-old blueliner. My guess is that going into the 2018-2019 season, Zboril will be given every opportunity to take a roster spot from Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid. Although it would seem like they have an abundance of left-handed defensemen, I would still wait before deciding which one(s) to move. You’ve already been set back on your defense enough by the loss of Colin Miller in the expansion draft last season. Moving another potential big future piece too soon could come back to really haunt Sweeney during this rebuild cycle. I can understand how he didn’t pull the trigger on a deal that involved Zboril before or during the draft.

(Photo Credit:  NHL.com)

Jeremy Lauzon

Drafted back in 2015, in part of Boston’s three consecutive first-round picks, Lauzon is another 21-year-old defenseman with a left-handed shot and still a lot to prove. Unlike Vaakanainen and Zboril, he was unable to partake in development camp last season because of an injury. After putting up only 7 points while playing in 52 games last season for Providence, I am intrigued to see what he has to offer during the upcoming development camp. This camp could be the showing Sweeney needs to find out if Lauzon is worth moving on from with a long list of other left-shot defensemen on the roster.

Paul Postma

Brought in during the offseason last year, it was thought the 29-year old would be able to add some veteran depth to a blue line that had been decimated by injuries the previous season during the playoffs. After showing that moving Kevan Miller to his offside was a better move than having Postma in the lineup, he was sent to Providence after playing in only 14 games and registering 1 point. In the AHL, Postma was able to post 8 points in only 13 games. With his contract ending after this past season, I would not look for Postma to have a Black and Gold jersey again next season. There are too many other younger defenders who should be hungry for NHL playing time to consider giving Postma another shot next season.

In Summary:

As this roster is currently constituted, Carlo and Krug are the clear second defensive pairing for this team, and its unfortunate they both had injuries for the series against Tampa Bay because I feel that having the pair of them in the playoffs would have made all the difference in getting past the Lightning. With the addition of these two guys, this team could have gotten past both Tampa Bay AND Washington. Despite recent speculation, and fan conversations, in trading Carlo and Krug these two guys should remain on this roster to help solidify the top two pairings. With three young guys all hungry and ready to compete for NHL ice time, I think moving any of the defenders right now would be too soon and not provide for enough of a competitive environment going into the season. Sweeney has been right to hold onto these pieces thus far and showing patience has paid off for him in the past.

Boston Bruins Roster Analysis: Part 4

 

Chara:McAvoy - Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty Images / Prime Time

By: Chris Nosek | Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

Now that we have reviewed the situation for each of the starting forwards let’s make our way over to the blueliners. We all know last season they lost Colin Miller in the expansion draft and although he played very well in Vegas, for the Golden Knights, there is no guarantee that he would have played to the same level while fighting for a spot on the third pairing. Rather than focus on him, let’s look who actually played for Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins this season.

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Clearly the top defensive pairing on this team, both are already coming back for next season. McAvoy will be due for a massive pay raise at the end of this coming season, and lucky for Sweeney, a large amount of cap space will be freed up when Zdeno Chara comes off the books of the end of the season as well. I feel that $5 million for the 41-year-old defenseman is a bit much, but I think they will get their money’s worth – IF they are able to keep his minutes down like we have been talking about for the past 3 seasons. McAvoy has proven that he will be able to take over the leading defender role on this team after the upcoming departure of Big Z.

Kevan Miller vs FL Panthers, Joel Auerbach:Getty Images

Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach

Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

One year ago the debate began; Colin Miller or Kevan Miller – who should get protected from selection by the Vegas Golden Knights. Opting for experience and contract term, Kevan Miller was selected to stay in Boston after showing significant improvement to his game after Bruce Cassidy took over behind the bench. Demonstrating an ability to play both defensive sides, Kevan Miller has proved to be very valuable on the blue line. He is not a full-time second pairing defenseman, but should an injury occur he can be bumped from the 3rd pairing to help fill the empty spot. Miller has some trade value, and I would explore the option, but I would wait until the trade deadline starts to approach next season before pulling the trigger on a deal to dump his $2.5 million hit to the salary cap. His value should increase, and waiting will also give you the time to see what other youngsters like Zboril, Lauzon, and Vaakanainen are able to bring to the table.

One of the younger defensemen who stepped up this past season and certainly earned another shot to see what he can do was Matt Grzelcyk. Having just received a contract with a very reasonable cap hit of only $1.4 million, Grzelcyk will now have two more seasons to show if he can develop into a top 4 defenseman with an ability to move the puck. (Read more about Matt Grzelcyk’s new contract in Max Mainville’s article HERE and follow him on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj).

Nick Holden – Adam McQuaid

During the 2016-2017 playoffs, the newly appointed Cassidy had to work with Sweeney to dig deep into the organization and burn the first contracted seasons for both Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy. More injuries put them in a position calling up Rob O’Gara and to rely on Joe Marrow to play minutes in the playoffs. Surprisingly enough, this season it was Adam McQuaid who was relied upon to take those 3rd pairing minutes, and Nick Holden was brought in at the trade deadline to build the veteran depth on the blue line to keep from burning more seasons on young players’ contracts.

Holden only cost Sweeney a 3rd-round draft pick, and that isn’t a terrible price for a half season depth piece rental player. Although Holden gave it his best efforts, he is not going to fit in long-term on this team and will be finding another new home during the offseason. Adam McQuaid is a little bit different of a story because he still has another season on his contract. I wouldn’t be too upset if they were able to boost a return package by including Quaidder in a deal, and I would even go as far as shopping him with some retained salary. As helpful as having his money off the books would be, it is not worth giving away the 31-year old veteran. He does provide value as a 7th or even 8th defender and has a veteran, hard-hitting presence that the other defenders can feed off of when he is healthy enough to be on the ice.

In Summary:

McAvoy will have one more season to grow and develop as Chara’s partner, after which Chara will either be retiring or taking a severe pay cut to stick around on a second pairing. Grzelcyk has a chance to show if he has the potential to step up and be a top-four defenseman, possibly getting paired with McAvoy in a few years. Holden will not be returning as he was only ever intended to be a rental while Miller and McQuaid are pieces that should be shopped around and are 7th defenders who should be competing for a bottom pairing spot.