After the Boston Bruins were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the second round, the sense around the organization was that change is needed. General Manager, Don Sweeney, said changes were coming in the off-season. We are yet to see the changes he was talking about. Over four days into free agency, the Bruins have been rumoured in many conversations but haven’t found their guy. The clock is ticking for both Sweeney and the Bruins organization to right the ship.
Boston Bruins Off-season Needs
When the Bruins were ousted in the second round, earlier than they had hoped, it was time to look in the mirror. It became clear that the roster Boston has would not be able to compete with the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning or another top team. The Bruins began the 2019-20 season with a roster similar to the year before — one that got pushed around by the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.
After another season of not reaching their goal, the Bruins have plenty of work to do to bolster their roster. “We’re certainly exploring all the avenues,” said Sweeney. So far, nearly every avenue explored has led to a dead-end for Sweeney.
Taking an introspective look at the roster, Boston has desperately needed help with secondary scoring. A scorer to pair on the right side of David Krejci is the ideal fit. A player with consistent scoring capabilities and a physical presence is what the Bruins need in that spot. A power-forward like Josh Anderson is the type of player that Boston has needed for some time.
Finding a secondary scoring opinion would help alleviate Boston’s problems with being so reliant on their top line. This need is arguably the most important one for Boston this off-season, especially after seeing the depth scoring from the Lightning this season.
Along with secondary scoring, the team needs to add size and toughness. They were pushed around in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals by St. Louis and again this year by Tampa Bay. Tampa’s depth players were able to provide offence and physicality on a daily basis. The Bruins lineup is comprised of players that, for the most part, do one or the other.
The Bruins had a solid defensive core going into the season. The largest question was around Torey Krug, whose contract was expiring. After Krug signed in St. Louis, it leaves a large hole in the Bruins lineup. Krug was the power-play quarterback for the team and is one of the top point-producing defensemen in the league.
Losing Krug creates a hole in the power-play and offensively. Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and John Moore can likely step up and provide similar defensive production. But the Bruins will likely ask Charlie McAvoy to fill in for Krug on the power play and offensive production. It’s large shoes to fill for McAvoy.
The departure of Krug leaves a large hole that needs to be filled. Don Sweeney now must formulate a plan to replace Krug, a tough task when the marquee free-agents have already signed elsewhere.
After goaltender, Tuukka Rask left the Toronto bubble during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, his future came into question. With one year left on the deal and an unprecedented move, it was fair to question Rask’s future with the team. However, Sweeney attempted to squash the rumours surrounding their goaltender.
“As I said before, he remains a big part of our roster planning going forward. He was second in the Vezina balloting, and we feel very, very comfortable [with] where our goaltending is at,” Sweeney said.
It sounds like Sweeney and the Bruins will roll with the tandem of Rask and Jaroslav Halak in net for the upcoming season.
What Has Don Sweeney Done?
Sweeney’s first move of free agency was to re-sign defenceman, Kevan Miller. The signing came as a surprise to most since Miller has not appeared in a game since April 2019. Miller has worked hard enough to deserve another shot to play, but Sweeney making that his first order of business in free agency was a questionable one.
Additionally, Boston had been rumoured in discussions around Anderson and Tyler Toffoli to fill the secondary scoring position. Anderson would’ve brought the much-needed physicality to the middle of the lineup along with some scoring capabilities. However, Sweeney watched as both players became members of Boston’s rival, the Montreal Canadiens.
Taylor Hall, one of the biggest names in free agency was connected to Boston this off-season. The 2018 Hart Trophy recipient would’ve been a massive signing for Boston. His scoring ability would’ve likely fixed Boston’s secondary scoring problems. Instead, Hall signed with the Buffalo Sabres, leaving Boston empty-handed once again this off-season.
Instead, Sweeney signed forward Craig Smith to fill the position. It’s a good depth piece for the Bruins, but certainly not enough to get the Bruins where they need to be. Smith generates a strong offence in 5v5 situations, but the Bruins will need more than him.
To fill the position left by Krug’s departure, Sweeney has done nothing. He did not entertain contract discussions with Krug this off-season. Since Sweeney went into the off-season knowing Krug was gone, he should have a plan to replace him.
The top free-agent on the market this year, Alex Pietrangelo, would’ve been a great replacement for Krug. Pietrangelo chose to sign with the Vegas Golden Knights for 7 years and $8.8 million-per-year. While the Bruins weren’t going to spend that much money on one player, Sweeney never reached out to Pietrangelo’s camp.
Making the right moves is more important than making a lot of moves when it comes to the off-season. However, it appears that Don Sweeney has done neither thus far. The holes in the lineup around toughness and secondary scoring have yet to be filled. Don Sweeney watched qualified candidates, Hall, Anderson, and Toffoli go elsewhere. He opted to sign Smith instead.
Replacing Krug was something Sweeney knew he needed to do. He didn’t pull the trigger on a deal for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, did not reach out to Pietrangelo, and watched Vegas trade Nate Schmidt to the Vancouver Canucks. So far, he has opted to replace Krug with what the organization already had. A small crop of lesser, unproven defencemen.
The Bruins entered the off-season with three glaring problems needing attention. A lack of secondary scoring, a lack of size and toughness, and the hole of a Krug departure. To this point, Sweeney has tried to fix the secondary scoring problem with a band-aid by adding Smith. He has chosen to not address the other issues whatsoever.
Luckily for Don Sweeney, there’s still time to make things happen. He has options remaining in free agency and via trades. However, he cannot remain dormant this off-season. The Bruins championship window is shrinking quickly and the current roster won’t get it done.
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