Haggerty: Sweeney shows he's learning, makes right move at deadline

Haggerty: Sweeney shows he's learning, makes right move at deadline

BRIGHTON  -- The mission for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney at this season’s trade deadline became clear in the weeks leading up to March 1.

It was Sweeney’s task to improve this season’s Bruins team if he could and add a piece to Boston’s long term picture if the price was right, but under no circumstances was the B’s general manager going to fritter away draft picks or blue chip prospects unless it was a franchise-altering improvement for the better.

Mission accomplished for the Bruins. They avoided any temptation to throw first round picks and prospects at St. Louis for Kevin Shattenkirk, and didn’t buckle and trade a potential core defenseman piece like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy for a chance to add 24-year-old Gabriel Landeskog. They didn’t even give up a higher draft pick for a rental player like Radim Vrbata, or a potential backup goaltender like Jaroslav Halak (though it seems Garth Snow decided he wasn’t going to deal the goalie to a potential playoff competitor like the B’s anyway).

Instead the Bruins shipped out a 2018 conditional sixth round pick, that could become a fourth round pick, for Drew Stafford. The 31-year-old could bolster Boston’s offense from their bottom six forwards, and potentially replace Jimmy Hayes if he goes on another month-long malaise like he did in the first 55 games of this season, or could supplant a young player like Peter Cehlarik if the pressure becomes too great for them in the final 19 games of the season.

It was the kind of low-risk/possible high reward move that’s the smart deadline approach for a rebuilding hockey club with a new playoff glint in their eye after winning seven of their last eight games under Bruce Cassidy.

“I’m very happy with how our team has responded here, and I think that adding to the group continues to send a message that the group has played well, and it’s a nice response,” said Sweeney. “It’s not a surprise that our core players are leading that charge. They want to win, and they want to feel like they’re being supported.

“So, that’s what the task was at this particular time, without taking away from or breaking down the commitment piece of what we want to do now and moving forward. [We’re] trying to commit to them and a winning approach that we’re always going to maintain here. But you always understand that striking deals [of a bigger magnitude] are pretty difficult without sacrificing some of the things that we’ve committed to.”

This trade deadline was a stark contrast to Sweeney’s first trade deadline a year ago when he shuffled off a number of valuable draft picks for pedestrian rental players in Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles, and failed to get anything for a player in Loui Eriksson that was poised to walk away in free agency just a few months later. When the Bruins imploded in the season’s final weeks and fell short of the playoffs last spring, those B’s trade deadline maneuvers went from underwhelming to downright disastrous.

Sweeney was determined not to repeat history with another hockey club that’s similarly straddling the fence as a playoff bubble team, and he proved on Wednesday that he learned a valuable lesson last spring. It can’t be easy to do precious little on trade deadline day when the pressure is on to get into the postseason. Instead it becomes ridiculously easy to get in one’s own way and commit serious long term mistakes with short term implications, and even potentially interfere with a red-hot hockey team that could actually win a playoff round or two in the Atlantic Division bracket. 

Bringing in a player like Stafford with just four goals and 13 points isn’t going to energize the fan base or cause a stampede of season ticket holders ready to reserve their playoff ducats. But it was the right move at the right time for the Bruins with almost zero downside to any of it.

Perhaps Sweeney is getting the hang of this GM thing after all nearly two years into the job running the Black and Gold. 

NHL still debating possible discipline on Schenn-Krejci collision

USA TODAY Sports photo

NHL still debating possible discipline on Schenn-Krejci collision

The NHL Department of Player Safety is still debating if supplemental discipline is needed for the Blues'  Brayden Schenn for the violent hit he delivered to the Bruins' David Krejci in the B's 2-1 overtime loss in St. Louis on Wednesday night. 

In the second period, Schenn clobbered David Krejci in the corner with a punishing hit to the head as the B’s playmaking center was facing him immediately after releasing the puck. Schenn was whistled for a two-minute minor for charging at the time of the collision, but luckily Krejci was able to remain in the game and played 15:54 of ice time in the loss.

Upon further review, it was very clearly a big, heavy hit delivered to Krejci’s head, but there were plenty of mitigating factors. Krejci had his head down until the last second while looking down at the puck on his stick and was hunched over as Schenn moved in to deliver a check on a player eligible to be hit. Schenn’s skates left the ice to finish the hit after impact, which made the collision look even worse to the casual observer, but that isn’t considered launching into a hit by the NHL’s standards.

Adding to the equation is that Schenn has been suspended twice by the NHL before, three games in 2016 for a charging hit on TJ Oshie and one game back in 2013.

Clearly, it’s a difficult call for the league as they try to deter hits to the head and reduce the number of concussions. Still, this would appear to be another situation where, as the league says, a player “assumed a posture that made head contact on an otherwise full body check unavoidable." It’s absolutely similar to the Patrick Hornqvist/Charlie McAvoy hit from a few weeks ago that never ended up with any supplemental discipline for the Penguins hard-hitter despite plenty of hue and cry from the Bruins fans.

So what does everybody else think about this hit, and whether or not Schenn should be facing discipline from the NHL as a result of it?


Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

USA TODAY Sports Photos

Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

GOLD STAR: Jaden Schwartz stepped up and won the game for the Blues with a couple of really good plays in the third period and overtime. He took advantage of a line change and a lax Bruins defense to snap a shot past Anton Khudobin from the face-off circle in the third period that tied up the game, and then went on a one-man rush in overtime before blasting a puck past Khudobin for the game-winner on a beautiful individual play. Schwartz finished with the two goals that represented all of the St. Louis offense, four shots on net, a hit and a takeaway in 20:02 of ice time while logging a plus-2 rating as well. The Blues clearly needed somebody to step up to the plate with Vladimir Tarasenko and the Schwartz was with St. Louis on Wednesday night.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins were quite literally black and blue after a physical, punishing game with the St. Louis Blues. A number of players took heavy hits against a St. Louis team that felt free to throw hits and take runs with Zdeno Chara and David Backes out of Boston’s lineup among other players, and that culminated with Brayden Schenn drilling David Krejci in the second period. It was a hit that earned Schenn a two minute penalty for charging midway through the period, but shouldn’t result in anything more for the Blues forward. The hit wasn’t late, his skates were on the ice when he made contact, and Krejci was crouched down when Schenn made impact on a heavy check with his elbows tucked in, so it looked like a relatively clean hit that isn’t going to be on the radar of the NHL’s Player Safety Department. That physicality for the Blues really seemed to slow down the Bruins a little bit as things went on over the 60 plus minutes of the overtime game.


TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually only got outshot by a 15-13 margin in the second period, third period and overtime, but it was clear that they slowed down in terms of attacking and creating chances as things moved on in the game. By the latter half of the game the Bruins were simply trying to hang on to their one-goal lead, and then after that simply trying to hang in there for the point earned by getting to overtime. They managed to do it, but it was a different wave of momentum in the game once the Blues tied things up in the third period on Schwartz’s first goal. After that the Bruins were scrambling and hanging on, and did just enough to hang in there for a single overtime point for the second game in a row.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Donato made it two goals in two games when he stepped into a loose puck created by an Alex Pietrangelo turnover that bounced off referee Brad Watson after he attempted to throw a puck up the middle of the ice. Donato pounced on the fortuitous bounce and rocked a puck on edge past Jake Allen for the game’s first goal and another affirmation that the 21-year-old can both shoot and score. Donato was pretty quiet after that goal, of course, with a couple of shots on net, but it seemed like a big, heavy hit on him by Dmitri Jaskin in the second period kind of quieted the youngster down a little bit. Still, you’ve got to love the production from a player just getting his feet wet at the NHL level.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – The number of points for the Bruins after falling in overtime by a 2-1 score to the Blues, and in getting to the century mark the B’s clinched a playoff spot for the second season in a row.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s step one. Going into the season we wanted to make the playoffs and be a Stanley Cup contender. Right now we got in and we’re going to be a contender, right? Now it’s about being in the best position possible going forward.” –Bruce Cassidy, to reporters in St. Louis about clinching the playoff spot on Wednesday night.