SUNRISE, Fla. – It’s never easy for a NHL coach to learn that talented, seasoned veterans have been traded off the roster, but at least Claude Julien tried to put on a positive face while addressing the media at the NHL Draft at the BB&T Center.
The Bruins coach stressed that draft weekend isn’t over yet, that the team hasn’t even gone through the opening of free agency on July 1 and that it’s difficult to judge until we see who replaces the traded Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic.
“I think you’ve got to give Donnie [Sweeney] a lot of credit. He just stepped into this role with a lot on his plate,” said Julien when addressing the media after the B’s general manager had made his three picks at the 13th, 14th and 15th spots in the first round. “There was a lot going on, and some tough decisions to be made. Personally I’m pretty impressed with how he handled it.
“That’s not to say I’m happy that Doug Hamilton and Milan Lucic are gone. We just lost two pretty good players, but those were moves that probably had to be made with the situation we were in, and the cap and everything else. They decided to make some decisions regarding the future of the Bruins, and they had to make those decisions. I’m a coach that likes to have the support of upper management, so I’m going to support upper management on that.”
Does Julien view next season as a rebuilding situation given that they dealt away two high-end NHL performers in Hamilton and Lucic without getting a single proven NHL asset in return?
“I’m the coach here and I’ll work with whatever players we have because there’s obviously going to be some new players,” said Julien. “We’re going to make it work. I’m not looking at this as rebuilding…not at all. We’re going out there to win hockey games, and to be a really competitive team. That will be part of my job.”
Likewise earlier on Friday afternoon following his seismic roster moves, Sweeney scoffed at the notion that the Bruins were entering any level of rebuild situation. It’s understandable that the organization is hesitant to go there given that Bruins fans won’t have an appetite for a losing team given the sky-high price of tickets. There’s also the fact that the Bruins have become accustomed to success over the past 10 years and don’t want to take too many steps back.
But the words really seem to fly in the face of Sweeney’s actions on Friday night, and in particular the inability to turn the mid-first round picks and Martin Jones into a high-first round pick, where Boston College prospect Noah Hanifin would have been available.
“[We can compete] with our goaltending, with the core group of our guys, and with our strength up the middle of the ice,” said Sweeney. “We had players that didn’t score to the level they were supposed to last year.
“Are we going to continue to look to improve our club? Absolutely.”
Let’s hope they find a way to leave this draft weekend with a young defensemen that’s on par with Hamilton because otherwise the Boston roster looks like it’s going to be something approaching a rebuild situation with aging players (Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg), players that will be asked to play up in the lineup (Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid) and young players (Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow) that are far from proven commodities in the NHL.