Bruins

Bean: Don Sweeney handled trade deadline like a pro

Bean: Don Sweeney handled trade deadline like a pro

This season, Zdeno Chara carries a cap hit of $4 million. Between the retained money on Matt Beleskey ($1.9 million) and the buyout charges of from Dennis Seidenberg ($2.16 million) and Jimmy Hayes ($566,667), the Bruins are paying over $4.63 million for players not on the team. 

In other words, the Bruins are paying more for missteps made in Don Sweeney's early days as GM* than they are for their captain. That's because Sweeney wasn't good at the job early on. I think he is now. 

(*Yes, Seidenberg was a Chiarelli signing, but it was Sweeney's decision to buy him out and sign John-Michael Liles rather than just keep Seidenberg another year and then buy out one year rather than two.)

Sweeney's tenure with the Bruins started off -- as he actually said it would -- bumpy. He made the correct choice to trade one of the franchise's cornerstones in Milan Lucic, getting a good haul in return. Yet he showed his inexperience (perhaps in a panic out of fear of an offer sheet) by getting a less-than-commensurate return in the Dougie Hamilton trade. He traded for and paid Hayes. He signed Beleskey. He gave up a third-rounder for Zac Rinaldo. 

In that time, he also made a bevy of draft picks, some of which have already shown to be wise in Brandon Carlo and Jake DeBrusk. Yet drafting (especially with the number of picks the Bruins had) wasn't really going to be the question with Sweeney. Success there was expected given his background in player development. The question was whether he could handle agents and opposing GMs with competence. 

That's something that took some time, but he got team-friendly deals for both Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak after giving early overpays to guys like Beleskey and Adam McQuaid. Prowess in contract negotation had been shown, but trading for a star remained his last ability to prove. 

Thanks to strong years from veterans and supplementary contributions from young players, the Bruins suddenly found themselves needing such a trade for an attempted Cup run. He pulled that off, too.

A first-round pick and a prospect like Ryan Lindgren (along with Ryan Spooner and a late pick) is a lot to give up, but perhaps Sweeney deduced that his team's chances of a championship run are actually better this season than they might be in the next couple, when the team probably won't be getting the performances currently being given by Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron. 

So he got the deal done for Rick Nash. Thumbs up there. He also wisely added depth on the back end in Nick Holden a year after a little defensive depth might have made the difference in the first round against Ottawa. The Tommy Wingels thing is fine. Same with Brian Gionta. Not a major concern either way, but kudos on valuing depth. 

Bruins fans should lament the Lightning getting Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the Rangers, but Sweeney couldn't have assumed that was going to happen and he certainly shouldn't have tried to get that package for what it cost Tampa. 

The Lightning sent a top roster player (25-year-old Vladislav Namestnikov, who has 20 goals this season), multiple high picks (a 2018 first-rounder and a conditional 2019 first), their 2016 first-round pick and their 2016 second-round pick to New York. 

That is an absolute ton, and it's absolutely not a package the Bruins were in any position to replicate. They've got to draft and develop replacements for the stars currently leading them. Giving away all their picks and best prospects is the surest way back to having to overpay vets to fill holes better filled by youth. 

So the Bruins spent where they could have -- and should have. It was wise and savvy dealing and decision-making from a group that has pivoted well from its early blunders. 

Is Oilers' GM Peter Chiarelli committing a crime against hockey?

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Is Oilers' GM Peter Chiarelli committing a crime against hockey?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while prepping the Thanksgiving turkey.

*So far it looks like the worm is turning in Edmonton where Barstool Sports of all places is calling what Peter Chiarelli has done to the Oilers “a crime against hockey.” I think that’s a little strong, but it’s tough to argue about the talent that’s gone in and out of there, and the Ryan Spooner trade this past week continues that trend. And I'm sure trading the reigning Hart Trophy champ to Jersey for Adam Larsson still stings a little up in Edmonton too. Just a little. 

*Cool stuff as the ECHL Atlanta Gladiators went above and beyond to make a 10-year-old Irish boy’s hockey dreams come true.

*Interesting look at why there aren’t more PED cases within the ranks of the NHL. Some of it is that PED usage isn’t as rampant IMHO, and some of it is that the testing really isn’t quite as comprehensive as it might be in some of the other leagues. That’s just my opinion anyway.

*Fun little video here of fired Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville enjoying his time as an unemployed hockey coach while doing shots prior to the Chicago Bears game.

*For something completely different: Hey look it’s another true crime podcast to add to the wood pile.

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Injury-plagued Bruins have a big challenge, but they also have a plan

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Injury-plagued Bruins have a big challenge, but they also have a plan

The Bruins really are at a bit of a breaking point right now with the injuries.

It’s bad enough that they’re missing Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore and Urho Vaakanainen to injuries at this point, but now Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron both appear to be out for the foreseeable future. That’s about as dire as it gets for the Black and Gold missing their two best defensive players and leaders on the ice while seemingly introducing a new player from Providence just about every game.

Couple that with the fact that it appears Montreal and Buffalo are much improved in the Atlantic Division this season, and the Bruins have a challenge to at least tread water with the rest of the pack while currently sitting in playoff position. That won’t be easy missing so many key players and trying to survive with Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk basically serving as the top two defensemen among the six blueliners on the ice.

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Despite all of that, give credit to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff for formulating the best plan until some of the healthy reinforcements arrive for the Black and Gold. It’s been on display in each of the last two games as the Bruins have taken three out of four points on the road against Dallas and Arizona in low-scoring affairs. The Bruins have only scored two goals in the two games, but still managed to secure the three points because they found a little offense stuffed in between the couch cushions, and then played a conservative brand of hockey that limits chances both for them and for the opposition.

That was on full display against the Coyotes when the Bruins only managed three shots on net in the second period after scoring early in the game to take a quick 2-0 lead in the eventual 2-1 win over the Desert Dogs. It may not be the sexiest hockey in the world for a Bruins team that’s used to scoring early and often while playing at a fast pace, but it should also be effective if the young B’s reserves can keep their discipline and confidence riding high.

They’re also going to need some seriously strong goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask, who combined to stop 68-of-70 shots (.971) over the weekend in taking the three out of four available points against the Stars and Coyotes. Halak continues to put together a strong season with the .935 save percentage and the 2.07 goals against average to date this year, and Rask has always been a strong goalie in the months of November and December once things get to the middle of the regular season.

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There’s clearly hope that the goaltenders are both going to be up for the challenge over the next month or so. They'll need to after the Bruins were outshot 70-46 over the last two games while playing their brand of a bend-but-don't-break defense with rookies, AHL journeymen and undersized puck-movers trying to get the job done. 

There’s also the fact that Kevan Miller may be returning this coming week, and there may be another healthy body or two behind him with the Brandon Carlo issue not expected to be a serious injury to begin with.

So put it all together and there’s no question the Bruins are in the middle of some serious adversity, and that the success of the last two games could become a fleeting thing while banking on a boatload of young, inexperienced players called up from Providence. So far, so good for the Black and Gold, but they’re a long way from getting out of the woods despite being in a good playoff spot with the Thanksgiving holiday bearing down on them this week.

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