BRIGHTON – Perhaps it’s because the Bruins made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last season, or perhaps time simply has mellowed any raw feelings over the four-plus years that have passed since then.
But Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was about as forthright as he’s ever been on the very first NHL draft weekend he ran as GM of the Black and Gold, and the “steep learning curve” that took place when things didn’t go off without a hitch for Boston.
“It was a steep learning curve that weekend for us for an absolute certainty. We did put forth a plan as to what we were going to try to accomplish as an organization,” said Sweeney. “We have accomplished some of those things, we haven’t accomplished the ultimate goal and that’s really what it’s all about. You are proud, as I’ve referenced our team last year and the growth of each individual player is part of that and what they contribute. And other players who come along are a part of that will contribute as well.
“I don’t look at it in one myopic time event, I look at the big package every day and try and get better at the decisions that we have to make. And people who are part of our staff at that time, we’ve learned and grown from that and are hopefully making better decisions going forward. Hopefully the club reflects that and the success we’ve had reflects that.”
A draft pool stocked with talent produced some very good players for the Bruins, of course, as second-line left winger Jake DeBrusk and shutdown defenseman Brandon Carlo are both products of that draft.
Carlo was the very reason why Sweeney was asked about as he signed a two-year deal worth $2.85 million per season as a second-round pick that went very right for the B's. But there were also some big misses as their biggest goal from that weekend was to trade up in the first round and get a young franchise defenseman with Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski as their biggest targets.
Instead, the Bruins traded Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton to amass six selections in the first two rounds of that draft, and then were left with three consecutive selections in the middle of the first round when they failed to trade up. Obviously they took care of that defenseman need a year later when they drafted Charlie McAvoy around the very same part of the first round, but in hindsight, they missed badly in the first round.
They obviously hit with a solid player in DeBrusk, who scored 27 goals in his second NHL season last year. But barring a big turnaround for both players, they missed with the other two first-round picks in Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn. When one considers that Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor and Thomas Chabot were taken with the next three picks in the first round, the Bruins missed badly with both of those players given the comparable talent available.
Connor could have been the top-6 winger they’ve been missing the last couple of seasons, and the dazzling Barzal certainly would be the heir apparent in the middle to aging top-6 centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
Later in the first round Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny, and in the second round Sebastian Aho, were selected as well, further adding to the missed opportunities for the Bruins. They’ve rebounded to further replenish their prospect pool in subsequent drafts and obviously the future is bright for a team with a talented roster coming off three straight playoff appearances and a Stanley Cup Final run last season.
Clearly Sweeney has done enough to make everybody forget the 2015 draft whether it’s signing guys like Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak to team-friendly deals, or learning his lessons well enough from some of the early missteps to be named the 2019 NHL General Manager of the Year.
So it’s clearly not all bad, but it still stings for many around the organization when they think about what happened at draft weekend four years ago.
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