Boston Bruins: Don Sweeney not the right person to lead a potential rebuild

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Don Sweeney has been watching the Boston Bruins slowly fall apart. In his hands has been duct tape, glue, and a spool of jute twine. Sweeney hasn’t fixed anything, but he’s been keeping the Bruins together just enough to keep the team competitive.

At some point, Sweeney has to grab a hammer, some nails and a circular saw. But do you trust him with the task of rebuilding the team?

For years the Bruins had been centered around defenseman Zdeno Chara, forwards Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and goalie Tuukka Rask. Together, with a strong supporting cast around them, the Bruins were a championship contending team. In 2011 they broke a 39-year drought and brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston.

Staying competitive isn’t a given, but with shrewd decision-making in the front office, it’s possible. Former Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli did that for 10 years. Sweeney, in his sixth year as Bruins GM, hasn’t achieved similar results.

The Boston Bruins are declining, and it may be time to move on from Don Sweeney

Being critical of the 2018-19 GM of the year doesn’t seem logical. The Bruins had the third best record in the NHL that year and reached the Stanley Cup Finals. Sweeney should have a championship ring for that season, but the players on the ice didn’t take care of business against the St. Louis Blues.

But let’s be honest. That Bruins team reached the finals because the Columbus Blue Jackets upset the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes knocked off the Washington Capitals. Boston was 1-3 against Tampa Bay and 1-2 against the Capitals in 2018-19.

That Bruins team was very good, but not elite. What held them back was the lack of secondary scoring, a problem Sweeney has struggled to solve. And as Father Time slowly picks away at Boston’s core, it’s Sweeney who is tasked with assembling a new nucleus. It’s worth asking if he’s the best person to do it.

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Since that Stanley Cup loss, Chara decided to walk instead of accepting a lesser role with the Boston Bruins, Torey Krug priced his way out of town, Krejci opted to play in his home country, and Tuukka Rask just retired after a brief comeback attempt. Finding replacements wasn’t going to be easy.

To Sweeney’s credit, he did draft Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jeremy Swayman. But his misses are catching up to the B’s.

Sweeney may never live down the 2015 draft. Jakub Zboril was a reach at 13th overall. Zachary Senyshyn is in his fifth season with the Providence Bruins, having played just 14 games with the parent club. Jake DeBrusk wants a new beginning with a new team. Urho Vaakanainen, who has just 29 games with Boston under his belt, is yet to break through.

Same goes for 2017 second round pick Jack Studnicka. He just made his 28th and 29th appearances with Boston. Like Senyshyn and Vaakanainen, Studnicka hasn’t graduated from the Baby B’s.

But hey, Sweeney can take credit for Ryan Lindgren. The 2016 second rounder has been solid…for the New York Rangers. He was part of the exchange for Rick Nash, which turned out to be a bad deadline deal (11 games played, 3 goals, 3 assists, -4 +/-).

Talking about Sweeney’s deals, he gave big dollars to Jimmy Hayes and David Backes. Neither were anywhere close to being worth the money. This past spring Sweeney’s free agent class was headlined by Nick Foligno. He is contributing little offensively.

And Sweeney is the man that can rebuild the Bruins?

It’s almost midnight for the Boston Bruins championship core and the morning doesn’t look promising. Bergeron’s contract expires after this season and he says he won’t think about his future until after the season. If the 36-year-old Bergeron decides to return, how much does he have left? Even worse, what if Bergeron decides he’s done?

If Bergeron hangs up the skates, who takes over the captaincy. Marchand? The 33-year-old pest exhibited his immaturity again by continuing his Twitter feud with the Hurricanes and he punched Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. Marchand was served a six-game suspension for the latter, his eighth suspension of his career. Marchand is an elite player when focused on hockey, but he’s not captain material.

And at 33, sunset is coming for Marchand too. He could have another handful of elite years left in him, but the end is closer than the beginning.

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Sweeney’s foundation maybe starts with David Pastrnak, McAvoy, Carlo and Swayman. OK, but each have weaknesses that keeps them from being considered elite.

The paint isn’t just peeling on Sweeney. A little spackle and sanding won’t set the Bruins up for championship contention in the future. If recent draft picks don’t become stars or veteran acquisitions continue to flop, how long do the Boston Bruins wait to take the tools from Sweeney and put them in someone else’s hands?