By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
So, maybe Claude Julien was the Bruins biggest problem after all, eh?
That’s hyperbole, of course, but it certainly seems like there are a number of players who are liberated now that Claude isn’t behind the bench ready to blast them if they make a mistake when they are trying to play aggressive. Whatever interim head coach Bruce “call me Butch” Cassidy is doing; it sure seems to be working, as he is undefeated as the bench boss of the black and gold, going 4-0 in his short time there.
And that is good news for Bruins fans, who would like nothing more than to be able to watch playoff hockey in their hometown for the first time in three years. The move has put some life into a team that looked like it was headed for another meltdown down the stretch, and currently seems as if it may have found its stride now that the yoke Claude held so tightly around their collective neck has been removed.
The B’s have three games remaining on what many pointed to as a road trip that could go a long way in securing a playoff spot, or perhaps submarining any shot at the NHL’s second season. If they continue to play the way they are playing now, and can take away say four of the six points remaining to be had on the trip out West, they will have placed themselves in prime position for the post season with a month and a half remaining on the schedule.
So, what should general manager Don Sweeney do leading up to the trade deadline next Wednesday if that continues to be the case? Next to nothing.
The Bruins roster is replete with rookies and inexperienced players when it comes to being in a playoff push in the NHL. Sweeney and team president Cam Neely’s job now is to find out what they have in the young guys on their roster right now, so they can identify the holes they will need to fill via free agency and the draft this summer.
Let’s face it, even if they do qualify for the playoffs, the B’s chances of winning a Stanley Cup this spring is equal to my chances of winning the sexiest man alive; it’s not going to happen. The best thing that can happen this season is for the younger players – some of whom may be the bedrock of the next Bruins contender – to gain experience in big games down the stretch, and contribute to the playoff push.
Adding a rental – other than a backup goaltender – makes absolutely no sense because it would cost you what you need most; young talent and draft picks. Deadline deals are often made out of desperation, and the Bruins brass can’t afford to be desperate right now.
If the B’s have an interest in Kevin Shattenkirk or Gabriel Landeskog, the summer is the time to make those deals – assuming that Shattenkirk goes to free agency, and Landeskog isn’t moved for the king’s ransom the Avs are seeking at the deadline – not when an artificial timetable forces teams to make decisions that they often regret.
Perhaps the biggest addition the Bruins may get is one they need only convince to join the club when the NCAA hockey season is over. Charlie McAvoy – who is currently manning the blue line for the Boston University Terriers, and having a fine season – would be eligible to join the team if he decides to turn pro after his sophomore season.
The 14th overall pick in last year’s NHL draft projects to be a top pairing defense man and prototypical Bruin. In a scouting report posted at the time of last year’s draft, TheDraftAnalyst.com calls him a “confident puck carrier with speed,” who has “has a heavy shot that can be delivered with accuracy,” and can deliver “bone-crushing” hits. Getting his feet wet at the NHL level for the final couple weeks of the season, and perhaps the playoffs, makes all the sense in the world, as it is widely assumed he will be part of the roster next season.
For the first time since the first round of the playoffs in the spring of 2014, Bruins fans can start beginning to feel optimistic. However, that optimism should be focused on the future, a future that looks as if it has begun with the change behind the B’s bench.
Instead of making any more moves that could cost the team valuable potential parts for their future, Sweeney should simply sit back and let the kids play. Only then will he find out what he actually has in place, and what he needs to go get. And he might just get an unexpected trip to the playoffs in the process.