By Kevin Flanagan
This mystifying, oddly timed offseason has become increasingly more perplexing for Bruins fans who are seemingly watching their favorite team taking a Sunday drive on the road to nowhere with each passing day.
After rumblings that the B’s brass was under an ownership enforced internal salary cap that Jeremy Jacobs was so famous for prior to the NHL adopting a league-wide system in 2005, team president Cam Neely refuted that notion in an email to Boston Hockey Now’s Jimmy Murphy on Wednesday.
The Hall of Famer, who played the majority of his career under such a self-imposed cap, responded to Murphy’s inquiry with the following message.
“There have not been any conversations with Mr. Jacobs or Charlie Jacobs regarding restrictions on hockey-related spending. They continue to give the hockey management full support.”
If that is the case, it raises even more questions about what kind of plan is in place to keep the once Stanley Cup favorites in contention in the Eastern Conference while their rivals improve, and their roster continues to age.
To paraphrase the late, great Vince Lombardi, what the hells going on here?
To put things in perspective regarding the team’s future that calls the generic barn on Causeway Street home, consider this.
Entering the NHL Draft just over a week ago, the Bleacher Report and many others had general manager Don Sweeney’s prospects rated among the lowest in the league.
Without his first-round pick, that he surrendered to rid himself of the disaster of a free agent signing former Blues captain David Backes in 2016, and that brought the mystery that is Ondrej Kase to Boston at the trade deadline last February from the Ducks. Sweeney continued to baffle many with his four remaining selections.
As has been his history, many that analyze the game for a living and are much more knowledgeable regarding talent in the draft than most seem to agree that the former Harvard defenseman continued his thus far unproductive habit of overreaching with his picks
Not to mention each of the four players he chose are committed to playing in college currently, which means, at best, they won’t enter the organization for the next two to four years.
Add that to what has become a disturbing pattern of not being able to close the deal on trades or with free agents, the roster that Sweeney has currently assembled is what no franchise operating under a salary cap system wants to be.
Older and increasingly average.
While it is true that the signing of a player Craig Smith would have been a great addition to make as recently as two years ago, given the fragility of the Bruins rapidly aging core and the lack of depth in the organization, adding a 31-year-old bottom-six forward makes no sense for a team that is facing a significant transition sooner rather than later.
Entering the week of the draft and free agency, many thought that the team that likely blew their best chance for a championship some 16 months ago in Game 7 against the Blues at TD Garden was already at a crossroads.
Many believed that the B’s brain trust had to decide between going big and making one last run with this roster or beginning the rebuild that is no longer far off on the horizon.
Now just a week and a half later, they seem to be lost in the forest of indecision that many not-contending teams in the NHL face, desperately in need of a compass.