By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Let’s face it, just eight days after the Bruins pulled a no-show and lost the Stanley Cup at TD Garden against a team that, at best, they should have won in a gentleman’s sweep in Game 7 against the St. Louis Blues. Fans have to feel even worse that the Black and Gold basically suffered a blackout in the biggest game of the season, in which for all rights, should have resulted in the city’s third championship in less than a calendar year.
To add insult to injury – in what was a more poorly produced program than some of my kids plays in middle school – Don Sweeney walked away with the General Manager of the Year hardware at the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas on Wednesday night.
Does anyone think he wouldn’t trade that trophy 100 times over for seeing his name etched on the Stanley Cup this summer?
And even though the B’s were one of the best teams in the league during this past regular season – despite the number of injuries to many of their key players – there is no guarantee that they won’t suffer the same fate they did in the playoffs a year ago in the second round next spring, as the Tampa Bay Lightning will no doubt be on a mission to prove that their opening round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets was simply a fluke.
Not to mention, the path to the Finals was almost embarrassingly easy after they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs – by far the most talented team they faced in hockey’s second season – even though both Columbus and St. Louis took them to seven games in their respective series.
Hardly a minute after the handshake line on Causeway Street and the hoisting of the Cup for the first time in history by the Blues last Wednesday night, the lying season in the NHL officially began. In his season-ending press conference earlier this week, Sweeney spoke about basically having to be blown away in order to trade Torey Krug, who is an elite point producer on the power play but is likely to be overpaid when his contract expires this time next year.
For as much value – and character – that Krug brings to the Bruins, he will not be worth the $7-ish he will likely get on the free agent market. Not to mention, that Sweeney will likely be spending similar money on Charlie McAvoy on what most expect to be a six-year deal this summer, and the significant – and well deserved substantial raise – that Brandon Carlo will be given before September as well.
Perhaps Sweeney’s greatest accomplishment since he took over from his predecessor “Payday” Pete Chiarelli approximately four years ago, has been managing the salary cap. It is difficult to think that the Harvard graduate doesn’t realize that Krug and a young prospect is perhaps his best chance to add the second line winger that they so desperately were lacking this season come the draft or later this summer.
Sweeney is more than deserving of the hardware he took home from Vegas on Wednesday night. He essentially rebuilt an aging core of Cup champions on the fly – even though he pretty much had a couple of big swings and misses in his first kick at the can of at the NHL Draft in 2015 – and had them on the doorstep of once again bringing to Boston perhaps the most difficult trophy in professional sports.
However, the road he faces this summer to get them back to the point they were just over a week ago before Game 7, will likely be the most difficult one he has faced in his time as general manager of the Bruins.