By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Let’s say you are the newly signed New York Ranger Jimmy Vesey, and you are sitting down in the Bruins new practice facility digs prior to making your decision to sign on Thursday, listening to general manager Don Sweeney, team president Cam Neely, and head coach Claude Julien give their sales pitch for joining the team you have grown up watching your whole life. What do you think the first thing would pop into your head, given their collective failures over the last terrible two seasons?
My guess it would be something like this, “Are these guys even going to be here after my rookie season?”
Bruins fans can argue all they want about the worth of the soon to be a first-season winger; however, what you cannot refute is that Vesey and his agents saw the B’s as a team that likely wouldn’t be a contender anytime soon. And the rebuilding process might just mean that he would be dealing with a whole new set of bosses come next spring.
Whether or not the recent Harvard grad will turn into the top six forward that many scouts have projected him to be is irrelevant. The North Reading native, who grew up bleeding Black and Gold, had a chance not only to wear the same uniform his hero Joe Thornton did his rookie year; he could have had his same number as well.
Instead, he chose to play some 200 miles south of the Hub of Hockey in New York City, rather than buying into the B’s brass plan, and becoming a Bruin. Clearly, Vesey’s team had their choice of where their player ended up, and they chose to shun the team of his youth, for what they surely hope will be his team of the future for a long time to come.
While the spin doctors will come up with excuses as to why the hometown kid chose to hit the road, evidently he and his handlers were not sold on the Bruins and their management. And why should they have been?
In the last 24 plus months, the Bruins went from a team that was considered a true contender to compete for the Stanley Cup, to a team that has laid down and died down the stretch for two consecutive seasons. Cast aside Julien’s reputation for hating young, offensive talent for a moment, and focus on the realization that if the team starts out slow, his ass could be out the door by Halloween.
What young kid who is being asked to have faith in a coach and a management staff when it comes to playing time in his rookie year, would tie themselves to a situation so tenuous?
The bottom line is, due to their dysfunction in the front office for the better part of three years, the Bruins have become an afterthought to players who are trying to be part of a team that has a chance to compete for a Cup. And for those of you who will point to the David Backes signing, tell me how many teams other than the Bruins were willing to go five years and $30 million for the 32-year-old forward?
The decimation of the Bruins defense has yet to be addressed – assuming that it even can be through the trade route – and given the way that the head coach approaches the game, it will no doubt be their downfall again next season. Far from a team on the rise – given the fact that their draft picks and minor-league prospects are anything but a sure thing – they are likely viewed as a team on the decline. And what young, free agent player wants to be a part of that?
The Bruins, who a scant three years ago were looked upon as one of the model franchises in the NHL, are now a shell of their former selves. The Vesey decision just further cements that reality.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.