Don Sweeney Didn’t Do Enough for Bruins at Deadline. Or Did He?

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 29: The Boston Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden on March 29, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - MARCH 29: The Boston Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the TD Garden on March 29, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Mark Stone is in Vegas, but Coyle and Johansson Could Do the Trick.

Let’s play a little game called “two truths and a lie.” If you’re not familiar with it, the game is simple. I will present three statements, and of the three, two will be true and one will be false. Your job, as the reader, will be to single out the statement that you believe is a lie.

Think of this as if you were at a Bruins game, sitting in the balcony of TD Garden during a TV timeout, rapidly shifting your eyes back and forth in an attempt to guess which of the three hockey helmets shuffling around the Jumbotron contains the hidden Black and Gold lottery ticket. In this case, the lie acts as the lottery ticket.

Here are your three statements to choose from:

  1. The Boston Bruins desperately needed a third line center and second line wing.
  2. Don Sweeney recently acquired suitors Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson to fill those voids.
  3. On paper, the Bruins look just as talented offensively as the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs.

If you selected anything other than number three as your lie, you lose; the lottery ticket was hidden under helmet number three. The Bruins do not match up equally on offense with Tampa or Toronto — on paper. Thankfully, for Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins, hockey isn’t played on paper.

With regard to statements one and two, Coyle and Johansson are instant upgrades for Boston. Against St. Louis and San Jose, the former looked like a delightful fit at third line center with his size, skating ability, and flashes of skill.

The latter, snatched up by Sweeney as a deadline buzzer-beater, seems to be largely considered as a versatile top-six impact player and certainly played like one against the Sharks after notching an assist and establishing what looked like viable chemistry with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.

The overwhelming consensus among Bruins fans and media has seemingly been that Boston’s GM produced a disappointing trade deadline, failing to bring in a Mark Stone, Ryan Dzingel, or Wayne Simmonds.

That said, what is disguised as failure on the surface was undoubtedly true intention on Sweeney’s part, as he clearly will never divert from his original plan which revolves around keeping the Bruins’ prospect cupboard stocked, and continuing to plan for the future while giving his aging core a few more chances to win along the way.

Sweeney filled the Bruins’ most dire needs, period.

Although he probably could have filled them more adequately, he understandably wasn’t willing to budge on certain prospects or picks. I, for one, believe we’ll probably want to thank him for that a few years down the line when the likes of Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, and Trent Frederic are making plays and taking names with the “spoked-B” on their chests.

Give Sweeney credit, because ever since he took over for the currently unemployed Peter Chiarelli, he’s never deviated from his original path and the Bruins have been one of the best teams in the NHL while playing in arguably the league’s most difficult division.

Concerning statement number three, the “lie” of our little game, it was going to take something massive from Don Sweeney to align the Bruins’ forward group with those of their Atlantic Division rivals. An argument could be made, though, that this Bruins offense is, in fact, just as dangerous at Toronto’s, but it is a close call.

In my opinion, if Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk are firing on all cylinders, that argument is an easy one to make when you consider Boston’s 3-1 record against the Leafs this season. Weymouth native, Coyle, is the perfect fit at center for what the Bruins need on their third line right now, and he’s no Mark Stone, but Johansson could make a significant impact regardless of his usage.

At 6′ 3”, 220 pounds, Coyle and his game are a natural fit for the Bruins, and he has the desire to win with his hometown team, while the versatile Johansson is a known Leafs-killer.

Toronto fans have hated “MoJo” ever since he victimized the Leafs during their first round playoff matchup with the Washington Capitals in 2017, wherein he scored the Capitals’ tying goal in the third period, and followed it up with the overtime winner to eliminate the Leafs in Game 6.

Superhuman Nikita Kucherov and the Tampa Bay Lightning, however, are not, and should not be intimidated by the additions of Coyle and Johansson in the slightest. That said, both are impactful players who, in their respective roles, will surely give the Bruins a much better chance than they had against the Bolts before Sweeney made his deadline deals.

Why Johansson Could Suffice

The thought of the right-shooting Mark Stone skating alongside David Krejci in a black and gold sweater had fans salivating. He was the best available right wing on the market, and was viewed as the best possible fit for the Bruins and their second line void.

Keep in mind, however, that Jarome Iginla also had fans foaming at the mouth around the trade deadline in 2013, and too was seen as the ideal candidate for that same role on Krejci’s right.

Well, the Bruins couldn’t reel in Iginla, and instead were forced to settle for lefty Jaromir Jagr. News flash: the B’s were still able to make it all the way to game six of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013, while even sweeping the team that landed Iginla along the way.

Now, I’m not in any way, shape, or form, comparing Stone to Iginla or Johansson to Jagr as individual players, but the similarities between Boston’s trade deadline acquisitions of 2013 and 2019 are striking in this instance.

In 2013, the Bruins missed out on the best right-shot right wing on the market in Jarome Iginla, prompting fans and media to pull out the pitchforks while envisioning what could have been. The team, instead, acquired the left-shooting Jagr who could play either the left or right wing.

Fast-forward six years later, and the Bruins again missed out on the best right-shot right wing available in Stone, also leaving fans and media dissatisfied in 2019 after the team was forced to turn to left-shot winger Johansson who, like Jagr, can play on either the left or right side, in addition to center.

Upon completion of the abbreviated 2013 regular season, the Bruins finished second in their division, just above Toronto and beneath Montreal, while Iginla’s new squad owned first place in the East, and second in the entire league.

And when the Bruins met the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, the B’s were furnished with a lineup that included fall-back option Jagr, while the Penguins featured a lineup that showcased none other than Boston’s deadline dream that season in Iginla.

If you recall, Jagr and the Bruins swept Iginla and the Penguins in four games. So much for that flashy trade deadline acquisition. Not to mention, if the season ended today, the Bruins again would finish just above Toronto in second place in their division, and Tampa Bay would finish way atop the East like Pittsburgh in 2013.

So, the moral of the story is that hockey isn’t played on paper, it’s played on ice. The 2013 Boston Bruins, equipped with Jagr instead of Iginla that spring, went on to make an exhilarating playoff run that ended just two wins shy of a Stanley Cup Championship.

Six years later, only time will tell where the Bruins of 2019, armed with Johansson as opposed to Stone, will end this spring’s run.