Bergeron or Not Don Sweeney Needs to Go

Don Sweeney and the entire Boston Bruins organization enter this offseason with a season of disappointment in their wake. The team’s lofty aspirations went out with a whimper as they faltered against the Carolina Hurricanes in game 7 of the first round of the eastern conference playoffs. As the Bruins cleaned out their lockers and shut the door on this season, they allowed the sun to set even further on their current core’s Stanley Cup window.

As the impending offseason crests over the horizon, the Bruins organization finds itself in a far more ominous and foreboding position than offseason past. The Bruins are currently waiting on a potentially franchise altering decision before implementing their offseason plan: The future of Patrice Bergeron.

Whether Bergeron stays or goes is irrelevant, however, to the question of who should lead the Boston Bruins into the future. I’m here to tell you that compete or rebuild, Don Sweeney is NOT the man for the job.

Since Sweeney’s takeover the bruins have been a team that has consistently failed to meet expectations, the exception being the 2019 Stanley Cup run. Sweeney has consistently failed to properly equip his team with pieces to compete. On top of that, his neglect of the Bruins future and mismanagement of future assets is nothing short of abysmal.

DRAFTING

Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: (L-R) Don Sweeney and Cam Neely of the Boston Bruins attend the 2019 NHL Draft at the Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

All Bruins fans are aware of catastrophe that was the 2015 NHL Draft. Sweeney traded Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton for two 1st & 2nd round picks which ( in addition to the two picks the bruins went into the draft with) he used on Jakub Zboril, Jake Debrusk, Zach Senyshyn, Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Jeremy Lauzon. In drafting those six, Don Sweeney missed on ALL of the following players:

Matt Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Evgeny Svechnikov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Brock Boeser, Travis Konecny, Jack Roslovic, Anthony Beauvillier, Sebastian Aho, Roope Hintz, Jordan Greenway, Rasmus Anderson, Vince Dunn, Oliver Kylington, Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph, Nicholas Roy, Conor Garland, Kirill Kaprizov, Troy Terry, Adam Gaudette, John Marino, Vladislav Gavrikov, Andrew Mangiapane.

It would be the understatement of the century to call the 2015 draft a disaster. The gravity of Sweeney’s failure to turn those 6 picks into impactful NHL players will haunt me and other Bruins fans until my dying days. But Sweeney’s drafting failure goes far beyond what he did in 2015.

Sweeney’s work in the first and second rounds of the draft have been borderline catastrophic. Sweeney has turned FIVE first round picks from 2016 to the present into: Charlie Mcavoy, Trent Frederic, Urho Vakaanainen, John Beecher, and Fabian Lysell. The Bruins also don’t have a first round pick this upcoming draft.

No one will argue how important Mcavoy is to this team and how impactful he will be for years to come. Early returns on Lysell point to the Bruins having a potential star in the making. Besides those two picks, Sweeney has used his first round selections to rid the team of David Backes’ contract, trade for 23 games of Rick Nash, add a sweetener to the Hampus Lindholm game and draft Trent Frederic and John Beecher. Sweeney had SEVEN chances to add impact players in the 1st round and as far as I’m concerned, he’ll be lucky if more than two of his 1st round picks pan out.

Sweeney’s second round picks haven’t been much better than the firsts. In fact Sweeney has actually traded 5 second round picks since the fateful 2015 draft. The Bruins have only had 4 second round picks in the last six drafts.

Sweeney drafted Ryan Lindgren who has turned into an everyday shutdown defenseman for the Rangers, Jack Studnicka who’s failed to live up to expectations, Axel Andersson who was also traded for Backes relief, and Mason Lohrei. In addition, Sweeney had to trade second round picks in 2023 and 2024 to acquire Hampus Lindholm.

Lohrei has emerged as top prospects and Lindholm should be a top pairing defenseman for years to come but again, Sweeney turned six second round picks into potentially two future contributors.

I’ll spare you the rest of my spreadsheet detailing Sweeney’s draft history in favor of this one haunting statistic: Don Sweeney has made 43 draft selections as the General Manager of the Boston Bruins and 6 of them are currently on the roster.  Don Sweeney has struggled since the day he took over to identify talent and has proven time and time again that when an impact player is on the board, Sweeney can’t differentiate him from Zach Senyshyn for Jakub Zboril.

Free Agency

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 25: David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period of the preseason game between the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on September 25, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

I’ll keep this section short and sweet. In his time as general manager Don Sweeney has signed Matt Belekey to a 5 year, $19 million deal, David Backes to a 5 year, $30 million deal, Nick Foligno to a 2 year, $3.8 million deal, John Moore to a 5 year, $13,750,000 deal and Mike Reilly to a 3 year, $9 million deal.

To put all of this in perspective, Sweeney has signed contracts amounting to $79,350,000 for 196 points.

I’ll give Sweeney credit, he was able to retain David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall at reasonable numbers, extended Charlie Mcavoy at a number that will set the market for years to come and has generally been solid when it comes to keeping homegrown talent in place. Sweeney has also been quite successful when it comes to signing NCAA free agents. Marc McLauglin, Jack Ahcan and Georgi Merkulov are just a few examples of college players that have a bright future with this organization.

But when you factor in Sweeney’s free agency record in its totality, you can’t help but be concerned every year unrestricted free agency rolls around. When Sweeney has decided to loosen the purse strings, I’ve found myself scratching my head and shielding my eyes more times than I’d like to remember.

Trades

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – FEBRUARY 27: Ondrej Kase #28 of the Boston Bruins looks on during his first game with the Bruins in the second period of the game against the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on February 27, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Sweeney’s record on trades is one I’ve gone back and forth with when evaluating his performance. The Charlie Coyle and Hampus Lindholm trades (at least to this point) seem like complete successes that have positioned the team well for the present and the future. But in my humble opinion Sweeney’s trades have, for the most part, been a negative for the Boston Bruins.

Sweeney got off to a good start with the Lucic and Hamilton trades but was unable to capitalize on all of the assets he accumulated. After that draft Sweeney went on to complete two of the most confusing trades in recent memory. Sweeney traded a 3rd round pick for enforcer and noted dirty player Zac Rinaldo, a man who was somehow capable of underwhelming this fan by producing 3 points in 52 games. Sweeney then gave up on Reilly Smith, a top 6 winger who has gone on to put up 317 points in 483 games since leaving, by sending him and Marc Savard’s contract to Florida for Jimmy Hayes. Both trades saw Sweeney ship out valuable assets and a legitimate top line winger for pennies on the dollar.

Then Sweeney gave four more draft picks at the 2016 trade deadline, acquiring offensive juggernaut Lee Stempniak for a 2nd and 4th, and John-Michael Liles for Anthony Camara, a 3rd and a 5th. Combined these two players skated 74 games for the Bruins producing 21 points. Once again we see Sweeney’s ability to waste 4 mid-to-high draft picks on players who failed to produce for the team.

The bad asset management continued when Sweeney traded a first round pick, seventh round pick, Ryan Lindgren, Matt Beleskey and Ryan Spooner for 23 games of Rick Nash. Not only did Sweeney trade for an aging veteran known for disappearing in the playoffs (46 points in 89 playoff games), he continued he began his most infamous trend, trading picks and prospects to atone for his free agency mistakes.

Sweeney did the same thing when acquiring Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks. Sweeney had to give up a first round pick and the Bruins’ top draft choice from 2018 just to bring in a middle 6 forward and get relief from David Backes’ albatross of a contract.

The latest example of this trend came in this year’s Lindholm trade. Whether the sweetener on the deal was Urho Vaakanainen or one of the second round picks, Sweeney had to once again add a pick/prospect to a deal to dump John Moore’s salary.

Since he started as GM Sweeney has traded three 1st round picks, two 2nd round picks and Ryan Lindgren, Axel Andersson and Urho Vaakanainen for Ondrej Kase, Rick Nash, Lee Stempniak and Hampus Lindholm.

Sweeney had to make 3 major trades and give up additional picks and prospects JUST to get out from under large cap numbers that HE signed for. Add to that the fact that David Krejci needed a winger for what seemed like a decade, the Bruins allowed Krug, Krejci and Chara walk for nothing and the year-in, year-out insistence that this team is ‘one piece away’ and you have your answer: Sweeney’s trades have been lackluster at best and have left much to be desired.

Conclusion

If you’re still with me in this article, know that I appreciate you reading and put so much information in my analysis because I wanted to paint a clear a picture as possible: Don Sweeney is NOT the man for the job. Drafting, free agency and trades, in every facet of the job Sweeney has been mediocre at best and an unmitigated disaster at worst.

The Bruins are coming to a crossroads and Bergeron or not they need to start thinking about their future. When fans talk about how the Bruins should go about rebuilding, who they should target in the draft, and what assets they should or shouldn’t move one thing remains abundantly clear, it would be a mistake to let Don Sweeney lead this team into the future.