We feared this might happen, but we never really believed it could.
Despite all the warnings to the contrary, despite all the statistics and indications saying otherwise, and despite the Bruins being short on top-4 defencemen but still having one of the best in a generation playing for them...the new Boston brain trust listened to the "wisdom" of certain figures within the hockey media, ignored all indications to the contrary, and made a trade that flew in the face of logic and "smart" thinking.
In trading Dougie Hamilton, a 21-year-old franchise defenseman with stats that show he's more productive than Drew Doughty at the same age (a player who some said he "wasn't playing like" for nothing more than a mid-round first and two mid-round seconds, Don Sweeney has made a decision that could hamstring the Bruins for several years going forward.
First of all, the return they get is actually LESS than they may have got by allowing Hamilton to go to an offer-sheet - which with his reported salary demands could have been two 1st rounds, a 2nd and a 3rd even if they had refused to match it and left them in the same position.
Secondly-insiders and NHL media are reporting that the offer finally received from Calgary - to fill this franchise-D sized hole, is not the best offer Bruins received, with many surprised that Sweeney took this deal given that Arizona were in and had the 3rd overall pick (one that could have been used to select top D prospect and local boy Noah Hanifin). It's still not going to make up for the instant loss of Hamilton, but taking a top D prospect in return would at least have softened the blow.
Thirdly - the Boston media will no doubt immediately point to the fact that Hamilton was asking "too much" - indeed the suggestions that his demands were "too rich" have already begun.
Those demands, by the way, were $5.5 million a year.
Keep that in mind, then compare it to the deal made immediately afterwards...the move that the Bruins have made with that $5.5 million or so of extra cap space they claim to have now saved.
Adam McQuaid, for 2.75 million a year. Half that price, for a player who is arguably half what Hamilton is. He certainly isn't a number one defenceman.
Most insiduous in this saga though is the fact that the Bruins, or at least some in the mainstream media, were already preparing the ground for a deal. We covered this last week in a post that some said was "unjustified criticism" and "not facing an issue".
Looking at the articles of Haggerty and others questioning Hamilton's worth in the light of today's news, you can see why the issue could've been a major one. In hindsight, it looks like a classic example of justifying an action before it takes place.
Even today we've seen more of the same - Kevin Dupont tweeting this morning that:
As noted here this morn, Bruins must have concern over essential element of Hamilton's game.— Kevin Paul Dupont (@GlobeKPD) June 26, 2015
Er...just what is the "issue" could the Bruins have with the game of a player who over his first three years in the league is better at driving production than DREW DOUGHTY? Especially an issue so pressing that even when they're taking offers they don't take the best one out there?!
What Don Sweeney has done here has dropped a massive part of both the Bruins' present and future for the want of a few dollars, when there are much less impact-filled moves he could have made that, sure, might have taken the Bruins a pace back or two in the very short term and required them to develop depth from within the organisation, but would also have left them with a player fast developing into one of the best at his position in the entire league.
Sweeney has panicked. He's gone for a short-term fix and attempted to put out the campfire burning in front of him while leaving the forest fire behind him to rage unchecked - a decision which could see he and the Bruins getting burned for years to come.
The universal "what the hell" reaction both in Boston and around the NHL, and the unbridled joy in Calgary should tell you already that this is a trade that is bad for Boston. Just how bad is something we should see in the coming season, and indeed beyond.
There is talk that this is the first of several moves for the Bruins this draft day, and that this will have to be viewed in "full context".
The context is simple. Bruins just traded a franchise number one d-man for a horrendous return-and even working their way up to 3rd overall won't change that.
Don Sweeney's reign has not started confidently at all.