I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think Don Sweeney sleeps. He always looks as though he just finished escaping from a Siberian prison, finally crossing into Mongolian territory.
His job, as general manager of the Boston Bruins, isn’t an easy one. There’s a lot of stress, I’m sure; it makes sense he looks shot 99% of the time. Working for Jeremy Jacobs and his air-headed son, Charlie, can’t be fun. Jeremy loves money and Charlie loves, uh, horses. They both want the Bruins to win — Jeremy so he can cash in on playoff games and Charlie so he can brag to his friends at the horse lounge, or wherever the hell it is he hangs out.
It’s important for Sweeney, in his second season as GM, to qualify for the playoffs. He’s had his head-scratchers so far, but he’s assembled a bizarrely competent roster for 2016-2017. Drafting Brandon Carlo in 2015 has given Boston a fighting chance in 2017, and has helped soften the blow from his predecessors disastrous dealing of Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders. A slew of depth signings — Dominic Moore, Riley Nash and Tim Schaller — have transformed what was previously a weak bottom-six, into a strength.
For as much progress as the Bruins have made since this time last year, though, they find themselves in the same exact spot: a fringe playoff team. And yet, there’s a feel of Chiarelli’s early-year Bruins — the ones who dominated possession but couldn’t score — with this bunch.
In fact, that’s exactly what this team is.
The Bruins, to this point in the season, have been a dominant 5-on-5 squad — leading in CF% (55.48), FF% (55.66) and SF% (55.79). They’ve returned to their roots, under Julien, as a defensive stalwart, allowing the third fewest SA per 60 (26.72) and sitting atop with a xGA60 of 2.03.
What’s plagued them is shooting percentage, where they’re posting a woeful 6.17%. If not for the snakebitten Florida Panthers, Boston would be the leagues worst team in converting 5-on-5 shots into goals — which, I hear, are pretty important to winning games of ice puck.
It can’t stay this way all season, there’s simply too much talent on this roster. David Backes, on pace for a 20 goal season, is nearing a return. Matt Beleskey, shooting a horrendous 3.25%, will provide a spark when he returns. Whether he closes in on his career average (somewhere around 9%) might be a reach, but even doubling his pre-injury output would be beneficial.
Not to mention, Patrice Bergeron is due to break out of his slump, as well. His current 5.23 sh% is a far cry from the numbers he’s posted in previous seasons.
Believe me, that puppy’s going to climb. Bergeron’s going to get his usual 20-plus goals — I’m not a betting man, but I’d place a good chunk on it if we’re being honest.
Of course, Boston could bring another scorer into the mix. The means of how they acquire such a scorer, though, is key. There have been reports linking Boston to Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, as well as their initial asking price — Brandon Carlo.
As things have developed on the Avs front, we learned two things: a). Boston isn’t moving Carlo — Thank God, and b). Colorado’s counter ask, if you will, is incredibly low.
Zbobil, Morrow, DeBrusk and Bruins #1 pick could be part of potential package— Adrian Dater (@adater) January 5, 2017
Landeskog is 24 years old. He’s in the midst of a rough campaign — 6 goals and 12 points in 28 games. He’s also been a perennial 20-goal, 50-point man since breaking into the league in 2011-2012.
DeBrusk is the biggest loss in that package. A promising 20-year-old whose tallied 18 points in 33 games with Providence; a smart two-way winger who’s a pain in the ass to play against.
Zboril, or Zbobil if you’re Dater, is a mystery. He’s flashed hot and cold at development camps, had a down post-draft campaign with Saint John last year but has rebounded to just under point-per-game numbers this season. A strong showing at the World Junior Championships over the past few weeks has seemingly ticked his stock up a few notches. Just remember, six months ago this kid was all but written off as a draft bust. Is he actually a bust? Probably not. He’ll play in the NHL and contribute — it’s just going to take a few seasons.
Boston has a plethora of prospects. Some — McAvoy, Carlo, Czarnik, Senyshyn, Vatrano — shouldn’t be considered in discussions. For the others, if the right deal comes along (see above) it should be a no-brainer*
*Of course, there are going to be salary cap implications. A move for Landeskog would likely end Beleskey’s tenture in Boston, but it’s an improvement on the left-side, yada, yada, yada.
Whether or not Sweeney shakes things up, making a blockbuster to acquire one teams underperforming star for what is essentially a mystery grab bag, is anyone’s guess. It wouldn’t hurt, for the right price, but it’s not entirely necessary, either.
Sweeney’s under immense pressure to produce results and, weirdly, his best course of action might be to sit back and weather the storm.