On the surface, it’s really not that big of a deal: a third- or fourth-string goalie no longer being with the organization isn’t likely to immediately sink a team’s fortunes.
However, the end result continues a troubling trend of the Bruins losing prospects or other assets for minimal (or no) return.
The facts of the situation are pretty simple: the Bruins let a 23-year-old goalie prospect leave the organization and got nothing in return.
For many fans, the reaction to Subban’s waiver claim was indifference or, in some odd cases, joy (which is a very odd reaction to have to a goalie prospect leaving town).
Subban has been dogged by the high expectations that came with his being a first-round pick and sharing a last name with the one-time archnemesis of the Bruins.
Those high expectations made his development a bumpy ride at times, as fans clamoring to see positive results from the get-go were disappointed. (I mean, the kid got booed by home fans during a preseason game against Detroit in one of his first pro appearances. Pretty ridiculous.)
He didn’t exactly set the AHL aflame, and his NHL starts were pretty much unmitigated disasters.
However, goalie prospects are notorious for being long-term investments; very few goalies come out of juniors (or even the NCAA) and immediately light it up.
The reasons for this are endless, but some include the faster pace of play, the higher overall skill level of players and the ability of NHL players to immediately punish a mistake (i.e. Connor McDavid is a lot more likely to make you pay for going down too early than a third-liner in the CHL).
Subban’s forays into the NHL did little to help his confidence; it still boggles the mind that the Bruins chose to throw a 20-something rookie goalie into the fray to make his debut on the road against a powerhouse St. Louis team instead of against the then-lowly Edmonton Oilers around the same time.
His start last season against the Minnesota Wild didn’t go much better.
However, one can’t blame the kid for needing time to get his game back together after fracturing his larynx, right? He had an OK season in the AHL last year, and actually looked like he was starting to put things together in the preseason this year.
Could he have challenged Anton Khudobin for the back-up role this season? Maybe. It probably would have been worth a shot.
Instead, the Bruins chose to waive Subban and keep Khudobin as their back-up, leading to a waiver claim by Las Vegas and the end of Subban’s time in Boston.
The frustrating part of the move is that the Bruins had to know this was a very realistic possibility. If that’s the case, they must have felt that losing him for nothing wasn’t a loss at all (which is stupid) or that they had no other options (which is wrong).
Given the climate of the league right now and the number of teams that are either literally just starting out or are planning on being really bad, the Bruins had to know there was no shortage of teams willing to take a flyer on a first-round goalie who’s just 23 years old.
The Bruins can say all they want that there was no trade market for Subban, but that’s somewhat hard to believe. Obviously he wouldn’t fetch a first- or second-round pick, but a fifth? A seventh? Maybe.
The Bruins also could have chosen to keep three goalies on the roster and sent one of their billion (14, technically) forwards down instead. Obviously this would have just put off the problem until a later date, but it could have bought them time to either find a trade partner or decide if they wanted to give Subban an NHL shot.
A better move probably would have been to roll the dice on Subban as your back-up right now and find a taker for Anton Khudobin instead, whether it was through a trade or an attempt to send him through waivers to Providence.
Sure, Subban might not be ready yet, but would he really be much worse than Khudobin was last year? Plus, if he played poorly and you were able to, say, get Khudobin through waivers, you’d send Subban down then. Logic says that if he just played super poorly in the NHL again, teams might be less likely to claim him, giving the Bruins a chance to stash him for further development.
All of these are, of course, moot points now. Subban is gone, and the Bruins are left with nothing to show for another first-round draft pick. While this won’t make or break the franchise, it does put the team in the unenviable position of crossing their fingers and hoping McIntyre is the goalie of the future.
For now, however, it amounts to another case of poor asset management, something the Bruins need to get under control sooner rather than later.
In this case, it can be argued that much of the poor asset management occurred prior to Don Sweeney’s tenure with the Bruins (the horrible NHL debut choice comes to mind).
However, it was Sweeney who ultimately sent the high-potential prospect out of town, leaving him hoping that he doesn’t bloom in the desert.