The first day of July in 2015 was a big day for Don Sweeney.
Having officially assumed GM duties about six weeks prior, Sweeney was ready to jump in with both feet when the NHL’s offseason officially began.
He made some immediate splashes, trading Reilly Smith to the Florida Panthers for Jimmy Hayes and signing rugged winger Matt Beleskey away from the Ducks.
As we sit here some 28 months later, it’s safe to say July 1, 2015, is a day Don Sweeney may wish he could have back.
Hayes never really got comfortable with the Bruins after a slow start. He frequently found himself on the outside looking in, told only “you’re out tonight” by the coaching staff, rarely hearing where he needed to improve or how to work his way back in.
Beleskey fared a bit better than Hayes early on, recording a career-high 37 points in his first season in Boston.
Last year, however, saw the winger struggle to get going. He saw the press box almost as often as Hayes, one of his best friends on the team. Hayes was bought out this summer, but the unfortunate reality is that he has as many points for the Bruins as Beleskey does: zero.
To say Beleskey has had a rough go this season would be a colossal understatement: he has no points in 14 games, with 17 penalty minutes and 14 shots on goal.
His season has been a bit of a roller coaster so far in terms of being in the lineup: in for a stretch, out for a few, in for a couple, out for a bunch, in for another...
I Want To Get Off Mr. Cassidy’s Wild Ride.
The problem, of course, is that the whole situation is a double-edged sword: he’s not producing so he can’t stay in the lineup, but he can’t start producing if he plays three times a month.
That’s why the team needs to decide what it wants to do with Beleskey, and do it soon, because the half-way stuff isn’t going to cut it.
The team really has four options when it comes to Beleskey:
- Trade him
- Play him regularly and hope he turns it around
- Sit him regularly and use sparingly
- Waive him
So...which makes the most sense? Let’s take a look at each one.
I would bet the billions of Internet Dollarz I make managing this site that they’ve made regular calls around the league about trading him since last season.
No offense to Beleskey, but 0-point, ~$4mil players aren’t exactly in high demand. The only way I can see Beleskey getting dealt is if another team has a big-money guy they want to unload, and get the Bruins to take on that salary in exchange for Beleskey’s.
In other words, not likely.
Play him regularly and hope he turns it around
This would be my preferred path, which is odd, since I wasn’t thrilled when they signed him.
The fact of the matter is that Beleskey is not as bad as his recent run would indicate. Much like his July 1 Brother, who was hamstrung by years of 3% shooting, Beleskey isn’t likely to continue to produce at a 0-point pace.
When he’s played this season, he’s been OK. He’s certainly bringing the effort, and is doing the kinds of GRITTY® things that fans want to see from a slumping player.
The law of averages states that he’s not going to be pointless forever; why not just keep riding him and hope the floodgates open soon?
Ah, right: the youths. Playing Beleskey regularly would take a spot away from someone else, be it Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Frank Vatrano or someone else.
With the Bruins appearing to be comfortable with the “live by the youths, die by the youths” approach, this method would probably be hard to stomach.
However, as stated above, Beleskey simply can’t continue to struggle as much as he has. It’s mathematically impossible, right? Right?
Sit him regularly and use him sparingly
This appears to be what the Bruins are doing now, and it’s dumb.
You don’t work your way out of a slump by sitting. You don’t get your confidence back by watching from Level 9. By sitting him, the Bruins are keeping his confidence low, increasing his level of discontent and, oh yeah, ensuring that he remains un-tradeable.
The only upside to sitting him is, as discussed above, that a kid gets ice time. However, Beleskey is on your books for the rest of this year, all of next year and all of the year after that. You’re locked in.
You might as well try to get your money’s worth. Worst case, he continues to bring energy but the points don’t come. Best case, he turns it around and you have a tradeable asset again, or at least a guy who’s playing up to his contract.
By keeping him on the shelf, you’re essentially guaranteeing that the situation will just continue to stagnate, which isn’t good for any of the parties involved.
The nuclear option!
The Bruins could try to send Beleskey to the AHL, but he’d have to clear waivers (unless they were able to do it as a conditioning stint, but that’d be temporary).
The chances of a team claiming him are probably pretty low. He’d get regular ice time in the AHL, and may be able to work his way back into a good place mentally and physically.
However, any move to the AHL would leave the Bruins open to losing him for nothing. While the snarky among you might think “good,” it’s never good asset management to lose something for nothing; hell, Zac Rinaldo was worth a mid-round draft pick.
The Bruins would be eating a bunch of money by sending him to the AHL, and would risk having him completely check out. However, it’d also allow them to keep him busy and playing; maybe he’d get it together.
With Hayes gone, the only thing keeping Beleskey from being the fanbase’s whipping boy is the Tuukka Rask situation. He’s skated under the radar a bit in terms of online vitriol, but that’s likely to change the longer it goes on.
That makes it important for the team to just decide what it’s going to do: try to reclaim some Beleskey magic and get your money’s worth, or bail on another July 1 acquisition.
The clock is ticking...