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Don Sweeney and the boring, cautious trade deadline

Yesterday, the Bruins had their quietest trade deadline in a while. That’s a good thing.

NHL: NHL Draft Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of two-straight DNQs, expectations for this season’s iteration of the Bruins were mixed.

Most people expected them to challenge for a playoff spot and maybe make a little noise. Others expected them to fall flat on their faces and be basement-dwellers.

Few people expected them to make a run late into May or June.

However, when one of those few is the guy that owns the team, that’s a recipe for some serious top-down pressure.

Back in October, you’ll remember, owner Jeremy Jacobs surprised a lot of people when he said the following (from WEEI.com):

“I share the expectations with everybody here that we’ll be in the playoffs. And I expect them to get deep in the playoffs.”

The pressure on Sweeney only increased when he fired Claude Julien a few weeks back. GMs who run through coaches don’t last forever, and with his boss (Cam Neely) feeling equal pressure, it’s not unfair to assume Sweeney feels like his job could be in a bit of jeopardy.

A middling team. A tenuous hold on a playoff spot. Pressure from ownership to win.

Those three things can add up to a recipe for trade deadline disaster, namely panic moves with little eye toward the future.

Instead, Sweeney stuck to his semi-rebuild guns, made one minor move and emerged from the trade deadline a winner.

“All he did is acquire a bottom-six wing,” you say. “How is that a win?!”

The big SBN hockey blog agrees with you, giving Sweeney a C when grading the deadline moves. It’s an inoffensive grade. It’s like vanilla ice cream. It’s there. It’s fine. You’re OK with it, but don’t feel strongly either way.

However, the fact that Sweeney’s deadline was so bland, so plain, so inoffensive it what makes it a success.

The Bruins are not going to win the Stanley Cup, barring some miraculous run of good fortune. They’re not going to challenge for the Stanley Cup, with the same disclaimer.

They could win a round. Hell, they could get to the Conference Final, thanks to the wonky divisional playoff format.

But no move, short of something like acquiring Alexander Ovechkin in exchange for a voucher for 50% off at the TD Garden Pro Shop, was going to make the Bruins a legitimate title threat.

Sure, they could’ve addressed some needs. But acquiring Gabriel Landeskog wasn’t going to address the back-up goalie issue. Acquiring a back-up goalie wasn’t going to address the bottom-six scoring issue. Acquiring bottom-six help wasn’t going to...so on and so on.

These Bruins are too young, too flawed, too inexperienced to be “just one guy” away from winning the Stanley Cup. This isn’t the 2013 team that was solid from top to bottom and just needed a boost.

By resisting the urge to “GO FOR IT NOW,” Sweeney deserves kudos for sticking to his guns and being realistic in the face of pressure from ownership to get more of those sweet, sweet home playoff dates.

Truthfully, Sweeney has the team in pretty decent shape heading into next season.

Zdeno Chara’s cost will go down. They’ll probably lose a contract to Las Vegas. The minimal help they acquired, Drew Stafford, will be off the books.

Jake DeBrusk should push for an NHL gig. Charlie McAvoy will likely make the jump to the pros. Anders Bjork may not be far behind. Zach Senyshyn and Jakub Zboril could make some noise.

By refusing to sell low, specifically with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes, Sweeney takes a bit of a risk. If either player continues to struggle, his value will continue to decline; if either picks it up and stops shooting 3%, his value will go up.

(This is complicated by the fact that both will struggle to crack the lineup down the stretch, but I digress...)

But moving players like Beleskey and Hayes will probably be easier in the offseason. After the expansion draft, there will likely be a lot of jockeying for position and scrambling to fill bottom-six roles.

If Beleskey is dealt for a third in July instead of a fourth in March, that’s a good thing. If he gets a fifth instead of that fourth, the gamble didn’t work. Either way, the Bruins don’t end up in a terrible spot.

On deadline day, Sweeney essentially identified the team’s broadest need (scoring by guys not named Pastrnak and Marchand) and addressed it in the most benign way possible.

He improved the team now without hurting it next year (or the year after). Sweeney didn’t go all-in in an attempt to appease ownership, and the franchise will be better off as a result.

Sometimes a little caution is a good thing.