Over the long history of the Boston Bruins, general managers have done some pretty dumb things to ‘improve’ their hockey team.
Trading Joe Thronton, giving up on Tyler Seguin, turning the return from that Seguin trade into Jimmy Hayes, trading a young Ken Dryden to the Habs...all of these reek of colossal shortsightedness in a league not well known for foresight.
However, trading Tuukka Rask could actually rank higher on the idiocy scale as rumors swirl that Don Sweeney has been quietly shopping the Bruins’ starting goaltender to find out his value, with a vocal segment of the Bruins fandom on various social media platforms applauding a potential move to ship Rask out of Boston.
And to these loyal fans, there’s just one question they need to be asked:
Are you nuts!?
Much of the current disdain from some fans comes from the notion that Rask walked out on his team in the most recent playoffs (to attend to a family emergency, no less).
However, even though he only fully took over the reins from Tim Thomas after the 2011-2012 season, the haters have been there since before 2010, just waiting in the shadows for Rask to slip up.
Rask carried his team to the Stanley Cup Final in both the 2019 season and in 2013 in dominant fashion, but when his team let him down in those Finals with lackluster performances when it matters most? “Rask can’t win big games” chatter emerges.
The fact that Tuukka Rask is an elite goalie in this league, which seems obvious not just to many Bruins fans but to fans around the league, is somehow ignored by this vocal minority when fingers need to be pointed.
For this crowd and for those who may have forgotten, let’s take a look at why the idea of trading Tuukka Rask is insane
The stats don’t lie: Tuukka Rask is still one of the best goalies in the league.
Over the past 5 seasons, for goalies with at least 150 games played, Rask sits at 2nd in GAA (2.36), a tie for 7th in SV% (.917), 3rd in wins (155), and 1st in shutouts with 24.
What makes Rask even more valuable is that his numbers throughout his career are even better come playoff time: Rask’s 2.20 GAA and .928 SV% are near the top of the list for all goalies in the last 10 years.
Load management has kept him sharp.
At age 33, Rask just put up one of the best years of his career.
Of course, some of the credit has to go to the team in front of him and to the fact that he could get more rest with a more-than-capable Jaroslav Halak in the fold, but goalies who are slowing down do not put up the ridiculous numbers Rask did this past season.
Rask’s .929 SV%, 2.12 GAA, and 5 shutouts were all better than his career averages, and good enough for Rask to be runner-up in Vezina Trophy voting.
They’re still not ready for life without him.
Of all the players available in free agency or rumored to be moving in trades, none are close to Rask’s caliber.
Sure, Henrik Lundqvist as a Bruin might’ve been a cool idea...about five years ago. The biggest fish in the goalie market, Robin Lehner, just re-signed in Vegas, and while there are a lot of other players on the market, they either don’t quite measure up to his consistency or are too unknown a quantity to really take a chance on.
Likewise, there are no goalies in the Bruins system that can fill Rask’s skates. Yes, Jaroslav Halak did his best to give the Bruins the best chance to win every night when he played, but the badly-timed weak goals that Halak is accustomed to letting in, plus his comparable age, do not make him a suitable replacement for Rask.
At the same time, goalies like Dan Vladar, Jeremy Swayman, Max Lagace (who is now a UFA), and Kyle Keyser have shown promise on their way up to the NHL, but have yet to prove their mettle in the big leagues, and it’ll be likely a long time before they can prove themselves in full-time NHL play.
The Bruins are still Stanley Cup contenders.
While losing to the eventual Stanley Cup winners was certainly not ideal, let’s not forget how dominant the Bruins were before the pause in hockey action.
The loss to the Lightning may have shone some light on the cracks in the Bruins’ current line-up, but to say the window has closed on this team at point would be naïve.
At the same time, if the B’s trade Rask away this off-season, you may as well slam that window shut and board it up in preparation for the years of mediocre hockey that are certain to follow. It’d be a signal that says “we’re reloading for the future” instead of “we’re in win-now mode.”
The Bruins line-up needs offense going forward, and there are certainly moves that can be made this off-season or next year to address this need without trading away their cornerstone in net.
A time will come when management will have to make tough decisions around a potential re-build, but this coming year is not that time.