The past few years Don Sweeney has been under fire by most Bruins fans. Justifiably so however. Most of his NHL moves have been downright wretched. But with the Bruins roster starting to get healthy and the mixture of veterans and young talent coming together, suddenly the Bruins’ roster looks better than expected. Sweeney, however, has not received much credit for his roster building. But should he?
The key development for the Boston Bruins this season has been the growth of young talent. While Sweeney can’t get credit for drafting all of the impressive rookies, he has played a major role in it. After all, he drafted arguably the two most important young kids on the Bruins in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. On top of that, he also brought in Jake Debrusk who has shown NHL level goal-scoring ability. Looking up and down the roster, Sweeney’s fingerprints are abundant.
Even the players he has not drafted, he deserves credit for developing. That includes Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen, and even David Pastranak to an extent. Sweeney has successfully replenished the once-depleted Bruins farm system and fans are starting to see the results.
It has not been all perfect at the NHL level for Sweeney by any stretch of the imagination. But even with some horrible blunders, somehow the Bruins have a very good mixture of veteran talent. Sweeney does deserve credit for the moves that have gone his way. Signing 32-year-old David Backes to a five-year, $30M contract is a questionable move at best. But Backes has made an impact playing in a lesser role on the Bruins, and has provided a physical veteran presence for a rather finesee Bruins team.
The extensions that Sweeney has orchestrated with his star players have proven more important than his signings. Both Marchand and Pastranak, the most talented offensive players on the team, have signed under-market deals. Not giving in during the Pastranak negotiations may have been his best NHL move and deserves plenty of praise.
While Sweeney has made some solid moves, his bad ones tend to stand out more. Such as singing a third pairing defenseman in Torey Krug to a five-year, $21M contract with an AAV of $5.25M. Additionally, he signed Matt Beleskey to a five-year $19M dealt, with an AAV of $3.8M. And he kept Kevin Millar, who cannot stay healthy over a young, promising offensive defenseman in Colin Millar. Even more atrocious? Sweeney’s trade of a second-, third-, fourth-, and multiple fifth-round picks for Lee Stepniak and John-Michael Liles. Sweeney has racked up some major fails, however none have them have crippled the Bruins, unlike the previous regime had a tendency to do.
Overall, Sweeney has been below average to downright bad at the NHL level. But it is starting to look like he has a couple of major hits from the draft to his credit. When the Bruins win their next Stanley Cup, the young talent on this team will be front and center.