Up to this point in the season the Bruins have been just as good as any team in the league. They might not have the star power that we see on teams like Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. However, as a unit the B’s have been dominant. Since December 1st, they’ve put up a record of 28-8-4, which has propelled them into a comfortable second place spot in the Atlantic. But the NHL trade deadline is all about GM’s evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their team and making moves accordingly. As strong as the team looked heading down the stretch, Sweeney still saw one flaw that the Bruins have. That’s where Brian Gionta comes in.
In Comes Gionta
A good portion of the Bruins success has been thanks to their youth. Prior to the deadline, they were the 12th youngest team in the NHL with an average age of under 27. This is great for the future of the whole organization, but raised some questions about how they’d handle playoff hockey. With Gionta being unsigned and expressing interest in making a return to the NHL, the opportunity was too good to pass up. He’s played in over 1,000 regular season games to go with another 112 in the playoffs. That’s about a season and a half worth of playoff hockey.
Having hoisted the Stanley Cup with New Jersey back in 2003, Gionta is no stranger to big games. Even before turning pro, he played in three national championships while playing at Boston College. The first two ended in heart-wrenching losses, but he finally took home the ‘ship while serving as team captain during his senior year. He’s also represented the United States twice in the Olympics, twice in the IIHF world championships, and three times at the World Junior tournament. All of this in addition to his playoff experience tells us that Gionta knows a thing or two about do-or-die situations.
Gionta Has What It Takes
Gionta has also proven to be a natural leader. He’s worn the “C” for Boston College, Montreal, Buffalo, and recently for Team U.S.A at the Olympic Games. Standing at just 5’7 he’s always relied on his strong work ethic to compensate for his lack of size. Even going back to his days in youth hockey, he could never just be good. Being his height, he needed to be phenomenal in order to be taken seriously- so that’s what he worked toward. Through his dedication Gionta developed into a shifty NHL forward and saw plenty of success during his prime. His best season came back in 2005-06, where he led the Devils with 89 points.
But even with his skill-set Gionta’s work ethic has always been a huge part of his game. He grinds it out in the corners and has a willingness to take a beating out in front of the net. At his height he can take crosschecks from a defenseman, but Gionta manages to stand his ground. This tenacity should fit in well with the Bruins style of play, and it’s been great to see the success that he’s had so far. Through his first two games, Gionta has put up three assists while playing along-side Danton Heinen and David Backes.
He really has everything that a team needs heading into the playoffs. Gionta comes with experience, determination, leadership, and still has some skill left after all these years. The B’s only have six remaining players from the 2011 cup winning team, so it’s nice to add another guy who’s been there, done that. Despite being one of the less talked about moves at the deadline, Sweeney might’ve found a hidden gem.