What’s Next for Sweeney and Company?

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On Friday night, the Boston Bruins dropped game 6 to the Florida Panthers 2-1. This was the end of the Bruins season as the Panthers took the 2nd round series 4 games to 2. This is the 2nd straight year the Bruins were eliminated by the Panthers. Despite an early exit, not all is lost for our Bruins.

Unlike last season’s massive playoff failure, many believe the Bruins were high overachievers this season. Losing both cornerstone center-men and your Captain in David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron was enough for fans and experts alike to have very low expectations for this year’s squad. Despite these low expectations, this Bruins team came out of the gate firing and surprised the hockey world.

In their first 20 games, Boston came out with a 14-3-3 record. Now, fans were starting to believe this team had enough talent to be much like last year’s team. Were the B’s on the way to another record season? Could they repeat as President’s Trophy Champions? The hope was there, and the fan base was excited again regardless of the widespread lower expectations.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately (nobody wanted that curse again), the Bruins did not break records or end up winning the President’s trophy. However, the team did finish 2nd in the Atlantic division and ended up on a collision course with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Of course, we all know how that first rounded ended. Game 7 (duh, would the Bruins and Leafs ever play a less than 7 game series?) and the pressure of being the first professional sports team to blow consecutive 3-1 series leads. Thanks to absolutely stellar play from goalie Jeremy Swayman, ultimately, the Bruins emerged from the first round with a victory over the Leafs and getting a rematch with their first round foe from last year, the Florida Panthers.

Since this article is being written now and not at a later time, means the Bruins were eliminated by the Panthers in what ended up being a 6 game series. At the end of it all, despite battling hard, the Bruins proved to not be able to stand up to the Panthers. Now that the season is over, where do the Bruins go from here? What issues need to be addressed?

Sweeney’s first order of business should be to settle the goalie situation. Nobody will miss the goalie hugs more than I, however, Jeremy Swayman’s insane playoff performance has proven that he is ready to take the number 1 spot and lead this team for years to come. Sweeney should hand Swayman a blank check and extend him for 8 years. That leads to Linus Ullmark. Yes, Ullmark has a 15 team no movement clause (NMC), however, that still leaves trade options out there; also, a player would be more likely to waive a NMC during the offseason as opposed to in season. Trading Ullmark could bring in much needed assets and/or draft picks.

The 2nd issue that needs to be addressed is secondary scoring. Sure, Danton Heinen and Jake Debrusk showed flashes of brilliance this season, JVR and Trent Frederic also had good spurts. The problem, you ask? The secondary scoring was never consistent and only 1 player seemed to get hot at a time and never together. Bruins management needs to find guys that have a history of consistent offensive production in a middle to bottom 6 role.

3rd, the Bruins need to get bigger and stronger on defense. In today’s NHL, you need to have a good mix of big strong defenders and more agile, puck moving, offense generators. However, the Bruins seemed to have gone too far to the smaller and agile side. Lindholm, Grzelcyk, Lohrei and some of the other young players that came up throughout the season could not keep up with the physicality at times. The Bruins relied on McAvoy who can play both ways fairly well and is not afraid to get physical at times, Carlo who excels defensively and can play physical, Forbort who struggled mightily at times due to trying to play through injuries, aging veteran Kevin Shattenkirk and late season addition Andrew Peeke who I would describe as a lower caliber mix of Carlo and McAvoy. Don Sweeney needs to do a lot of research on guys and look to sign or acquire a player or 2 that will add some toughness to the backend.

Bruins management has a lot of work to do this offseason. Increasing secondary scoring and adding a mix of toughness and offense generation on defense are no easy tasks. Luckily for the Bruins, they have a very valuable trade asset in Linus Ullmark as well as more offseason cap space than they’ve had in quite a few years. Currently, the Bruins are without draft picks in the first 3 rounds of this year’s entry draft; this is going to make it so Sweeney and his management team have to research and sign/acquire players that will be good fits to the organization.

Given Sweeney’s success since taking over in 2014, I would not want anybody else leading the offseason. The Bruins are the winningest team in the league Since Sweeney’s tenure began, however, cannot seem to get over that playoff hump. Sweeney has proven that he has a knack for finding the right pieces, let’s all hope he can keep that reputation up. Honestly, the makeup of this team could be vastly different come the beginning of next season, so, as far as expectations? It is impossible to have expectations for next year’s team, we will all just have to wait until opening puck drop in the fall.

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