Don Sweeney became the GM of this team in April. I can only assume that he got drunk at his celebration party and stayed that way all summer. That's really the only way to explain the summer that the team had. It was an odd one. A sense of desperation had obviously set in after falling short of the playoffs last year after coming into the season with high expectations. That desperation, and a presumed desire to remake this team in his own image and not that of deposed GM Peter Chiarelli, who is now in Edmonton, caused some bold moves. Bold can be good, but bold isn't automatically good. Admittedly, cap space was a factor - the team had woes - but that doesn't explain it all. So, will Sweeney's wild summer get this team back into the promised land of the postseason? Let's take a look:
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Boston Bruins Offseason Moves
As we'll see later, this defensive unit is older and not as good as they should be. After trading away Johnny Boychuk right before last season and watching him have a great season with the Islanders, the depth should have been on preserving assets. Instead, they got in a fight over cash with 22-year-old stud defenseman Dougie Hamilton - widely assumed to be the core of this defensive unit for the next decade - and shipped him off to Calgary for three picks. The odd part was that Hamilton's demands weren't ridiculous - his new contract with Calgary fits right in with market value and required little negotiation. The same day they traded Milan Lucic, a very talented power forward who will shine in L.A. but had become disgruntled in Boston, to the Kings for goalie Martin Jones, defensive prospect Colin Miller, and a first-round pick - a third in the 2015 draft to go with one from Calgary and their own. Getting Jones seemed odd since goalie is where they are deepest, so trading him to San Jose three days later for a prospect and a first-rounder next year was not shocking. To cap off the oddity, they traded Reilly Smith, a young forward who had really been progressing, to Florida for Jimmy Hayes, a young forward not as good as Smith. It was a cap-driven move - the Panthers also took the contract of Marc Savard, but it's still another young talent gone.
So the trade orgy in the end amounted to losing a top defender, a top power forward, and a rising forward good for at least 40 points. In return they got some prospects, a depth forward, and three first-round and two second-round picks. It could all look good if those picks work out. Trading assets - especially young assets - for picks is what rebuilding teams do, though, not contenders. Heck, it's the Philadelphia 76ers' philosophy, and no one expects them to cut down the nets this year. Odd. It doesn't help, either, that Sweeney then took two of the picks - in the middle of the first round - and stretched to take guys who would have likely been available later on. Both guys failed their conditioning test heading into the season, too - a fitting twist in this soap opera.
Sweeney does get some credit in free agency. The highlight was grabbing Matt Beleskey form Anaheim and locking him up for five years at a decent price.
He's a pesky guy who can score, and he fits in well.
Boston Bruins NHL Outlook
Patrice Bergeron has never carried more of a burden with this team than he does this year. He is a special player, but he's entering his 12th season, he plays a lot of minutes in high-pressure situations, and there is a lot of wear on his tires. He makes me uneasy. Second-line center David Krejci couldn't stay healthy last year. Both are very important. Brad Marchand was very good last year, but he's undersized and inconsistent and can't be completely reliable upon. That's all the problem with this team offensively - lots of upside, but too many questions, and too many young players needing to step up and shine if things are going to go well. Makes me uneasy.
Neither Zdeno Chara nor Dennis Seidenberg were near their best last year. They are the heart of this defense - especially with Hamilton gone. I don't have faith that we will see a return from top form from either, never mind both. The rest of the defense will be young and inexperienced. This defense, which was so key to the success the Bruins had, is worse than last year when it needed to get much better.
Goaltending - something I can be positive about. Tuukka Rask is great. The backup will be solid - a youngster will win the heated battle going on and will be a blue chipper. They will have good goaltending. They need it.
Boston Bruins Schedule
Between Jan. 8 and Feb. 24 this team has a five-game road trip and a six-game trip. If the team is fragile - as they were last year - then this stretch of challenges could derail them.
Boston Bruins NHL Futures Odds (from Bovada)
The Bruins are +2500 to win the Stanley Cup, which ties them with two other teams and puts them behind 12 others. They are also tied with two other teams at +1200 to win the Eastern Conference, which is behind six squads. They are the third choice to win the Atlantic Division at +550.
2015-16 Boston Bruins Predictions
I'm not high on this team's chances. I'm not sure I have hidden that very well. Unlike many, I don't think that the disappointing season last year was a fluke, and they are not the team this year that they were last year. They will be in the mix for a final playoff spot if all goes well, but it would be far from surprising to see them fall short again. Sweeney needs to decide if he is rebuilding or competing.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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