Bruins’ Biggest Problem Has Been Hedging Bets

loui eriksson

Since the Peter Chiarelli era started, the Bruins have been aggravating their fans to no end with many of the team’s transactions.  Hockey fans tend to get up in arms over just about anything (have you seen hockey twitter?), but this is a case where B’s fans have every right to pull their hair out over the decisions a team has made.  It’s so infuriating that a generally smart organization that will probably make the playoffs for the 8th time in 9 years can also make so many dumbfounding moves.

Since Chiarelli took over, the Bruins have all too often hedged their bets when they should have gone in one direction or the other, and that’s what’s so confusing about their transactions.  Now, some bad decisions that Chiarelli and Sweeney have made don’t qualify as confusing or inconsistent — they were just bad trades.  Now that we know of the locker room rifts that existed around the players, I don’t hate the Phil Kessel or Dougie Hamilton trades.  The expected return on the trades was the issue.  Chiarelli was bailed out by the fact that Brian Burke had massively overrated the 2010 Maple Leafs’ ceiling and the fact that the 2010 draft was awesome, because he would up with Tyler Seguin at #2 instead of some #15 pick who very may have gone the way of Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron.  He also got Dougie the next season at #9, and the B’s owe Brian Burke a huge thank you for believing that his team would be in the middle of the pack those years instead of in the bottom 10.  For the Dougie trade, I don’t have an issue with trading a guy who wants out and getting young players, since the B’s were just trading a young guy for even younger players in the form of draft picks, and they were still capstrapped last Summer.  The only issue I have lies in the stupidity to believe that Dougie was only worth a 1st, 2nd, and 2nd.

The Tyler Seguin trade was obviously horrible, but it’s funny how revisionist history works around here.  Fans and media in Boston act like they always hated the trade and always thought it was an abomination, and they’ll purposely forget that many of us were convincing ourselves that the trade was worth it during the 2014 Presidents Trophy season.  That’s why I’ll always defend the trade to at least some degree:  At least the Bruins went 100% in one direction by going all in for that season.  They realized how close they were in 2013, only losing to a juggernaut Blackhawks team in an incredibly tight series that featured a quartet of 1 goal losses, and they pushed everything to the middle of the table for the following year.  Loui Eriksson was expected to be a better player for the 2014 season alone than Seguin (at least in Boston, where Seguin didn’t fit quite right), Reilly Smith was a valuable acquisition, and Rich Peverley’s contract had to be moved.  The B’s opened up around $4 million of cap space and made a trade that was expected to help them way more for the 2014 season, and it carved out a pathway for them to sign Jarome Iginla to a bonus-laden deal.  If the Bruins hadn’t run into their Kryptonite team in the 2nd round of the 2014 playoffs, there’s a decent chance that we’re talking about a ballsy trade that was an overpay on paper but brought another Stanley Cup to Boston.

Other moves, though, have been horrible due to their inconsistency and wishy-washy nature.  It never, ever made sense to pass on Andrew Ference in 2013 (good move) but then re-up Dennis Seidenberg a few months later.  When you realize that your defensive corp is aging and declining, move on.  It didn’t add up to sign Rich Peverley to a relatively pricey extension before the 2012 season was even over, just to dump after the following season due to his salary.  Both of those moves made sense in a vacuum, but not together.  As it relates to both Chiarelli and Sweeney, I will never understand as long as I live how it makes sense to pay Dennis Seidenberg and then Adam McQuaid almost 2 years later… but pass up on Johnny Boychuk before his walk year even started.  Boychuk was 2.5 years younger than Seidenberg, at least 2.5 times the player of Seids, and would up signing an extension with the Islanders that the Bruins would have (or at least should have) loved to pay him.  McQuaid’s deal this past summer made no sense because there is no reason whatsoever to overpay a 6th-7th defenseman to the point that you have to make tough sacrifices with a legitimate #2 defenseman.  The McQuaid signing came after the Boychuk deal, of course, but the B’s will have to make another Boychuk-esque move because of that damn McQuaid contract that will be on the books through 2019.

Lastly, if you’re gonna move on from Shawn Thornton, that’s fine.  In fact, I applaud it, because Thorty was a shell of his former self in 2014 and the NHL was moving away from enforcers.  If you’re gonna pay Adam McQuaid way too much money in part because of his toughness, well then read my thoughts above, but fine.  I’ll live with it just for this one paragraph for the sake of argument.  But then why turn around and pay for a horrendous enforcer who can barely play hockey in the form of a 3rd round pick???!!!! Zac Rinaldo brings the team’s 4th line down so much that it’s not even funny, and I couldn’t come up with a good reason for the Bruins acquiring him if my life depended on it.

Flash forward to the 2016 trade deadline.  There are 2 aspects of the Bruins’ deadline moves that don’t make sense to me.  The first involves Lee Stempniak.  The B’s could have had him for a million bucks in September after no one else had signed him, and now they traded 2 picks for him.  Ray Shero, ever the overrated GM in Pittsburgh, got the better of Don Sweeney in this one, because he paid $1 million for 41 points in 63 games, a 2nd rounder, and a 4th rounder.  Not too shabby.

The second confusing part of Sweeney’s moves involve Loui Eriksson, of course.  I actually like the fact that the B’s kept him, as I wrote that the Bruins should pay him because his asking price wasn’t too high.  However, it doesn’t make sense to not sign Eriksson to an extension, assuming those were his numbers.  Players always get paid more in free agency than they do for extensions, and despite the fact that the NHL GMs suddenly shifted course in 2015 and were frugal with the contracts they dished out (except for the GOD DAMN ADAM McQUAID CONTRACT AGGHHHH), I’m willing to bet that Eriksson won’t be wishing that he had taken the Bruins’ below market extension offer last week.  Stamkos, Kopitar, and co. will sign ridiculous — and well-deserved — contracts, and suddenly some team will realize that paying Loui Eriksson $7 million a year ain’t so bad.  There are no compensatory picks in the NHl for losing a UFA, so the the Bruins should have either traded or paid Loui last week.

Go one way or the other, don’t try to hedge bets.  That’s a that Bruins GMs have struggled with over the past decade.

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