Crazy to think it’s already been five years since the Boston Bruins hoisted the Stanley Cup.
It was five years ago on Wednesday, to be exact. But it feels longer than that.
As I watched Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins hoist the Cup on Sunday night in San Jose, it made me immediately search for the date of the NHL Draft. Not because I think the Bruins will select a player who can step right in and lead them back to the promised land, but because I want to know just how much time Don Sweeney and the boys on Causeway Street have to get nuts.
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And when I say “get nuts,” I don’t mean actually selecting players at Nos. 14 and 29 overall, which are the two first-round picks the Bruins are schedule to make next week, on June 24.
The B’s obtained the No. 29 overall pick from San Jose last offseason, when they traded goaltender Martin Jones to the Sharks. Jones was acquired in the Bruins’ trade with Los Angeles, which sent Milan Lucic to the Kings.
Lucic was a key piece to the B’s Stanley Cup team in 2011. His physical presence defined “Bruins hockey.” Now, as the Black and Gold attempt to snap a two-year playoff absence, they have work to do to try and recapture the identity that also brought them back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013.
Even that loss to the Chicago Blackhawks seems like a lifetime ago. Mainly because it’s been all downhill from there.
Say what you want about the NHL Draft. The way I look at it, it’s nothing more than a seven-round affair with no guarantees. Every year we know the top two or three names at the top of the draft. Those players are the closest thing to the “sure thing” that you’ll get. Now, that’s not to say later draft picks can’t be cornerstone pieces to a franchise. They can. It’s just not as probable.
And after missing out of the playoffs the last two years, the Bruins aren’t in position to rely on picks 14 and 29 to dig them out of their hole. If that’s the mindset, you might as well not even show up next season.
The only mindset the Bruins’ front office should have is one of creativity. When I say “creativity,” I mean make a trade. And when I say “make a trade,” I mean it’s time to get nuts.
Now, of course, they would have been better suited had they taken my advice at last year’s trade deadline and traded Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara for draft picks, preferably first-round draft picks.
Eriksson is most likely gone, via free agency. Chara is still the team’s captain. So at least you can still trade one of those two players.
The B’s have other assets, too. They have the three first-round prospects they drafted last year at Nos. 13, 14, and 15 overall. They have the two aforementioned first-rounders this year. And for the right deal, my only untouchable on the Bruins current roster is Patrice Bergeron.
Do with that what you will. But as I sit here wearing my imaginary GM cap, it’s pretty clear what the Bruins need: defense. And it’s time for the team’s real-life GM to put together a trade package that will replace at least one of the two top-four defensemen — Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton — they traded away for draft picks over the last 20 months.
Some of these draft picks may turn out to be valuable pieces to the puzzle at some point. But given the status of players like Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and even Tuukka Rask, why would Sweeney and Cam Neely want to waste their prime years?
So as we approach next week’s NHL Draft, there’s only one thing the Bruins should do. They should make a blockbuster trade that will land them the top defenseman they so desperately need. A move like that, along with more playing time for someone like Colin Miller, could make all the difference in the world for a Bruins team that needs to get back to playing the style their coach wants them to.
If not, before you know it, that Stanley Cup drought will be 10 years. And it will feel like a whole lot longer than that.