But as he looks at the opposition facing the Bruins in their quest to extend that run to seven games on Thursday night, he can’t help but think of how his life could have been radically different if not for what was viewed a very minor move more than four years ago.
McQuaid, 25, was originally drafted by Columbus in the second round of the 2005 draft. He attended several camps with the Blue Jackets, but never signed a contract in Columbus and was eventually traded to Boston for a fifth-round pick on May 16, 2007.
With Columbus coming to town on Thursday with the league’s worst record at 3-13-1, McQuaid reflected on how different things could have been for him without that deal.
“I’m obviously pretty happy with the way things worked out,” McQuaid said. “At the time I was a little surprised and not quite sure where things were going to go from there, but I always look at things happening for a reason and coming to Boston, they helped develop me and worked with me on the areas I needed to improve in order to make it to this level. Looking back, I’m pretty happy with the way things have turned out.”
Still, it was a shock to be dealt away before even turning pro.
“I never gave it a thought,” McQuaid said of being traded. “My whole focus was on someday playing for the Blue Jackets. But trades happen, everybody knows that’s the business side of the game.
“You’re hoping [to make it with] the team you get drafted by,” McQuaid added. “You envision yourself being with that team. You go to camp and go back to junior and your mindset is on someday playing with that team, so I was probably a little disappointed. But at the same time, it’s hard to be disappointed when coming to a team like Boston and you think about how there is so much history in the organization here. That was probably the biggest difference between the two teams at the time.”
The differences are even greater now. The Blue Jackets have never won a playoff game since joining the NHL as an expansion team in 2000. They’ve reached the postseason just once, getting swept in the opening round by Detroit in 2009. And while they haven’t come close to making the playoffs again, the Bruins ended a 39-year Stanley Cup drought last spring with McQuaid playing an important role on the Boston blue line.
“A lot has happened since then,” McQuaid said. “It might have been different if I had actually played in their system for a bit, but I’m happy that they gave me that opportunity with those first steps [to a pro career] by drafting me and going to those camps. But I’m also very happy with the way things have worked out here.”
McQuaid does have fond memories of his brief time with the Blue Jackets.
“I went to a few [training] camps,” McQuaid said. “It’s obviously very exciting, your first NHL experience and being in the room with NHL guys and getting to practice with them and see the level they were at. I certainly cherish the memories I have going through those experiences.
“I can remember how strong guys were, especially [Rick] Nash,” McQuaid added. “I remember doing 1-on-1 drills and I couldn’t believe how strong he was. That was probably the biggest thing that I remember that stuck out in my mind.”
The Blue Jackets’ memories probably aren’t as pleasant. Not only did they give up a promising young physical defenseman in McQuaid, but they packaged the fifth-round pick they received in a deal with Dallas to move up to the fourth round. Columbus selected Maksim Mayorov, who has just two goals in 20 career games and is currently with the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate in Springfield, while Dallas used the fifth-rounder originally owned by Boston to take Jamie Benn, the Stars’ current leading scorer with 19 points in 17 games this season.
Considering how the two franchise’s fortunes have fared since the deal, it’s easy to see why there wouldn’t be any bad blood between McQuaid and his original club. But that doesn’t mean McQuaid plans to go easy on the Blue Jackets on Thursday.
“It’d be nice to win,” McQuaid admitted, “but at the same time it’s an important game just closing out this homestand. Two more points can get us that much closer to a playoff spot, so that’s the most important thing.”
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