We’re not trying to put the cart before the horse here, but Don Sweeney might’ve pushed the right buttons this week for the Boston Bruins the same way he did in 2019.
You’ll remember two years ago he rounded out Boston’s roster by adding Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, two players who ultimately were pivotal in a deep playoff run, at the deadline.
The early returns are promising on the acquisitions of Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly and Curtis Lazar. If nothing else, he’s made the Bruins, without question, one of those teams that no one is going to want to face in the playoffs.
It is poetic, in a way, the timing of how everything came together. The Bruins on Sunday night had just suffered a lopsided loss to the Washington Capitals. It was perhaps the lowest point from a stretch that featured a few underwhelming performances. But minutes after the loss, Sweeney acquired Mike Reilly, a defenseman from the Ottawa Senators who was having a career offensive year with a team that lacked much high-end talent.
Shortly thereafter, he completed the deal for Taylor Hall. The name recognition is one thing, but Hall through the first few games looks like a vintage version of himself now that he’s playing somewhere he wants to be.
Boston’s GM even got Buffalo to give up Curtis Lazar, who has given needed life to the fourth line.
Then, there were those already on the roster. David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly — the list goes on. They look like they have new life. And it’s hard not to look at the way the last three games have gone and not think it’s at least in part because they know that it’s a group a lot of important people believe in, including themselves.
Too often in sports now, teams are reticent to buy, instead constantly selling and selling. But general managers should be lauded for going all in — this particular writer will forever respect Jarmo Kekäläinen for holding onto Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky at the deadline and just going for it in 2019. It has since bitten him in the keister, but he at least tried.
The 2021 Bruins are in a different position than the 2019 Columbus Blue Jackets, to be sure. But with COVID-19 and injuries challenging them periodically, it would have been understandable if Sweeney just didn’t feel comfortable investing further in this year’s Bruins, even if the reason was that bad luck seemed to meet them at every turn.
But that’s a tough thing to do when you have Krejci and Tuukka Rask on expiring contracts, and the remaining core of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron putting more miles on their metaphorical tires. So, he swung for the fences. It helps that Buffalo grooved him a pitch and didn’t make him part with a whole lot, but he got the grand prize of the trade deadline in Hall. And in terms of sheer value relative to their role, it looks like Lazar and Reilly could be equally important.
So, yeah. Put it all together, and it’s hardly a coincidence that the Bruins have rattled off three straight wins, two against a New York Islanders team that had previously befuddled them to no end, since these moves got done. They look like a new team, and now you look up and down the roster and have to ask questions like “Where is Trent Frederic going to fit back in?”
Sweeney didn’t sit idly by last weekend, and his team is better for it. There’s new life, and they’re still missing huge pieces: Jaroslav Halak is on the COVID-19 list. Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo have been injured. Frederic is ill. Ondrej Kase could potentially be a welcomed addition late in the season.
Sweeney invested in this team. This week, the players showed him why that was worth it.