What is Don Sweeney looking for in a Bruin?
That question needed to be asked after a 2014-15 season that saw the Boston Bruins go through an identity crisis.
In a year that saw the Bruins fail to make the playoffs, the team finally promoted Don Sweeney, the Assistant General Manager the past few seasons, to fill the GM vacancy left by Peter Chiarelli.
He may be settled into his new role, but Sweeney has some important decisions to make right off the bat as he tries to fix some holes from last year.
From the blue-line depth to the offense and backup goaltending, the Bruins will have their work cut out for them after a season that saw the team play uninspiring hockey in key moments during the year. Moreover, he has some important decisions within the organization from re-signing Dougie Hamilton to figuring out the futures of Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and other core members from previous seasons.
Then there’s the question of what the Bruins really need. Do they need more speedsters to stretch the ice and create offense? Do they need more muscle? Do they need grit?
The answer, according to Sweeney is a mix of everything that resembles the “Big Bad Bruins” of the past.
“You can have skill in any different fashion,” Sweeney said about the qualities and skills he’s looking for in a Bruin. “All of our players have to understand that the four teams that are playing this week [the Ducks, Blackhawks, Rangers and Lightning] all have different attributes of skill, size, speed and grit – but they have a sacrifice level that it takes to win in the playoffs. You have to have a blend of that to get there; we have to have more aggression in our game.”
Some of the pieces are already in place. David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner, two speedsters, are part of the future, as is a two-way player in Patrice Bergeron, a bona fide No. 1 goaltender in Tuukka Rask and other important core players.
New blood will be needed for the 2015-16 season, however. Otherwise, a similar season like the one from last year will see the Black and Gold fall from the top of the NHL to mediocrity.
“There’s no one size fits all approach,” Sweeney said. “I think Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak are great examples of that. To be a successful team, we’re going to need to have a blend of size, speed, grit, all of the components that it takes to win. So we have to be aware of that.”
Perhaps Sweeney can channel ideas from his playing days with the Bruins in the 90’s and 2000’s to establish the identity that he’s looking for. Maybe he found some ideas during his first nine seasons in the front office — where his main priority was overseeing the day to day operations of the Providence Bruins.
His past experience helped him land this new role. The way he handled himself in his press conference brought some promise. But Sweeney will have his work cut out for him as he tries to improve things on Causeway Street. And it starts with establishing an identity.
“I think one of the advantages that I have is that I’ve been a Boston Bruin. I was a Boston Bruin for 15 years. I’ve knocked on the doorstep [as a player] of the Stanley Cup, and then I won it as part of the management group,” Sweeney said. “I know it resonates from our fan group. I know that our players have to have a will to play with that identity.”