Not playing No. 1 draft picks questions their value from the get-go
In the world of non-profit businesses, especially public schools and government, status quo and moderate productivity is tolerated because the taxpayer has little input into change and accountability, while the workers have a lifetime employment benefit. In the world of for-profit organizations, it’s the polar opposite. Job security is often based on productivity and measurable outcomes.
The Boston Bruins obviously fall into the latter category. So, here they are with the direct edict from the very top – owner Jeremy Jacobs – to make the playoffs every year.
The Black and Gold are now in a major pickle going two straight years without now Don Sweeney and Cam Neely generating any postseason black for the boss – and a bleak future to reverse such.
In general terms, each playoff round is a minimum of $7-10 million cream-off-the-top for each NHL owner, depending on length and depth of series. Three home games in a first round next week is about $8 million in just ticket sales. One can do the other math for added profits from dogs and beer as well as the income and profit generated for workers and local business.
Jacobs can’t fire Sweeney and/or Neely for many reasons, beginning with the picture that action paints for the three, both individually and as the triumvirate. Unfortunately, Claude Julien will likely be the first necessary step in the likely scenario: “Go Young.”
If Jacobs isn’t going to make a minimum $10-20 million in playoff profit, the only other avenue is through a managed payroll, one next year that may have to be below the current salary cap of $71.4 million if the cap is reduced as rumored. The organization is still 100 percent capacity in attendance. The list of season-ticket wannabes is several thousand. The Bruins are still a big draw in Boston for years to come.
Three years ago, Danny Ainge and owner Wyc Grousbeck likely huddled somewhere and made that mega go-young decision. It has paid off by developing a team with a payroll in the middle of the league, led by a coach plucked from the NCAA ranks in Brad Stevens. The fans cut Stevens and the team a lot of slack the past few years, while keeping attendance at max, and making the playoffs last, and likely, this year. It’s hard for a loyal fan base to come down hard and cynical on that business model.
The Bruins have a core of expensive talent committed to long-term deals: Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask and David Krejci. Only the first should be considered untouchable. They will resign Brad Marchand and Torey Krug to long-term deals. They need to sign a legitimate No. 2 or No. 3 free-agent defenseman and keep Jon-Michael Liles. That D-corps with Adam McQuaid begins next season as good as the one that just ended.
With salary bargains, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari, Chris Kelly, and Frank Vatrano, this entire complement has enough talent to hang in a playoff hunt, especially if the Eastern Conference retains its parity. Not to mention a solid set of centers in Spooner, Bergeron, Krejci and Noel Acciari in place for the next 3-5 years.
If you believe Rask is still Vezina material, he’s here for four more years at seven million per. If not, he’s a mega trading chit.
Lee Stempniak’s leadership and productivity will be available, also at a bargain. He makes $850,000 this year.
The other 9-10? Don’t resign Loui Eriksson and clean house as best possible on the remaining roster to go young with as much new and emerging talent as possible who will play 82 games from day one, barring injuries. No more Bruins EZPass lane up and down Rt. 95 from Providence.
As for Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg? They were true Bruins for a long time. Things don’t – and can’t – last forever.
Some of the best college talent in the country was on display at the Frozen Four in Tampa last week. The success of former North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol leading the Flyers to the playoffs in his rookie year shows the potential energy and enthusiasm of a core of new NCAA faces behind the bench and on the ice to help the Causeway Street cause.
Two NCAA coaches with the seeming mettle to lead a new brand in Boston are Penn State’s Guy Gadowsky and BU’s David Quinn. Each has the up-front experience, intellect, and reputation to lead a Bruins’ youth movement to rebuild for the long haul.
With NHL entry-level contracts limited to less than a million a year, Sweeney and Neely could bring either Malcolm Subban or Zane McIntyre in to back up Rask. Into Year 3, why was Subban taken as a No. 1 pick as Rask was signed to a long-term deal? He’s played one NHL career game.
Add brand new faces from among a broad pool of last year’s three No. 1 picks, two this June with several free-agent NCAA signings and it creates a new brand while giving Jacobs an up-front bonus before the season begins.
Not playing No. 1 draft picks begs the question about their value from the get-go.
Sweeney’s first order of business after yesterday’s breakup day was inking Denver’s Danton Heinen to an entry-level contract. The Bruins’ draftee tore up the college scene the past three months, including a stellar NCAA tournament in which he scored six points.
Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey, who rejected his Nashville draft status to become a free agent August 15, is available. Add a pool of free agents like forward Travis St. Denis from Quinnipiac, Denver defenseman Nolan Zajac, and North Dakota’s standout forward and Frozen Four MVP Drake Caggiula and defenseman Troy Stecher, along with Sweeney’s other two signings in Yale’s Rob O’Gara and BU’s Matt Grzelcyk, and it all contributes to adding new faces to a new brand for the next three years.
Clearly, any aforementioned scenario is better than the decisions to put Zac Rinaldo, Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, and Max Talbot, to name a few, in a Spoked-B uniform.
One thing is for certain. The Boston Bruins can’t go three seasons without making the playoffs — unless the organization is solidly reflecting a better business model to become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. It’s only been three short, but tumultuous years since.