To say the Boston Bruins organization is unstable at this point is an understatement. There is currently no head coach, the team is down an assistant coach, and the search is on for a new skating coach after the departure of Kim Brandvold. General Manager Don Sweeney, by all accounts, has not had his contract extended by the team with the NHL Draft and free agency around the corner. And then there is the status of Patrice Bergeron and the upcoming contract talks with David Pastrnak. That’s a lot of work to do for someone who doesn’t have a contract.
Sweeney has drawn the ire of Bruins fans after the awkward firing of former Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins’ faithful had already been frustrated after a first-round exit in the playoffs and a track record of drafting players that has been suspect at best. And we haven’t even touched on the many free-agent signings that did not bring the bang for the buck that was expected. All of this leads to anxiety with the NHL Draft coming in just a few short weeks and free agency to follow with only about $3 million for the team to spend. Patience is wearing thin on Causeway Street.
But as daunting as these tasks seem for Sweeney, the Harvard graduate can make three moves soon that might be best for the team and its embattled general manager:
Hire a coach who can develop young talent.
One of the reasons for the change in coaching was a difference in philosophy when it comes to playing young players on the roster. Sweeney felt that Cassidy did not give the younger prospects more of a chance and that the youngsters were afraid to make mistakes. The new coach should be someone who can be more patient with less experienced players, and, to be fair, Sweeney will have to do a better job of drafting them. The team would be better off hiring former Providence Bruins coach Jay Leach or Providence College coach Nate Leaman.
Re-sign David Pastrnak
Much of the disdain for Bruins’ management can be lessened by announcing a contract extension for David Pastrnak. The team’s leading goal scorer can become an unrestricted free agent after the next season, and the team has to decide what type of deal Pastrnak is willing to take. If the team can sign Pastrnak to a Charlie McAvoy-like deal (8 years, $76 million), then that would be a major win for Sweeney and should be favorable among the fan base.
Hire Marc Savard as an assistant coach
This seems like a minor move, but Savard is a fan favorite as a former Bruin who helped turn the franchise around as a player. Savard has had a great year coaching the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League and could help a power play that struggled in Boston last season. Savard can also be insurance if the new coach doesn’t work out or be a candidate if Sweeney is fired and a new general manager wants to pick the next coach.
It has been a tumultuous start to the off-season for Boston, and fans are concerned that the team is headed in the wrong direction. Will the team re-build or re-tool? Who will be the coach? Is Pastrnak in the plans for the future? Many more questions exist. But Sweeney can help himself with two good hires and an extension for his best goal scorer.