Anderson: Bruins somehow escaped being haunted by Seguin trade

Ty Anderson
March 24, 2018 - 7:43 am

Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports

Another chapter of Tyler Seguin vs. the Boston Bruins came and went Friday night.

I mean that in the truest sense, too.

Sure, Seguin recorded an assist, peppered five shots on goal, and even had three blocked shots in 20:36 of a 3-2 loss to the Bruins. But in what was an absolute must-win game for the free falling Stars, did you notice him.. I don’t know.. once? Besides seeing his line get bodied by the Matt Grzelcyk-Kevan Miller pairing, I mean.

Listen, I write this knowing full well that Seguin exited this game with the sixth-most goals and 24th-most points in the NHL this season. If we break it down since his move from Boston to Dallas, Seguin ranks second in goals (172) and fifth in points (377) among all NHL skaters. He’s just shy of being a point-per-game player in Dallas (.99). He is an absolutely tremendous, tremendous talent, and we saw just a bit of his skill shine when he went into takeover mode with his game-winning overtime goal against the Bruins back in January.

When you look beyond the gaudy numbers, though, it’s never quite felt as if the Bruins traded a franchise-altering talent -- or even suffered the consequences of moving a player with this kind of production. It’s without question the absolute greatest miracle -- or greatest stroke of luck -- that this organization has going for them.

Off the jump, I feel obligated to point out that this is not a defense of the trade itself. It remains horrible. It took four years for you to have absolutely nothing to show for a return that included Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Joe Morrow, and Matt Fraser. In fact, the only piece you flipped (read as: didn’t let walk as a free agent or lose to waivers) into something was Smith. And that was essentially for Matt Beleskey (the Bruins used the money freed up by sending Smith and the Marc Savard contract to sign Beleskey as a free agent in July 2015) and Jimmy Hayes. You’re currently paying both of those players actual, real money so that they would stop playing for your organization. The return for Seguin was a colossal failure. Nobody can dispute that, nor is anybody trying to.

But of all the bad trades the Bruins have made in their franchise history, this is the one that should have truly blown up the future of this team. Without question. The Bruins should be dealing with the rotting carcasses of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and simply starving for a center of Seguin’s caliber. But they're not. They should have made some horrendous attempts to replace him -- I'm talking Hail Mary attempts, like trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson kind of reaches (oops, sorry Petey). But they didn't. 

You don't want to go as far as to say that there's some sort of acceptance with this trade, but it all comes back to this simple point: If there was a time for this trade to truly haunt the Bruins, which would have come with Dallas domination during B’s irrelevancy (see: what’s happened to the Canadiens and Predators since the P.K. Subban trade), it has most definitely come and gone.

For the fifth time in as many seasons with Seguin in town, the Stars once again seem stuck as a scarily irrelevant club. If they do indeed pull off a miracle finish that lands ‘em in the 2018 postseason, is anybody taking them seriously? Nope. This, after they added $87.7 million worth of talent and brought in a new coach, is far from encouraging. And it's obviously not how Dallas general manager Jim Nill saw his team maximizing the final years of an affordable Seguin contract originally signed when Seguin was still rampaging through Boston donning No. 19. 

(It actually makes the deal seem like a watered down version of the Joe Thornton trade.)

The Bruins, meanwhile, are utterly loaded with young players that have proved capable at the highest level. And as a result, Boston’s championship window appears to have been reopened, perhaps beginning as early as this spring. And the veterans obviously excluded from that group of future stars, some of whom the B’s were not willing to trade to better fit Seguin into their lineup (David Krejci), are all on relatively reasonable contracts and/or producing at levels that have not prevented the team from competing as one of the league's top teams.

After just two years stuck in NHL purgatory as a non-playoff team, the Bruins are back to what they were when the future seemed built around the promise of Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Tuukka Rask. This new version of that future may actually be even better than it appeared to be back then, too, all things considered.

But to implement that youth, the Bruins had to get on their drafting horse faster than Seguin could send a regrettable tweet (Twitter hacking has to stop, my apologies).

They did exactly that in their first post-Seguin draft, with an absolutely insane ‘14 class that included David Pastrnak, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, and Anders Bjork. Pastrnak seems to be the crown jewel of the 2014 class as a whole, and no team appears close to matching what the Bruins did in that draft; Anaheim is the only one that matches, with three different players eclipsing or about to eclipse 100 NHL games.

The Bruins then hit on ‘15 picks such as Jake DeBrusk and Brandon Carlo. Both players have played massive NHL roles early in their NHL careers, and the future of a Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril seems promising. The Bruins also hit an absolute homer in 2016 with the selection of Charlie McAvoy. Amazingly, the 20-year-old McAvoy is already on 1B footing with Zdeno Chara on the B’s backend.

To make this happen, the Black and Gold front office and scouting department first had to identify had the talent of these prospects. They obviously did their homework there.

But in the immediate aftermath of the Seguin fallout, the Bruins began to focus in on the personality and character of their potential draft picks. They simply had to; what good was a draft pick if you felt that their off-ice habits, personality, and potential coachability issues were going to force you to sell low on them after an entry-level deal? Character, for what it's worth, has been perhaps the biggest focus of the culture the Bruins have established with a success rate that's made Felger-bashing commercials seem genuinely worthy of air time. Now, to what degree those issues or lack of 'character' hampered Seguin remains a topic of debate -- and something that I think reached reality TV show levels of absurdity during the height of trade angst. But those (cringe-worthy) “Behind The B” clips featuring almost every member of the Boston front office having some sort of issue with Seguin's approach to life at and away from the rink spoke to their concerns.

To them, the issues were real, and ultimately forced them to reassess how they built their future.

One that’s somehow moved along just fine without a point-per-game NHL center.

And more importantly, one that seems more than equipped to compete with Seguin just fine should he ever deliver more than impressive regular-season numbers that have made him legitimately missed by Boston box score ink dealers only.