Anderson: No sense in Bruins making desperation trade

Ty Anderson
November 14, 2017 - 4:11 pm

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

The 16-point Bruins begin this week just four points from the basement of the Eastern Conference, with losses in six of their last eight games (2-3-3), and still without a win against in-division or in-conference opponent (0-3-3 in that regard) to their name.

So yeah, suffice to say that this is the first real slump of Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s tenure.

And given their injuries -- now with top-six forwards Anders Bjork and Brad Marchand the latest set of injured B's, as both were ‘nicked up’ in Saturday’s game against the Leafs, according to Cassidy -- it’s hard to find the perfect cure.

One solution that’s been floated out there with increasing regularity, though, has been the idea that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney needs to make a trade.

No, no, no. Nope, no thank you. Incorrect. Wrong. Pick whichever one you’d like.

First of all, if the Bruins are to indeed make a trade, it will be a desperation one for diminishing returns. If it’s a free agent signing and not a trade, it will be for a player off the scrapheap. I mean, if you’re unsigned in November, it’s typically for a reason.  

But back to idea of a trade…

With most teams seemingly still in the hunt or figuring out what they have, a hypothetical trade would be for an underutilized, disgruntled, or underachieving player. That’s unless you want to talk about truly paying through the nose for a quick fix, which is something that Sweeney has refused to do (see: his talks with the Avs last year). The Bruins have more than enough players that fit that underwhelming billing, by the way.

And realistically speaking, has a 'desperate' trade ever really worked for a team? For the Black and Gold-centered scope of this, think back to 2009. The Bruins were a struggling, somewhat battered mess out of the gate, so then-GM Peter Chiarelli decided to shake things up when he traded Chuck Kobasew to the Wild and acquired Buffalo’s Danny Paille in a separate transaction just a day or two later. Paille, of course, found a home in Boston and was a fit for the next six years as a key piece of their Merlot Line and penalty kill. But it didn’t drastically change what the 2009-10 Bruins were or their ceiling as a middling, borderline contender that fell in the second round. Lee Stempniak and Drew Stafford trades in 2016 and 2017 had similar ends for the Bruins. 

It’s also worth mentioning that you’d be making a trade with what remains an incomplete picture as to what this team should be.

The Bruins have had their one-two center punch of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci together for less than two full periods this season. (It should be noted that the Bruins scored five goals in that 40-minute sample, too.) You can add David Backes, who played in that Oct. 19 game with Bergeron and Krejci, to that list and it remains the same. Backes is not the scorer that Krejci is, nor is he the center that Bergeron is, but what he was expected to be was an integral part of a grind-it-out third line that made the Bruins a hard-to-prepare-for group up front. Backes, by the way, is also out after surgery to remove part of his colon, and is expected to return in a month and a half or so if all goes according to plan.

In addition to those losses, this year has soldiered on without the likes of Ryan Spooner (groin), Adam McQuaid (broken leg), Noel Acciari (broken finger), Tuukka Rask (concussion), Anton Khudobin (lower-body), Marchand, and more at different points. Bergeron and defenseman Torey Krug rejoined the lineup at less than 100 percent, too.

So, you’re theoretically retouching an already largely blank canvas. You’re also robbing opportunities from your prospect pool that at some point will have to figure itself out.

The Bruins have entered this season with a seemingly unheralded number of rookies either competing for or earning spots on their big league roster. Whether those players are long-term fits for the core that Sweeney and the Bruins are attempting to build remains to be seen, but this has been designated as the time where you find out; I don’t think I need to see the likes of second-year pros Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk continue to dominate or produce at top-line levels in the AHL. I just don’t think that there’s much more to be gained from that. I’d like to know if Sean Kuraly is a long-term fit as a bottom-six defensive stopper, and if Frank Vatrano can ever be more than the quick-release sharpshooter he broke into the league as about two years ago.

I don’t need to see those answers get put on hold to see if some journeyman or veteran depth piece can come in and chip at a half a point per game pace now through April. That would halt progress and only further complicate your long-term picture and plans.

Cassidy, while his usage of certain players tells a different story some nights, tends to agree with this and seemingly remains committed to this philosophy, as well.

“I think we’ve built in that we’re going to be hard to play against, we’re not going to trade chances, or give up, hopefully, not give up easy chances,” Cassidy said when asked if it’s been difficult to establish an identity with so many moving pieces and young players. “We know we’ve got some consistency issues for young players. We know that going into the game. It’s up to us as a staff to figure out early on, ‘Okay, who’s going, maybe who needs [to be] pulled back a little bit tonight.’ Sometimes, you find out the hard way. I guess that’s the challenge you have, and you’re just hoping everyone will be consistent, and it’s a big ask for a young group, but that’s what we want, and we’re sticking with it.

“These kids care, and they’re working hard, and they’ve got to play themselves out of it. It’s the National Hockey League. That’s the part they have to understand. Preparations are key for them every night, so, you know, it’s a learning curve. Some nights we get away with a little bit of it, and other nights, we’re not as fortunate.”

And this was always going to be the reality of this season. You should have known this when the Bruins opted not make a big free agent splash or draft night trade. This season is about the kids, and their ability to rise or fall to the challenge at hand. And there's no denying that this has become a challenge and a half, and with the development of a select few undoubtedly accelerated. 

The Bruins are better off trying to ride this out with what they have, learn about what they actually have, and then go from there.

It’s only then that you’ll actually find out whether or not this group is actually worth moving real assets and chips -- you know, some of the ones you've yet to even seen on NHL ice this season, such as the recently recalled Peter Cehlarik and P-Bruins standout Zach Senyshyn -- to help.