Bruins Early Playoff Exit Due to Sweeney’s Trade Deadline Decisions

Entering the 2022 trade deadline on March 21, there were several needs that the Boston Bruins had. General manager Don Sweeney was looking to add some combination of a left-shot defenseman, a second-line center, a top-six right-wing, and some toughness on the roster, mainly on the backend on defense.

Expected to be active, Sweeney was only able to address the left-shot defenseman need. Deciding to keep his forwards roster intact, he was sending the message to his team that he had confidence in them for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. Unfortunately for Sweeney and the Bruins, staying quiet at the deadline ultimately was one of the reasons for his teams First Round elimination in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes Saturday.

Sweeney Addressed Left-Shot Need With Lindholm

Two days before the trade deadline, Sweeney addressed the left-shot defensive need by adding Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks. The following day, the Bruins agreed to an eight-year, $52 million contract extension, locking him up on the top pair with Charlie McAvoy.

Hampus Lindholm Boston Bruins
Hampus Lindholm, Boston Bruins (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Lindholm was injured in Game 2 and missed three straight games before returning for Games 6 and 7. He was also injured following the trade and missed some time in the regular season, but being able to get Lindholm and extend him for eight years is a big get for Sweeney. You can never predict health, but the Bruins have their top pair for the future.

Sweeney Never Addressed Forward Depth & Secondary Scoring Issues

Five hours before the deadline, the Bruins announced that they agreed to a two-year contract extension with Jake DeBrusk. The 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft requested a trade, but had a $4.41 million qualifying offer hanging over him this summer for whichever team he was on following the season. By signing DeBrusk to the extension, it was thought that it woud be easier to move the left-wing to complete a trade.

Related: Bruins’ Lack of Scoring Depth Proving Costly Against Hurricanes

Boston was in the market for a top-six center or right-wing and they had plenty of options to try and get in on. Andrew Copp from the Winnipeg Jets, Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks, and Max Domi of the Columbus Blue Jackets were some names that could have worked for the Bruins. Copp ended up going to the New York Rangers and is turning into a prize acquisition. In 16 regular-season games following the trade, he had eight goals and 10 assists and in the seven games against the Penguins in the First Round, he had four goals (including one shorthanded), three assists, and landed 17 shots on the net. That was exactly what the Bruins were looking for at the trade deadline and missed in their series against the Hurricanes.

Andrew Copp New York Rangers
Andrew Copp, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Rakell ended up moving to the Penguins and in 19 regular-season games before the postseason, he had four goals and nine assists. He was limited to two playoff games because of an injury. The Bruins got a first-hand look at Domi in their series and he single-handily eliminated the Black and Gold in Game 7 with two goals and an assist in a 3-2 victory. He was relatively quiet for the first six games with just two assists, but when the mattered most, he was able to carry Carolina in the deciding game.

As the series went on against the Hurricanes, the younger, deeper, and the more skilled team wore down the Bruins’ defense, and not acquiring some toughness, mainly on the back end, played a role in Boston’s elimination. Jacob Middleton was available at the trade deadline from the San Jose Sharks, but he ended up going to the Minnesota Wild. With the physicality that comes with the playoffs, who would you rather have on the back end on the right side, Middleton or Connor Clifton? Nothing against Clifton, but Middleton would have been an upgrade late in the season and playoffs.

Bruins’ Lack of Scoring Depth Proved to be the Difference

Boston played some of the best hockey in the NHL since Jan. 1 over the final four months of the regular season, but when it came to the playoffs, they lacked offensive scoring depth behind Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. It was a rough series for players not named any of those three.

Related: 5 Bruins’ Takeaways From Game 7 Loss to Hurricanes

Taylor Hall and DeBrusk each had two goals, four points, and 14 shots on the net, Erik Haula had one goal, three points, and nine shots on the net and Craig Smith was a no-show with zero points and 13 shots on the net against Carolina. DeBrusk finished with a plus/minus of minus-7 and Smith collected a minus-5. That will not win you many regular-season games, never mind trying to win a best-of-seven series against a more talented team.

If the Bruins’ front office was in on making a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they did not send that message at the trade deadline. Staying quiet and not adding any forward depth turned out to be a move that reared its ugly head against the Hurricanes. Now the Bruins head into the offseason with plenty of questions surrounding the 2022-23 makeup of their roster.

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