Bruins’ Sweeney Made Right Trade Deadline Call Despite Collapse

When the Boston Bruins gathered for training camp at Warrior Ice Arena back in September, there were questions surrounding the team for many reasons. The top two were how were they going to survive the first two months of the season minus Matt Grzelcyk, Charlie McAvoy, and Brad Marchand and stay within striking distance of an Eastern Conference playoff berth. Also, how was a new voice in Jim Montgomery, replacing the popular Bruce Cassidy, going to work out?

Over the course of an 82-game regular season, both questions were answered with a type of season that nobody saw coming, a historic one for the record books. The Bruins won a record 65 games and racked up a record 135 points. It seemed like the sky was the limit for his team until the first round of the playoffs came.

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Leading the Florida Panthers, 3-1, in the best-of-seven series, the Black and Gold completed one of the biggest historic playoff collapses by losing the final three games, two in overtime and one by a 7-5 shootout, in ways they would have found a way to win in the regular season. As the season went along, injuries piled up and around the trade deadline, they lost Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno to injuries, which prompted general manager (GM) Don Sweeney to pull off two trades to give his team depth for the stretch run and playoffs.

In those two trades, Sweeney surrendered a lot of draft capital for the future and right now it looks like a move that completely backfired, but at the time, it was the right move for the GM to make and if he had the chance to do it over again, he should and would.

Sweeney Acquires Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway & Tyler Bertuzzi

If there was one area that the Bruins had an upper hand on than the other playoffs teams, except for the Toronto Maple Leafs who also added depth and loaded up, it was depth. In his first move on Feb. 23, he acquired Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from the Washington Capitals in a three-team trade that also included the Minnesota Wild. Going to the Capitals was the struggling Craig Smith, the Bruins’ 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 third-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick, and Washington retained 50% of Orlov’s contract. Minnesota got a fifth-round pick from Boston for retaining 25% of Orlov’s contract.

Dmitry Orlov Boston Bruins
Dmitry Orlov, Boston Bruins (Photo by Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Orlov gave the Bruins a third top defenseman with McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm. Did he struggle in the series against the Panthers? Yes, but he finished with eight assists in the seven games. Play in the defensive zone from all of the defensemen was sloppy and unorganized. He wasn’t alone. Hathaway provided grit and toughness on the fourth line with Tomas Nosek and a rotating left wing, but he disappeared in the series. He was not as good on the forecheck as he was when he came over after the deal and did not bring the physicality enough as he did in the regular season.

After the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25, Hall returned to Boston from their west coast trip and Foligno was injured late in the second period of a Feb. 28 win over the Calgary Flames to close out the trip. Following that injury, Sweeney acquired Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings on March 2. What an addition that turned out to be. He slotted in anywhere in the top nine and was productive. In 21 regular season games, he had four goals and 12 assists, then was a big producer in the series with five goals and five assists. He was a strong net-front presence and played the game with a chip on his shoulder. Sweeney gave up the Bruins’ 2024 first-round pick as part of the deal, but in hindsight, it was the right move.

Sweeney Went All In and It Was the Correct Call

Aside from Kyle Dubas with the Maple Leafs, Sweeney had the biggest week leading into the trade deadline. He made two moves and surrendered a lot of draft capital and it was the right move. Leading up to the trade deadline, the players on the ice told the front office that they were a good enough group to make moves and go all-in. The front off heard it did it.

Don Sweeney Boston Bruins
Don Sweeney, General Manager of the Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The end result is the cruel reality of sports, not all the moves made are going to end in a championship. A lot of teams went all-in this season at the trade deadline and the Bruins, and the New York Rangers went all-in and also suffered a seven-game defeat at the hands of the New Jersey Devils after jumping out a 2-0 series lead. You have to love sports.

Sweeney is in a no-win situation. He either stays pat at the deadline and makes minor moves, then he gets the blame when they get eliminated early. Or he does what he did and goes all-in and they still suffer a first-round exit. In the overall picture, he made the right move and it backfired, not on him, but on his players and coaches in the locker room. Surrendering two first-round picks and multiple other picks needed to be done to give his team a chance to win the Stanley Cup. They didn’t and this time, Sweeney is not to blame.

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