Sweeney Fails To Fulfill A Void Bergeron Left Behind

Hunter Bowman
August 17, 2023  (1:43 PM)

During Don Sweeney's tenure as the Boston Bruins' general manager (GM), his strengths and weaknesses have become evident.

He's adept at securing team-friendly contracts and locking in stars before free agency, as demonstrated with players like Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak.
Sweeney's trade deadline maneuvers to bolster the team have also stood out, as seen last season when he fortified the roster for a deep playoff push, even though it ended shockingly in the first round against the Florida Panthers.
His efforts couldn't be faulted, given the commitment to ensuring postseason success.
One of the Bruins' perennial strengths has been their formidable center position, anchored by mainstays Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in the top six. However, after a combined 18 years of service, neither player will be present as training camp kicks off in September.
Bergeron announced his retirement on July 25 at 38 years old, while Krejci followed suit on August 14. This impending void down the middle poses a daunting challenge for the Black and Gold this season.
While options like Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames or Mark Scheifele from the Winnipeg Jets could be pursued via trade to fill the gap, one undeniable reality emerges.
Sweeney's failure to adequately draft and develop centers is now glaringly apparent with the departure of Bergeron and Krejci.
The Center Landscape for the 2023-24 Bruins
The center position doesn't paint a pretty picture on the depth chart at present.
In the absence of recent names like Tomas Nosek, who inked a deal with the New Jersey Devils, the potential season-starting lineup comprises Pavel Zacha, Charlie Coyle, Morgan Geekie, Trent Frederic, and Patrick Brown, under the guidance of Jim Montgomery.
The youth brigade, including prospects John Beecher, Georgii Merkulov, and Marc McLaughlin, will have their say in training camp, but making it onto the NHL roster for the season opener seems like a formidable task for most.
Lack of NHL-Ready Centers from Sweeney's Drafts
The NHL demands excellence across various positions for a team to thrive, and center is undoubtedly one of them. While Bergeron and Krejci predate Sweeney's tenure, his drafts have failed to infuse the roster with future centers for depth.
That's not to suggest a dearth of prospective center options. Matthew Poitras shines as a promising candidate, showcasing immense potential after a breakout season with the Guelph Storm in the OHL, amassing an impressive 79 assists. However, his arrival in the NHL isn't projected for the immediate term.
John Beecher, a product of the University of Michigan, could be the closest to NHL-readiness from the Providence Bruins in the AHL. His debut season last year saw him netting nine goals and 14 assists, with his two-way play improving progressively.
The challenge lies in standing out during training camp to clinch a spot. As for Marc McLaughlin, while he made an impression as a winger in the NHL, his future in the league seems more likely in that position than at center.
Infusing Youth, but Not at Center
The Bruins entered the off-season with the intention of integrating youthful prospects into their lineup for the upcoming season.
While the free agency landscape hasn't fully aligned with this vision, one thing remains certain: the injection of youth won't be centered around the pivot.
Sweeney's oversight in nurturing and drafting centers who'd be ready once Bergeron and Krejci stepped aside is now apparent, exposing the team's predicament.
The Bruins, while boasting strong middle-bottom six centers, lack a top-line anchor, potentially limiting their prospects in the 2023-24 season. Sweeney's tenure spans eight years, yet the absence of a solution to this predicament stands out.
The result is Boston's current position, without a solid plan to succeed the departing legends.
The lack of prepared replacements from within the system leaves the Bruins in a challenging spot—one that they must navigate in the season ahead.
Source: Thehockeywriters

NHL players in this story
Charlie Coyle
Mark Scheifele
Elias Lindholm
Tomas Nosek
Charlie McAvoy
Morgan Geekie
Pavel Zacha
David Pastrnak
Patrick Brown
Trent Frederic
Marc McLaughlin
John Beecher
Matthew Poitras
AUGUST 17   |   20 ANSWERS
Sweeney Fails To Fulfill A Void Bergeron Left Behind

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