The Buffalo Sabres were going nowhere. They could afford to tear it down and endure the “suffering.”
The Toronto Maple Leafs were a disaster. The only way out was some “pain.”
But the Boston Bruins are a different, more complicated story. They may have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, and they may well miss them again in 2017. But they also have Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask under club control for years to come — and they’re not about to tear that down.
“I’m not going to be shortsighted,” GM Don Sweeney assured reporters Tuesday after firing head coach Claude Julien. “I’m going to stick to the longer-term view.”
But at the same time, Sweeney believes his core players deserve “a chance to win now” — which is why he brought in a veteran like David Backes on July 1.
“Our core players are too good to not have that plan in place, in the short term and longer term,” he said.
So, it’s a balancing act, the present with the future. This past summer, Sweeney wasn’t willing to trade Pastrnak for defensive help, and Bruins fans are probably glad he didn’t.
Still, the Bruins need to improve their defense. Zdeno Chara is 39 years old. And while Brandon Carlo has been a pleasant surprise at only 20, there’s no telling when the likes of Charles McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon will be NHL-ready.
In other words, don’t expect the Kevin Shattenkirk speculation to go away. The 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent. If he’s available this summer, the Bruins will surely be interested. They might even have interest before the trade deadline, as long as the price isn’t too steep, and as long as they know they can re-sign him.
For now, though, the focus will be on making the playoffs under interim coach Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins host San Jose Thursday, Vancouver Saturday, and Montreal Sunday. Then they get their bye week, before heading off to California for a tough road trip.
“These decisions are not easy, and Don has my full support,” said Bruins president Cam Neely in a statement. “I believe that we have a better team than our results to date show. I also recognize that there are areas that we as a group need to improve upon.”
That last part was Neely’s way of saying it wasn’t all on the coach. And to be sure, now that Julien has been fired, the focus will turn far more to management and what can be done to improve the roster.
Sweeney said he’s sticking to the plan.
The only hard part will be executing it.