Dominic Tiano: Don Sweeney- In the Running for NHL GM of the Year?

Dominic Tiano returns to the blog again with another post on the job Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney has done with the team in a season where he’s been embattled after some controversial non-moves before the start of the 2021 NHL campaign. Here’s Dom’s breakdown… -KL

Prior trades. Past free agent signings. Drafting history.

Those are some of the things Bruins fans concentrate on and call for Don Sweeney to be terminated let alone receive consideration for General Manager of the Year honours for the 2020-2021 season.

It began in the offseason, not just with fans, but some in the media. Sweeney made the decision to move on from veteran blue liners Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. In fairness to Sweeney, he did offer Chara a contract but the latter decided to move on to the Washington Capitals. But for some fans, that didn’t matter. In their minds, Sweeney needed to do the impossible and get his long-time captain under contract.

The heat was really turned up a notch when the only free agent signing Sweeney brought in was Craig Smith and the decision was made to go with a younger blue line.

Things got off to a great start for the Bruins but then the injury bug began to decimate the Bruins blue line. In true Sweeney fashion, he remained calm and calculated in his decision making and he wasn’t going to let the injuries dictate is moves going forward.

He claimed Jarred Tinordi off the waiver wire from the Nashville Predators as a stop gap and Tinordi filled in well. 

The team started to get healthy heading towards trade deadline, or at the very least, Sweeney knew they were heading towards a healthy squad. So, heading towards trade deadline, Sweeney struck in what can only be considered as his best moves during his tenure leading the Bruins.

Sweeney struck a deal with the Buffalo Sabres to bring in Taylor Hall. It’s true that Hall controlled all options in the trade since he held a no movement clause. Sweeney can’t be credited for that. But what he can be credited for is the price he paid to acquire the 2010 NHL Entry Draft’s first overall selection and former league MVP.

Sweeney gave up Anders Bjork and a second-round pick in 2021 but the most impressive think about the deal isn’t that he gave up so little for Hall (with the Sabres retaining 50% of the contract) but he also got Buffalo GM Kevyn Adams to include Curtis Lazar in the deal. As much as Hall is credited with reviving David Krejci and the second line, Lazar is credited for a rejuvenated fourth line in which Coach Bruce Cassidy is not afraid of using in any situation. That confidence in them was lacking pre trade deadline.

But that isn’t all Sweeney was able to pull off. He also sent a third-round pick in 2022 to the Ottawa Senators for Mike Reilly. As we wrote about here on TSP, Mike Reilly has changed the complexion of the Bruins blueline. Don’t want to take our word for it? Jack Edwards said during the Bruins 6-2 victory over the Sabres on Saturday, “Mike Reilly has changed the composure of the Bruins defense.”

And the Bruins have done nothing but be the hottest team since then, going 10-2-1 to lock up a playoff spot for the fifth straight year.

Of course, you can’t base the GM of the Year Award just on trade deadline moves, and what happens during the playoffs doesn’t matter as it is a regular season award.

But as I said earlier, despite pressure in the media and from the fan base, Sweeney had a plan, remained calm and calculated when things weren’t going well, and then made his move. He could have easily swung a desperation trade when is blue line was hurting and he didn’t. And the decision to move on from Chara and Krug aren’t biting him in the rear for now.

I don’t get a vote for the award obviously. But if I did, I would tend to lean towards Minnesota GM Bill Guerin for the job he has done with the Wild.

But Sweeney would be in the conversation for me.

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