Bruins ownership doesn't sound willing to go through rebuild anytime soon originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Going through a rebuild doesn't always work out for NHL teams, but there have been many examples in recent years that show stockpiling high draft picks is often the best way to build a perennial contender.
The Boston Bruins, at least on paper, look like a franchise that has a rebuild on the horizon. But despite that, it doesn't sound like ownership has much of an appetite for a rebuild or even an extended retool.
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"There's been a lot of theater around the NHL, this past week in particular at the draft, we saw some teams that I would call sellers, and I think that would be awfully difficult to sell in this market to our fanbase," Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs said Monday at new head coach Jim Montgomery's introductory press conference.
"I do foresee -- and I don't have a crystal ball -- but there are going to be days, let's be candid, if we're up here long enough, there will be days where we don't have the opportunity to talk about Patrice Bergeron coming back to be our captain and No. 1 center. Those are things we need to address every summer, whether it's through the draft. Cam and Don have mentioned this already -- but we're a cap team, meaning that we're going to spend to the max to deliver the best product we possibly can to our fans. That is not going to change. In that regard, I would hope that people could put that in their back pocket and understand we are committed to winning a Stanley Cup and we will do whatever it takes to get us to that threshold again."
Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs responded to the question as well.
"I think it's an annual situation," he said. "I think you have to see where you are and where you're going. I think Don and Cam visualize this team very well and understand what they have, and perhaps what they need."
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Bruins fans want to see winning hockey, but there's nothing worse than being in the middle. In other words, a team that's not bad enough to get a high draft pick but also not good enough to be a true Stanley Cup contender is the worst position to be in. And unfortunately for the Bruins, that's the type of team they look like right now -- good enough to make the playoffs but not championship caliber.
Hockey fans in Boston are smart. They would respect a rebuild done correctly. If the team had a plan, communicated it to the fan base and stuck with it, a majority of the fans would give them a chance.
Bruins president Cam Neely was asked in May if a rebuild was something the fanbase would accept.
Here's his answer:
"I don’t know if – I don’t think anyone really wants to watch losing hockey," Neely said on May 19. "That’s not the plan, is to start losing. You look at teams across the league that have lost a lot of hockey games over the number of years, and they are in rebuilds. They get better draft picks and ultimately better players, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job the last 10, 11 years of trying to stay in that window to win. But eventually it does catch up to you. But like I said, we do have some good young players in this lineup that hopefully we can build around in the next couple years, so we don’t have to do a complete rebuild."
The Bruins have done a good job of remaining competitive. They've been to the playoffs in 13 of the last 15 years with three Stanley Cup Final appearances and one title over that span. But the key takeaway from those Neely comments in May is that "eventually it does catch up to you."
In the Bruins' case, a failure to draft and develop young players is catching up with them. The roster has just two star players under the age of 30 -- No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy and superstar right winger David Pastrnak. Captain Patrice Bergeron reportedly is returning, but he's 36 years old. Brad Marchand is the best all-around left winger in the league, but he's 34 and recently had surgery on both of his hips. Outside of Bergeron, there are no top-six caliber centers at any level of the organization.
Boston's prospect pool also ranks among the weakest in the league with zero players on TSN's Top 50 Prospects list published in April.
Nobody -- not the fans, team management, coaches or the players -- wants to lose, obviously. But every winning franchise like the Bruins eventually has to rebuild.
The Detroit Red Wings made the playoffs every year from 1991 through 2016. The Red Wings roster finally got too old and a rebuild commenced. Detroit's rebuild has produced several good young players, including 2022 Calder Trophy-winning defenseman Mortiz Seider and a rising star in forward Lucas Raymond. The Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and reigning Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche are other examples from the last 20 years of teams that went through several seasons of losing, got high draft picks as a result, and then acquired franchise cornerstone talent with those selections.
We're not there yet, but it won't be long before a rebuild is the best way for the Bruins to get back to a championship level. If ownership accepts that and empowers management to do a proper rebuild, the results could be enormously successful. Delaying the inevitable only makes the situation worse.