By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Ryan Donato struggled to find a place anywhere on the Bruins roster in 2018-19. It's clear that Bruce Cassidy and the Boston coaching staff didn't have the confidence to roster him at the NHL level. Now a member of the Minnesota Wild, Donato himself confirmed as much.
Speaking to reporters after his Wild debut, Donato commended his new coaches for showing confidence in him. His comment implies that not only did the Bruins lose confidence in him as a player, but lost it a long time ago.
"They just said, ‘Go and play,’ and that’s when I think I’m at my best when [coaches] have the confidence in me and they let me play," said Donato, via Michael Russo of The Athletic. "It’s been a while since the coaches have had a lot of confidence in me to play me in all situations."
Donato notched two assists and three shots on goal in his Wild debut on Thursday night, a 4-1 win over the New York Rangers. He also played 16:58 of ice time - his highest output of the season.
It's not a particularly harsh comment from Donato, but he's clearly alluding to Cassidy and the Bruins coaches losing confidence in him to the point that they didn't feel comfortable playing him in any situation. He had been in Providence since being assigned there on Jan. 28, while other young forwards like Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, and Karson Kuhlman have gotten opportunities in Boston.
The problem here is that the Bruins and Wild are in two different situations. Minnesota is hanging by a thread in the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. The Bruins are tied for the third-best record in the NHL and seem to believe they're one or two pieces from being a top Stanley Cup contender. They have far less to lose by playing Donato in more situations than the Bruins wanted to.
This doesn't mean that Donato's first game in Minnesota, or the fact that he got traded after just 46 games with Boston, is any kind of sweeping statement on his career. Bruins GM Don Sweeney was unwilling to get into any details on Donato's time with the Bruins or what led to his departure, but did acknowledge he still has the upside of a good NHL player. As the son of a former Bruin who was Sweeney's teammate, Donato is obviously a sensitive subject.
"I’m not going to expand on Ryan," Sweeney told reporters on Thursday. "Obviously, he’s a member of another team now, and we want to wish him well. He’s going to have a successful NHL career. He’s got a unique shot and talent, skillset. Still learning some of the nuances, but we’re going to wish him nothing but the best. I’ve known him since he’s been knee-high, as I told him yesterday, and the rest of it I think is best left unsaid."
Sweeney's last comment could lead to all kinds of speculation on what went wrong with this prospect. But Donato essentially said all that needed to be said. The Bruins lost confidence in him, to the point that they felt safe moving on from him. That's what matters the most to this season and the next.
Looking at both sides, the hope is that this turns out like the Blake Wheeler trade in 2011. If trade acquisition Charlie Coyle helps the Bruins win a Cup within the next two summers, while Donato eventually develops into a high-end talent, it would be a win-win. Let's see how Donato does with a coaching staff that's willing to deploy him in all situations. He's off to a good start.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].