By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
As you know, Don Sweeney and the Bruins had a chance to grab three NHL regulars — and legitimate high-end talents at that — with back-to-back-to-back picks in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft.
Instead, the Bruins went just 1-for-3, selecting Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn at No. 13, 14, and 15 overall. And in doing so, and again as you know by now, the Bruins left a ton of talent on the board; Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor, Thomas Chabot, Travis Konecny, and Brock Boeser are just a few of the other first-round picks the B’s passed on to select their three. Oof.
But Sweeney shouldn’t bear the brunt of the blame for those misfires, according to longtime B’s executive Harry Sinden.
“They came in here with a few problems,” Sinden, who participated in a conference call with the media on Monday afternoon, said of the switch from Peter Chiarelli to Sweeney in 2015. “Don Sweeney’s first draft, he had never seen any of the players play. He spent all his time in Providence. He had nothing to do with the three draft [picks] we had in the first round. He had never really seen them play at all.”
To Sinden’s point, Sweeney had served as the assistant general manager during the end of Chiarelli’s tenure, which left him in charge of day-to-day operations for the P-Bruins and out of a pure scouting role that afforded him regular trips to the O, Q, W, or any other letter of your choice. The Bruins also parted ways with Chiarelli in the aftermath of their second straight collapse out of postseason play in the final week of the regular season, and they didn’t name Sweeney as his replacement until mid-May, which gave him about a month’s time to do his homework on the 2015 draft class.
There’s also the fact that the Bruins never truly planned on making three selections in a row.
It was clear that the Bruins were swinging for a potential trade-up to grab one of the draft’s top-ranked defenders, like Massachusetts native Noah Hanifin (No. 5 overall), or the highly talented Ivan Provorov (No. 7 overall) and Zach Werenski (No. 8 overall). Those guys were considered the big three of that draft class on the blue line, and in Sweeney’s defense, many 2015 rankings had Zboril as the next best guy after that grouping. So once he missed on those three, and in the immediate aftermath of trading Dougie Hamilton to Calgary, there was no way he could’ve gone three-in-a-row without taking a defender.
(Also: Just as an aside, I hate armchair-drafting years later, if only because I think it’s entirely too easy to do, and every team is boned by some mistakes. Just look at David Pastrnak’s fall in 2014 or Charlie McAvoy’s in 2016.)
But going 1-for-3 in such a loaded first round is almost indefensible no matter the circumstances. In a first round that’s produced countless NHL regulars, the Bruins have just one to show for it. And that seems unlikely to change given the roster construct and logjams facing both Senyshyn and Zboril right now. In fact, Zboril has played the fewest games out of any 2015 first-round pick (two), while Senyshyn’s six games are the third-fewest among ’15 firsts.
“He had to live with who they are,” Sinden said. “And we came out of it pretty good, but we’ve done better since.”
They did better as soon as the second round of that 2015 Draft, too, which netted them Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon.
Oh, and they’re currently the best team in the NHL.