Folks don’t really write letters anymore — epistolary communication has migrated to e-mail. Here is one that has been sitting in my drafts folder, an apology to general manager Don Sweeney for doubting his plan for the runaway Bruins this season.
Sports columnists are generally not very adept at apologies. We tend to be all bluster and little contrition, but I wanted to write to let you know that I was wrong about your capability to construct a Stanley Cup contender. I was wrong to say that former Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy is better at his job than you are at yours. Tell Cam Neely to stop growling at me in news conferences.
This Bruins team you’ve built is a vulcanized-rubber wrecking ball. I’ve canceled all vacation plans for June, accordingly.
I thought you were grasping at straws and trying to cover your, uh … tracks when you decided to squeeze another kick at the Cup out of this core like the last speck of ketchup from a spent bottle. I scoffed when you repeatedly said last year’s club that bowed out in the first round to Carolina “left something on the table.”
I know you’re an avid cyclist, but I thought you were just spinning your wheels and taking the hockey public for a ride.
Now, I want to turtle like Claude Lemieux. Your Bruins look as unstoppable as Wayne Gretzky on a breakaway. Your unbeatable bunch had compiled 76 points in 45 games (36-5-4) heading into Sunday’s match with the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. Even the Gallery Gods couldn’t have envisioned a Bruins team this dominant on home ice with one regulation loss through 25 games.
This season has been pure bliss for Spoked-Believers, thanks to you.
You’ve exhibited a golden touch for the Black and Gold that’s surely the envy of some of your Harvard classmates in the financial world.
Convincing elder skatesman Patrice Bergeron to return for a 19th season on a cap-friendly contract was a coup. Bergy’s age matches his jersey number (37), but you wouldn’t know it from his play. Put him down for a sixth Selke Trophy.
However, your pucks piece de resistance was cajoling David Krejci to return from his self-imposed sabbatical in Czechia. Admittedly, I thought the plan to lure Krejci back to fill the chasm at second-line center that torpedoed last year’s team and Cassidy’s Boston coaching tenure was lazy and desperate. But that’s why readers remind me I’m not Mr. Hockey every chance they get.
Krejci, 36, still has his trademark playmaking panache — he recorded his 105th career multi-assist game on Thursday night, passing Wayne Cashman for sixth most in franchise history. He has made magic on the Just Czeching Line with countrymen David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha — I can’t believe you got him for Erik Haula! — on his wings.
Pastrnak is a goal-scoring machine with 35 in 45 games. Normally, I would admonish you for not locking him up. The contract price keeps climbing with every frisson-inducing flick of his stick. But clearly you realized he would be motivated by the specter of a contract year to produce a career year.
Speaking of contracts, I must offer another mea culpa. I thought the four-year, $20 million contract you handed to goalie Linus Ullmark before the 2021-22 season was an overpay for a meh netminder.
Ok, I’m being kind. I thought it was another one of your Jacobs family cash-for-clunker free agent moves like David Backes.
But you knew Ullmark would channel 2011 Tim Thomas this season. He’s the only qualified NHL goalie with a goals-against average below 2.00 (1.89), and leads the league in save percentage (.937) and wins (24).
Everyone keeps looking for a hole in the Black and Gold armor, but there isn’t one.
Your club leads the NHL in goals per game (3.80) and, by a wide margin, fewest goals allowed per game (2.07). As of Friday, no team had scored more third-period goals (67) or allowed fewer overall (93).
Your team keeps burying opponents like the organization buried the whole unfortunate Mitchell Miller affair.
Oh, sorry I brought that up. Old habits die hard.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer plaudits and a sincere apology for the move that has paid off the most, canning Cassidy to hire Jim Montgomery.
I was quite vocal that I thought deep-sixing Cassidy was an act of self-preservation on your part. I thought you were merely saving your own hockey hide. That you were the one who deserved to get a pink slip and not straight-shooter Butch, who got the team to the cusp of the Stanley Cup in 2019 and then saw it outclassed in subsequent postseasons by more talented outfits, particularly on the blue line. Cassidy boasted the second-best point percentage (.672) of any Bruins coach of more than two seasons behind Tom Johnson (.738).
You were right. The team needed a change in message and messenger.
Montgomery activated the defense and reactivated the team’s confidence and élan. Even Jake DeBrusk looks happy to be a Bruin.
He was having a strong season before going on long-term IR with hand and lower-body injuries after scoring the game-winner in the Winter Classic. I thought DeBrusk was only capable of suffering a bruised ego.
I guess Cassidy was too cozy with the media and too prickly for his players with his blunt assessments. Either way, a different voice was exactly what this bunch needed.
It’s one thing to throw a coach overboard. It’s another to choose the proper successor. You nailed it with Montgomery, the former University of Maine captain. Kudos.
The avuncular Montgomery has pushed all the right buttons and been able to wring more offense out of the roster, a must because it helps disguise some of the draft woes the team has experienced since 2015, which purely coincidentally is the year you became GM.
It was a good omen for Montgomery and the team when his kids were kind enough to offer pieces of cake from his introductory news conference to voracious media members.
So, that’s it Don. I just wanted to admit that I was wrong and you were right — about everything.
I don’t expect a reply. I’m sure you’re busy scouting additions for the trade deadline, making sure this team is airtight for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
See you at the parade.