With Christmas eleven days away and the NHL Holiday Roster Freeze set to kick in Dec. 20-27, what should Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney hope Santa Claus brings him and his team?
“Great question. If I were Donny Sweeney, I would ask for a center iceman that could manufacture points; a slick center iceman that could manufacture points,” longtime NHL analyst and co-host of ‘The Eye Test Podcast‘ Pierre McGuire replied when asked on Wednesday what the Bruins GM should be hoping for as a Christmas present.
McGuire said that just hours before, the Boston Bruins stole another point in a low-scoring game on Wednesday night thanks to their goalie. This time it was Jeremy Swayman who made 35 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils that pulled the Bruins one point ahead of the New York Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bruins have now scored three goals or less in 18 games this season, and if not for Swayman and goalie Linus Ullmark, they surely wouldn’t have earned wins in 11 of those 18 games and points in 15.
With longtime Boston Bruins centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retiring this past offseason, Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha have alternated as the top 2 centers. Both Coyle (10g, 11a) and Zacha (8g, 11a) have been better than maybe some expected, with Coyle becoming the go-to center for head coach Jim Montgomery in all situations. However, neither is probably a No. 1 center on most Stanley Cup contenders, and now Pavel Zacha has missed a game and been placed on injured reserve. That means more minutes and responsibility for Coyle, who has already been a workhorse, and for bottom-six forwards like Morgan Geekie, who started the overtime loss to the Devils on the top line between Jake DeBrusk and David Pastrnak. Yes, Geekie scored a goal, but this likely won’t be a tenable situation going forward.
“Charlie Coyle’s been the MVP,” McGuire pointed out. “And I know Pastrnak’s having an unbelievable year – again – no surprise there. But Charlie Coyle, the heavy lifting he’s done, the shorthanded play, the faceoff play, the five-on-five offense; being able to be flexible playing deep in the lineup, playing up in the lineup, Charlie’s done some tremendous things.
So, again, if you were to ask me one gift if I were Donny Sweeney, and I was writing a letter to Santa Claus, I’d say, ‘Can you bring me a really skilled center iceman that I can play in the one or the two-hole?’
Because I lost Bergeron, I lost Krejci. So then, I could keep Geekie, and I could keep Charlie deeper in the lineup, and then when Zacha comes back, I could either have him play center or I could have him play wing. I want one slickster down the middle. I want one slickster that could be a point-a-game player, and that would help me a lot.”
The Boston Bruins have been linked to Calgary Flames center and potential 2024 unrestricted free agent Elias Lindholm on the NHL trade market, but the common belief is that Sweeney doesn’t have the necessary trade capital to acquire Lindholm. Will another top 6 center that the Bruins can afford become available before the roster freeze goes into effect or just after?