Not to relitigate Sweeney’s career, but I’m sure it’s not controversial to say that his ability to make good trades was well-established. We killed him on the day, but Dougie being an RFA and wanting nothing to do with Boston tied his hands, and a first and two seconds that day is actually good business.
Where I think we all have an issue with him is three-fold:
-He has a tendency of making a cluster of smaller moves with a bigger move in mind, only to watch it fall through. The two glaring examples are Draft Day ‘15 (pu-pu platter of mid-1st to Arizona without making sure Arizona would do that) and Deadline Day ‘22 (giving up pricey assets to get Lindholm with Anaheim retaining, only to eat the cap space).
-A draft strategy that emphasizes attainable floor over high potential. Just about every pick after the first 50 is a lottery ticket, so the lack of contribution there is on the player development side, but before that, you should get a decent NHL player. We know how ‘15 turned out. In ‘16, they get McAvoy, but then take Frederic at 29 when the world screams he’s a bottom-6 forward at best. Vaakanainen in ‘17, whose biggest impact was becoming Lindholm 5 years later. No one in ‘18, Beecher in ‘19. Missing in the first two rounds consistently is a death sentence for a GM.
-Free agency. In the interest of fairness, I’ll look at two sides of this coin: first, he does EXTREMELY well in retention. McAvoy’s big deal will be the first time a Bruin will command an $8m+ AAV under Sweeney. Pastrnak’s soon-to-expire deal was 6/$40m, Bergeron never above $7m AAV, same for Marchand. When he IDs a guy that is a core player, they stay, and often at discount. In contrast, Kyle Dubas doesn’t as much negotiate with his core players as much as hand them a blank cheque.
HOWEVER, IDing FAs outside the organization seems to be a bit trickier, and I think Fris shared that frustration. Backes, Beleskey, Moore, Wagner, Foligno, Smith, Haula, Forbort…all guys that were signed, and often with little care for the tail risk. The first half have been traded or buried (Beleskey, impressively, managed both), and most of the latter half are active impediments to making much of this roster for 2022-23.
My biggest complaint with Neely was his entertaining of Jim Benning's "half of Kane" nonsense during the Seguin trade discussions.
The one that chaps my ass to this day is the fact that another of the drivers from that day, Scott Bradley, is still with the organization to this day. That he continues to be paid by the Bruins for some of the crap he spewed is an indictment of someone in the FO.