Tag Archives: Bruins

Evaluating the Scouts

Some Bruins fans love to use their 20/20 hindsight and call out all the players the Bruins should have drafted. I’ve also wondered, what if the Bruins had just followed the NHL Central Scouting rankings for each draft, who would they have ended up with? Let’s take a look. Here’s the way it works, each year before the draft, the NHL puts out their own rankings of all the available players. I took that and I crossed names off as they were actually drafted and then when it was the Bruins’ turn to pick, looked at who is the best player available, according to the NHL scouts. Here’s how that went.

2015

We all know 2015 went really badly from the perspective that it was a very deep draft, there were a lot of good players available when the Bruins had three choices. Jake DeBrusk has turned out to be approximately what he was projected to be, around the 19th best player in that draft. Zach Senyshyn has been a huge miss, and then there’s Jakob Zboril. Due to slower development and injuries, the jury is still out. But those are the three guys they took. We always hear about Barzal, Connor, Chabot, Boeser and so many other players, but based on the 2015 NHL Central Scouting rankings, who would the Bruins have gotten? Yes, Matt Barzal and Kyle Connor, but the third one might surprise some people, Jakob Zboril. The best goalies available were Ilya Samsonov and Mackenzie Blackwood.

Let’s take it a little further and look at the second round where the Bruins took Brandon Carlo at 37 and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson at 45. The highest ranked players at 37 were Jansen Harkins, Michael Spacek, Blackwood or old friend Daniel Vladar. For the second pick, the same players were still available, but if the Bruins had taken Harkins at 37, then the next man up would be Filip Chlapik. Going as far as the third round, when they took Jeremy Lauzon, the best player in the rankings was Jeremy Roy.

2016

In 2016, the Bruins took Charlie McAvoy at 14, but according to the NHL Central Scouting, the highest rated available was Jakob Chychrun. Chrychrun is a pretty good player, but he’s not as good as Charlie McAvoy. That pick is a win for the Bruins. The Bruins also had a second first round pick at 29 where they took Trent Frederic. The highest ranked player was 21st, Alex Debrincat. He eventually went to Chicago, dropping all the way to 39. In the second round, the Bruins took a guy who is now an NHL defenseman, but was traded to the Rangers in the Rick Nash deal, Ryan Lindgren. He was drafted 49th. The highest ranked players at the time were Kale Clague and Carl Grundstrom. I feel pretty good about the Bruins scouting and drafting on that pick.

2017

This is the last year to look at as not enough players have had time to develop yet from 2018 on. But this year, the Bruins took Urho Vaakanainen at 18. The highest ranked players available according to the NHL Central Scouting were either Eeli Tolvanen or Klim Kostin. Meh. I’m not too excited about any of those players and I wouldn’t get too excited about “missing” on any of those. Looking into the second round, the Bruins took Jack Studnicka at 53 and the highest ranked players available for that pick were Rickard Hugg and Alexei Lipanov. To which I can just say “Who?” as neither of them have NHL experience and I don’t think either will ever get any.

There you have it, the answer to “What if the Bruins fired all their scouts and just used the NHL’s own rankings?” The thing to keep in mind though is for every Debrincat, all the other teams missed on him too. Each team has their own hits and misses including the Flyers, Stars and Capitals 2016 first round picks who have played a combined 15 NHL games.

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Consistency of Success

The opinions of some Bruins fans are often what lead me to dig into data. For example, most Bruins fans hate the 2015 draft and claim Bruins GM Don Sweeney is terrible at drafting, so I looked into data to see if that’s true. But another claim is that the team doesn’t win enough. They’re not consistent enough and they need to do more. Yes, I’d love for the Bruins to win the Stanley Cup more often, but how do the Bruins results compare to other teams? Do other teams win more? Are they consistently better than the Bruins? That leads to a question for fans of any organization. Would you prefer that your team is consistently good or would you prefer a team is that cycles between great and terrible?

In my head, I believed that the Bruins “hold on” after highly successful years more than other organizations. In 2011, the Bruins played Vancouver for the Cup and Vancouver has not been consistently good since then. In 2013, the Bruins played Chicago for the Cup and Chicago has not been consistently good since then. Even after 2019, the Blues have not continued on as a juggernaut of a team. But let’s look at how all teams do after they go to the Stanley Cup Final, both the Cup winner and the team they beat, since 2000, and look at what they did after. “How they do” is defined by regular season point totals and what overall place they come in. Also note, 2004-05 was the lockout year, so no standings and no Cup awarded.

My full data sheet is here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1yNsrjg6hmTHkGFEry9fDUMB7ep2kYTpGbAybhwnqpbE/edit?usp=sharing

I’ll pluck out a few to make graphs with and release the data from all the teams. Let’s look at the first team in my timeframe, the 2000 (and 2003) Stanley Cup champions, the New Jersey Devils.


They won the Cup twice and then kept pushing for another six years before eventually the bottom fell out and the rebuild became necessary, starting in 2011. Over the last 11 seasons, the Devils have struggled to do much.

How about a team who won the Cup, had to take some steps back, rebuild and is back at the top. The Colorado Avalanche:

The Avs won the Cup in 2001, then drifted downward in the standings, finishing 4th, 6th, 10th, 13th and eventually the bottom fell out and the rebuild happened to get them the Cup in 2022. I see some Bruins fans lamenting that the Bruins front office can’t be more like Colorado’s and in looking at the 2010 to 2020 years, that’s a lot of suffering for a fanbase, and suffering that I’m not sure those Bruins fans would tolerate.

Here’s a look at Tampa’s path as well. They won the Cup in 2004 and then went the rebuild route to get back to where they are today. Here’s a look at their annual finishes:

As Bruins fans know, the last time they won the Cup was 2011. We’ve seen that in at least two examples here, it’s typical for a team to win the Cup, be decent for years and five to seven years, then the bottom falls out. As it’s now been eleven years since the Bruins won the Cup, there’s been enough of a sample for them to follow that pattern. Here’s their graph:

The worst the Bruins did was to drop to 17 which was in 2015 and that was the cap jail the team got into via Chiarelli and the attempted Cup run with Iginla. Since then, it’s looked pretty good. But also notice what’s missing. A bottoming out that requires a rebuild.

One other team has been similar. The Pittsburgh Penguins also have not needed a rebuild, but that’s probably what happens when you get Crosby and Malkin in back to back drafts:

The Penguins have a similar line to the Bruins, their worst finish was also in 2015 when they finished 15th. There’s no big drop-off and no rebuild that was necessary. The Bruins and the Penguins are generally the outlier among teams.

Here is the average, high and low finish for each Cup winner since 2000. The longer ago the Cup win was, the more data there is, as the data starts the year after the team won the Cup between 2000 and 2021:

Cup WinnerYearAverageHighLow
New Jersey200015.76329
Colorado200114.50130
Detroit200213.21131
New Jersey200317.44529
Tampa Bay200414.06130
Carolina200617.25326
Anaheim200713.80230
Detroit200816.64328
Pittsburgh20096.69215
Chicago201013.50127
Boston20117.91117
Los Angeles201217.40730
Chicago201315.33327
Los Angeles201419.63830
Chicago201517.71327
Pittsburgh20167.50212
Pittsburgh20178.60512
Washington20187.25413
St. Louis20198.67215
Tampa Bay20207.5078
Tampa Bay20217.0077

IN the case of New Jersey, we see a team who won, hung on for a few years and is still struggling with their rebuild. With Colorado, we see a team that won, did the rebuild and is back at the top. With the Bruins and the Penguins, we see two teams who haven’t bottomed out after winning the Cup and by looking at the chart, we can see that most teams do bottom out.

Cup Finalists

The data above only includes teams that have won the Cup since 2000. But what if we look at the same data for the teams who lost in the Cup Final. Some of these will also include Cup winning teams, but the main thing here is the same patterns emerge. Teams win, teams take some time to drop off, then the bottom falls out and the rebuild needs to begin.

Starting with the Cup finalist in 2000 and 2020, the Dallas Stars, here’s the path they’ve taken. Definitely some ups and downs in there.

Here is the Cup finalist in 2002 and a team that Bruins fans are all too aware that has finally made their resurgence, The Carolina Hurricanes. But it definitely was not quick, taking about 15 years to get to where they are now.

We’ve already seen how the Bruins have fared since 2011, so how has their opponent, the Vancouver Canucks done since then. Have they had as much continued success as the Bruins have?

It’s safe to say that no, Vancouver has not been nearly as competitive as the Bruins have since they met for the Cup in 2011.

Like with the Cup winners, here’s a table with each Cup finalist and their average finish after they went to the final, plus the highest and the lowest they’ve finished. The same patterns emerge, the same teams stand out.

Cup FinalistYearAverageHighLow
Dallas200013.67224
New Jersey200116.40429
Carolina200217.53330
Anaheim200313.61230
Calgary200415.76227
Edmonton200621.88830
Ottawa200720.471231
Pittsburgh20086.79215
Detroit200918.46631
Philadelphia201015.67429
Vancouver201119.09129
New Jersey201224.101429
Boston20138.33117
NY Rangers201415.50126
Tampa Bay20157.57118
San Jose201617.50629
Nashville201711.40119
Vegas201810.75217
Boston20197.00110
Dallas202016.001517
Montreal202132.003232

Most teams who have made it to the Cup final eventually really bottom out and end up at the very bottom of the standings. Even old friend Vancouver hit 29 one season, in 2017. But again, Pittsburgh has done well, never finishing below 15 and the Bruins never finishing below 17. Those two, along with Tampa Bay have enough of a sample size and still finish in single digits for average. While one number doesn’t tell a whole story, it does give an indication of the consistency of success for these organizations.

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