And then there were three.
The Bruins on Monday lost one of the four assets they received from the Dallas Stars in the Tyler Seguin trade, as forward Matt Fraser was claimed on waivers by the Edmonton Oilers.
In 24 games this season, Fraser averaged 10:31 of ice time and scored three goals. Fraser, who was waived Sunday but still practiced with the Bruins, ranked fifth on the Bruins in goals per 60 minutes at 0.7, ahead of such superstars like Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Loui Eriksson. Now the 21st-ranked offensive team in the NHL has allowed Fraser to leave for nothing.
Now I don’t want to overplay the fact that the Bruins lost their 13th forward (at best) on waivers. In the grand scheme of things, Fraser — who was undrafted — isn’t a prospect that’s going to go on to a prolific career in the NHL. He’s a bottom-six forward at best. The notion that had he played a bigerg role with the Bruins he would’ve produced and thus stuck with Boston is a myth akin with the Easter Bunny. The eggs may be hidden when you wake up; it doesn’t mean they were put their by a white rabbit. Just because Fraser had an NHL-caliber shot didn’t mean that he should’ve been given a top-six role. Beyond defensive-zone play, Fraser also needed to add to his physical game and make smarter decisions when he wasn’t ripping off his shot (the rare times he had time and space to do that). He needed to earn the playing time and he didn’t.
Even Fraser wasn’t willing to blame the Bruins for not using him right.
“I’ve always been a guy that I’m never going to blame anybody else but myself. For me I would’ve liked to produce more. But maybe that opportunity wasn’t there as much. And you know I just had a conversation with [coach] Claude [Julien], and he kind of alluded to that. But at the same time, you’re in the NHL for a reason. You’ve got to find a reason to stay here. It’s unfortunate to be put on waivers. It’s been a long 24 hours. But at the same time you’ve got to make your chances and you’ve got to make your chances and you’ve got to make your spot. It didn’t happen here as I planned. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to move on and realize that this is a job. This is my job. It’s not just everything that goes along with it.”
Nonetheless, without an actual explanation from general manager Peter Chiarelli, it is worth scratching your head over the notion that Fraser, who required waivers to be demoted to Providence of the American Hockey League, was worth putting on waivers when a simpler move of demoting Seth Griffith, who doesn’t require waivers, was available to the GM. It’s also difficult to see where Jordan Caron or Matthew Lindblad is an upgrade on Fraser worthy of letting Fraser go for nothing. Fraser didn’t earn a NHL job. But what have some of these other guys done to deserve their place at the sport’s highest level?
With Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic both out injured, Julien again has no flexibility with his forwards. So while he’s looking for more hunger and determination from his struggling team, Julien’s left with no way to punish under-performing players. And one of the Bruins’ hardest workers was shown the door.
Of course, none of this should surprise us in this “up-is-down” Bruins season. Nothing seems to make a lot of sense. They didn’t make a significant move all offseason, traded Johnny Boychuk for draft picks days before the season started, tried to sell us on Bobby Robins as an NHL player, stayed married to the idea of Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell as viable fourth-line players and “rewarded” Craig Cunningham and Joe Morrow with demotions to Providence. Cunningham’s back now, and Fraser’s departure probably means Cunningham is going to be in Boston a while, but it took the Bruins too long to pull the trigger on getting a kid that epitomizes heart and hard work on the NHL roster. Morrow is now injured with Providence. After every loss it seems Julien complains about puck-movement from the Bruins’ back end. Morrow’s best known for his puck movement from the back end.
If Chiarelli were to comment on the Fraser loss, he’d probably express a little regret but also talk about how the Bruins needed to make this move “globally.” After all, there’s a big deal coming down the pipe that’s going to transform the Eastern Conference’s 10th-place team in Stanley Cup champs. Or at least that’s what Chiarelli has to tell the masses if he wants them to keep paying some of the highest prices in the league. Based on recent history, playoff ticket information will be sent out to season ticket holders soon and deposits for those tickets and next season will be due shortly after.
If you don’t have something valuable in the present to sell the customers desperate for another pro sports entertainment, then you have to sell them on a bright future. Problem is, how long can you keep making those type of promises without fulfilling them?