By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins’ unhealthy obsession with the bottom-half of the roster became a parody of itself over the weekend. Stories like this only make those Stamkos rumors sound that much sillier.
The Bruins essentially admitted that to their fans on Friday at the NHL Draft after they selected center Trent Frederic with the 29th overall pick. Frederic, who is committed to the University of Wisconsin, was ranked outside the top 50 by many scouts and draft experts. The pick was almost universally regarded as a major reach.
The problem with the pick, however, isn’t that the Bruins drafted a guy that the “experts” said was only a third-line player. It’s that they agree with them. They took a first-round pick, which should net you a player with big upside 100 percent of the time, and admitted they used it on a player destined to be a bottom-six forward. They did that, on purpose.
“[Frederic] is not going to be a top-two-line guy, we know that,” Bruins director of amateur scouting Keith Gretzky told reporters at the draft, according to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald. “But he has some jam. He plays hard with the penalty minutes. We were fortunate to get him.
“We believed he was our next guy and we really liked the projection of him as a staff. Everybody raved about him, his character is outstanding. He’s an athlete.”
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In a vacuum, Frederic is a prototypical player for Claude Julien’s system. He could eventually fill Chris Kelly’s role, killing penalties and playing a solid all-around game. Every winning team needs at least one guy who excels at that type of role and I think you’ll end up liking Frederic for what he is. But a grinder with “some jam” is simply not the kind of player you unnecessarily overpay with contract extensions and certainly not the kind you spend a first-round pick to acquire, and everyone knows it – except, apparently, for the Bruins.
The selection undid whatever goodwill the Bruins had built up with their earlier selection of defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
The narrative surrounding the pick could have been much different had Gretzky said that the Bruins see Frederic as having greater potential than his projection. If he said “We view him as a future top-six power forward” … Well, he’d still be getting ripped for making a reach, let’s be honest. But I’d rather rip him for overrating the player than grossly, blatantly undervaluing the pick itself.
It’s the kind of statements that Gretzky made that justify the skepticism surrounding the competency (or lack thereof) in the Bruins front office. Spending a first on a bottom-six forward is just bad for the roster. They would have been better-served trading down into the second round and accumulating more assets. You don’t need to be Bob McKenzie to know that. It’s true whether whether GM Don Sweeney realizes it or not – and I’m not sure which would be worse.
Essentially, the Bruins faithful need to hope Gretzky is wrong about his assessment of Frederic’s ceiling. They need to hope Frederic really does develop into the next David Backes, a player whom Frederic emulates. But it won’t erase the team’s reach of a pick and baffling admission that they drafted a third-line player in the first round.
The Boston Bruins have learned from past mistakes and committed themselves to better developing young, skilled players. But their frustrating, needless over-commitment to offensively challenged, jack-of-all-trades, low-ceiling forwards? That problem remains.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.