No team in the east is more changed since the end of the regular season than the Boston Bruins. Gone is the General Manager who broke the cup drought. Gone is the hulking left winger who made the Causeway crowd scream. The one eyed Swede who took half a decade to don the spoked-B wore it for less than half that time. Riley Smith, one of last falls holdouts is gone as well. Greg Campbell one of the glue guys who came in and made it possible for Julien to roll all four lines is gone as his partner on the Merlot Line Daniel Paille. Gone, and largely forgotten are Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky.
Now manning the helm is the aggressive, at least comparatively, Don Sweeney, former Boston Bruins defenseman. He’s brought to the ice Jimmy Hayes an imposing Hub native. Standing squarely at the other end of the size spectrum is perhaps the player with the most reckless disregard for his own health and safety of any Bruin since PJ Stock, former Philadelphia Flyer Zac Rinaldo. The blue line is lightly augmented by former San Jose Shark Matt Irwin and Manchester Monarch’s alum Colin Miller. The brain trust has also brought in Jonas Gustavsson on a PTO.
The only forward pairing likely to start the season intact from last year is Bergeron and Marchand, which have become something of an institution. Unless there is a big trade involving the removal of the supposedly healthy David Krejci from the roster we are highly unlikely to see Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak reunited any time soon. There is the possibility that Eriksson and Kelly will play together again, but I doubt the season hangs on the success of these to working as a cohesive unit.
What’s hopeful about this year:
Bergeron, Chara, Marchand are all healthy and seem to have their heads in it right now. The new blood, and the young guns pushing for spots last season all have more visible strengths than weaknesses, even if none of them have the look of a burgeoning all star. Lastly the east, despite huge improvements Buffalo, is largely no stronger than last year.
What’s worrying about this year:
There is a strong possibility the Bruins will end up playing Loui Eriksson on the right side. If this is happens, the Bruins might be better off just buying him out and moving on. They won’t get to the playoffs with him running full time on the right side unless he suddenly at age 30 plays better there than he ever has before. The right wing is still questionable from top to bottom. Last year they added Brett Connolly to the mix to cover up the flailing of Seth Griffith and Riley Smith, who at least was playing through injuries, to little impact.
The blueline is a bleeding mess. After the 38 year old captain, and the 34 year old German, you have 24 year old offensive leaning defenseman who is still half a season short of his 200th NHL game. Behind them you have a grab bag of proven 5-7 guys and ones with ‘potential’. A heady Tommy Cross is three full seasons out of college and yet to make his NHL debut. Zach Trotman looks to be leading the pack with potential, as he did last year. I wouldn’t rule out Chris Casto or Linus Arnesson even if both have an up hill climb. While it’s hard to dislike the work ethic of Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller, neither one is a guy you can pencil in to play 22 minutes a night in 75 or more games a season, and that makes both in jeopardy of having their job taken.
And then there’s the situation in net. I strongly believe both Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre can play in the NHL. There is a solid chance one or both will be an NHL starter for several seasons. Right now, I don’t see either of them being up to the challenge of being a backup who plays 30-35 games and gives the team a chance to win on the nights Rask needs off. Jeremy Smith isn’t even a consideration at the NHL level, and Gustavsson is someone I’ve seen enough of to say he doesn’t have a job with any cup contender that involves him putting on pads every practice.
As currently constructed the Boston Bruins are a bubble team.