The Boston Bruins slayed the dragon on June 15th. They ended a Stanley Cup drought that stretched back longer than anyone on the team today has been alive. As a Stanley Cup champion they suffered injuries to the body of players that made up the winning legion. Some championship teams have been killed outright by massive loss of talent. For others, just as has been the case throughout the history of warfare disease has collected a far higher body count than enemy action. In the case of NHL teams, and certain nations throughout history victory disease is the quietest and most insidious killer.
Gone are leading powerplay producers of last season future hall of famer Mark Recchi and two time 30 goal man Michael Ryder. Departed from the blueline is the man they paid a kings ransom for just prior to the trade deadline. In their place we have Benoit Pouliot, who’s extraordinary NHL exploits speak for themselves. We have an empty roster spot that will possibly be filled with an AHL graduate or major junior prodigy. The blueline has actually been downgraded. As poorly as Tomas Kaberle performed he is still over the course of his the holder of greater efficacy than the Joe Corvo, and has avoided the off ice issues. Kaberle has been .13 points per game better than Corvo and even put up a better shooting percentage.
While it was nice to Adam Mcquaid extended it’s hard to say that the future of the club over the next four season would be radically degraded without him inked to an extension after his rookie season as an admirable third pairing defenseman. With Marc Savard unlikely to ever play again the same can not be said in regards to David Krejci who centered the top offensive line this season. His contract would have expired at the same time as McQuaid’s and unlike the brawny blueliner he’d have been eligible for arbitration. While he played behind the now two time Vezina Trophy winning, Jennings winning, Con Smyth winning 37 year old Tim Thomas Tuuka Rask is also probably a shade more important over the medium term than McQuaid, no rumor has reached me of an extension offer being dangled in front of him either.
The first elephant in the room is however the fact that training camp looms close ahead while the echos of celebration fade away and a forward who scored more playoff goals as a rookie than Mario Lemuix, who led the team in shorthanded goals in the regular season, and who clearly demonstrated his desire to improve year over year is still not re-signed. So far the lack of signing has been blamed on; illness, vacations, Stanley Cup days, El Nino, conflicting schedules, the hunt for the Amstel Light drinker and Brad’s ever absent shirts. The second elephant is that several of the better teams in the eastern conference have been staging a noisy arms race since before the draft. The Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals, and Buffalo Sabres have all been hugely active in trades and free agent signings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to get back not one, but two Hart Trophy winners. The Bruins who finished a slim seven points ahead of Buffalo, and behind the Flyers, Capitals, and Penguins have put pop guns into their lineup while the competition loads up with surface to air missiles.
Fans have to be wondering what the commitment of the Bruins front office is to being the first team in the post lockout era to repeat is. The Bruins powerplay still hasn’t been adequately addressed and fans across the globe still wince in memory of it. The team has downgraded the productivity of its on ice product as Corvo’s sole advantage over Kaberle is his willingness to shoot the puck, and Pouliot has yet to put together a season as good as even Recchi’s least productive. For Bruins fans, the summer of love looks to run directly into the winter of discontent.