This years playoffs have so many interesting matchups it is going to be hard to call a best series even if you see every minute of ever game.

The Chicago Blackhawks vs the Nashville Predators

This is the western conference’s David versus Goliath matchup. While the Blackhawks aren’t quite as formidable as they were when Kane, Toews, Seabrook, and Keith first hoisted the Cup, they are still one of the strongest, best balanced teams in the NHL. If the Predators do win this matchup it will be because the team refused to be intimidated, and everyone grabbed the rope and leaned. The Preds do have the players to be dangerous, Subban, Ellis, Arvidsson, and Forsberg are more than a handful themselves.

Biggest Strength

  • Blackhawks: Explosiveness
  • Predators: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Blackhawks: Special teams
  • Predators: Discipline

Ottawa Senators vs Boston Bruins

This is a first. The Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins have never met in the playoffs. The Sens have been in the NHL 26 years, and they and the Bruins have never gone eye to eye. The Senators ran the tables on the Bruins in the regular season. Both teams will enter the second season with banged up bluelines. Both coaches are relatively new to their posts. Each team has some very gifted players. Marchand, Bergeron, and Chara will need to shoulder the load for the Bruins to have a hope. Karlsson, O’Reilly, and Anderson can just be themselves so long as the rest of the squad shows up. This could be the best series to watch from an “x’s” and “o’s” point of view. This matchup probably has the highest regular season PIM total.

Biggest Strengths:

  • Senators: The ability to triple the gravity in the neutral zone
  • Bruin: Team defense and penalty kill

Biggest Weakness

  • Senators: Special teams
  • Bruins: Wildly inconsistent goaltending

 

Washington Capitals vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Everything versus nothing. That is this series in three words. The Toronto Maple Leafs are at least two years ahead of projections. The Washington Capitals should have had at least one Cup in the last five years. Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and Kasperi Kapanen are all years from being able to drink (legally) in the US. Alex Ovechkin, John Carlson, and Nicklas Backstrom are all well into their second half of a decade or more chasing the last win of the season and not even coming close.

Biggest Strengths

  • Caps:  Total package
  • Leafs: Special teams

Biggest Weakness

  • Caps: Mental composure
  • Leafs: Defense

 

Predictions:

Boom or bust players are the players who’s performance have the ability to tilt the series.

Hawks vs Preds

For the Predators to win they need to stay out of the box they were penalized almost 50% more than the Blackhawks, for Chicago its pretty much a case of stay calm and be the Blackhawks. – Chicago in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series: Ryan Johansen

Caps vs Leafs

The Caps have more playoff experience, at least as good a coach, better performance at almost every measure. – Caps in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series: Alex Ovechkin

Ducks vs Flames

Goaltending wins championships, and the difference between Gibson’s season and either Johnson or Elliot is noticeable, but the Flames are not going to go down easy. – Ducks in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. – Johnny Gaudreau

Penguins vs Jackets

Repeating is tough, if I were ever going to pick a team to do it, this might just be it. Jackets in 6

Boom or Bus player of the series. – Cam Atkinson

Oilers vs Sharks

This Oilers team is pretty compelling. How the defense of the Sharks is matched with McDavid and company will decide the series. – Oilers in 7

Boom or Bust player of the series. Milan Lucic

Wild vs Blues

This series is not as even as some people would have you believe. Wild in 5

Boom or Bust player of the series. Alex Peitrangelo

Habs vs Rangers

These teams have recent history, but one team is on the rise, and one of them has crested. Canadiens in 6

Boom or Bust player of the series. Derek Stepan

Sens vs Bs

This series will come down to how consistently the coaches can impose their will on their team and get them to execute the system. Sens in 6

 

Every year we look back at a team, bread down what their strengths and weaknesses were and how they can improve. The smallest component of any team is the player. Today each get’s graded.

Brad Marchand, A: Best goal scoring to date, led the team in scoring, still plays an unreal 200 foot game.

Patrice Bergeron B+: Leadership and defense were still there. Offensive production, and possibly engagement took a dip as well. Still the teams most important player, and likely to pick up his fourth Selke this summer.

David Krejci B: The good news is he managed to play in all 82 games, the bad news is he’s got a double digit drop in points with four years left on a contract that seems him taking up ten percent of the team’s salary cap space, and he will turn 31 in just a few more days. He seems to be healthy after early season woes, and that can’t do anything but help the team however long they last in the post-season.

David Pastrnak A: The jump in year over year production alone was exciting. The fact that he scored so much in a number of different ways is even more so. He did hit a flat spot around the beginning of March, but overall it’s hard to argue with what he did.

Ryan Spooner C-: Another double digit drop in production among the Bruins forward group. It’s arguable that he was held down by awful forwards in the second six, and I’ll listen to that, but he also didn’t step up when he got to play with better players.

David Backes C: While no one expected him to put up a 40 goal season in Boston, his offensive production was not good. He did lap the field in hits. His 226 made him 7th among NHL forwards who played 50 or more games.  He did end up playing for three coaches in less than 12 months which I think contributed to the dip, I suspect he’ll be better next year.

Dominic Moore A-: About perfect for a fourth liner. When playing with guys who understand the role, he’s impressive, especially at 36.

Frank Vatrano C: Not the year we hoped for from Vatrano, starting with an injury, and continuing with a season full of all the mistakes young players make but should make less frequently as time goes on.

Riley Nash B: Riley Nash is just about the prototypical depth forward in the NHL. He’s a very solid penalty killer putting in the third most minutes among forwards on the team, and on a top penalty killing unit.

Tim Schaller C: Very uneven season with interruptions due to health. While he tossed up his best offensive numbers, he’s not yet a known commodity, still a pretty solid season for someone who is essentially an undrafted rookie.

Drew Stafford Incomplete: 18 games, starting during the honeymoon phase of a new coach is hard to judge. Yes he had better production than his time in Winnipeg, but not spectacular. For a full season of this production he’d get a C to C+.

Matt Beleskey C-: I really like his effort, his offense was non-existent this season, he didn’t look good at all paired with Hayes and unfortunately played with him a lot this year. Despite playing only 49 games and limited minutes he was still second on the team in hits.

Jimmy Hayes F: His contributions this year were largest from the pressbox and possibly at Cuts for A Cause.

Noel Acciari Incomplete: Fun to watch play hockey, may well have a roster spot to lose when camp opens this fall. He produced as much offense in 29 games as Hayes did in 58.

Sean Kuraly Incomplete: Just a few games, nothing really wrong with them, but nothing really right about them.

Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson Incomplete: One game, a largely meaningless game in which most of the team was not doing well or feeling well. He played 8:25, had no shots, and was even.

Torey Krug A: Very near the top of the league in scoring, recovered well from his off season injury, eventually. He played more shifts than any other Bruins defesneman.

Adam McQuaid A: His best offensive season since 2011-12, and a career high in games played. Aside from his normal pairing with Krug at even strength and 2:23 of SHTOI a night, he’s also played a good number of minutes opposite Chara when Carlo was struggling.

Zdeno Chara A: There was a big dip in his powerplay time 1:33 last year to 0:33 this year that lead to a general reduction in his offensive numbers, despite having one more goal in five less games. His shorthanded time was tops among all NHL skaters, and at 3:46 was 1:10 more than the rest of the Bruins defensemen.

Kevan Miller C: He’s been unfortunate enough to play with genuinely awful players, but hasn’t shown the growth as a player one would hope for in the transition past the 200 game mark. He may or may not have peaked, but today he looks a lot like a career third pairing defensemen with decent speed and physicality.

Colin Miller F: He has a great demeanor, superior skating ability, top shelf shot and no signs of any understanding of how hockey at the NHL is played well.

John-Michael Liles F: I am entirely baffled how he still has an NHL contract. I saw nothing from him that couldn’t have been done at least as well by any defenseman in Providence. He is legitimately awful in his own zone, produced nothing offensively, and clearly made anyone he played with worse.

Brandon Carlo C: As a rookie he played with Chara against the best in the league on a regular basis. Overall he did pretty well, including playing a big part in the penalty kill. He had one major flatspot in his season, and he wasn’t alone in wretched play in that spot. Overall, I look forward to seeing how well he corrects the serial mistakes he made this year in future seasons.

Joe Morrow Incomplete: I would desperately love to know what he did or didn’t do that left him out of the lineup and has seen Liles and Miller play ahead of him.

Tuukka Rask D-: Rask is one of the most wildly inconsistent netminder to be considered a league star. He ended the year with 8 shutouts, he also ended the year with the year with a quality start number well under .500, and leading the NHL in starts with a sv% under .875 with 14. He undeniably has really good games, but this was his second year in a row leading the league in starts below .875 known as Really Bad Starts.

Anton Khudobin D: Not great numbers, but he played well down the stretch while Rask was ill, injured, and overworked. Unlike some goalies, he was willing to start games towards the end of the season where he was not feeling well and try to get the team a win.

Just days ago I wrote a piece on Torey Krug and how he should absolutely not be exposed at the expansion draft. Today we learn he is day to day heading into the playoffs. He is not expected to play in the season finale. Of the teams defensemen, no one does anywhere near as much to generate offense for the team. His penalty kill time this year is even contributing to better play in his own zone.

While the compact Michigan State alumni is hardly likely to turn to the dark side, his absence does indeed cast Vader’s shadow on a team where scoring among defensemen is pretty rare. At this point in the season Krug is tied for 5th in scoring among defensemen with 51 points, next is Zdeno Chara who with 29 points owns the 53rd rank. None of the other blueliners even make the top 100.

A next man up approach might slide Colin Miller into slot and bump him up a pairing. He’s a great skater, he’s a solid passer, a willing shooter, and already used to the NHL. Unfortunately those attributes haven’t combined to make him a good NHL player. He has less points than the other Miller who no one confuses with an offensive dynamo and who has played less games. For all his defensive prowess, Adam McQuaid has never gotten his point production into get close enough to his jersey number to be intimidating, so he’s probably not the answer. John Michael Liles has burned 52 games in a Bruins uniform, and racked up exactly the number of goals that the front office should spend in seconds deciding if they should offer him a net contract and giving him a line of 0-11-11 6PIM -6.

Joe Morrow has apparently been written off entirely by the organization. Which is sad, but not anything fans or writers will be able to do anything about. That brings us to guys currently in the AHL, and maybe players leaving college or aging out of juniors. Given the depth of defensemen in the system, I really can’t see an outsider being brought in. Sherman is unlikely to leave Harvard early, and isn’t an offensive guy. O’Gara did start the year with some time in the spoked B, but was eventually sent down for more minutes. Alex Grant is leading all Providence Bruins in scoring, but at 28 years old, the odds he’s even strongly considered are pretty slim.

Next up is Tommy Cross. At 27, he’s probably been consigned to the ranks of permanent AHL players. He did get a recall last year. He’s 2nd on the team in scoring for defensemen, with much of it at even strength. With 12 goals on the season and his well known mental acuity, even with less speed the Colin Miller, I can see him being at least as good offensively, and easily better defensively. Having played in the NHL already, I can see him handling playoff hockey better than most.

The player most similar to Krug in offensive abilities and projection is almost certainly Matt Grzelcyk who has 11 powerplay assists, perhals the area most likely to suffer without Krug. He’s speedy, he can handle the puck well in motion or holding a position, and can pass better than most. He’s nearing the end of this first professional season and aside from his offensive prowess can inject both speed and reasonable hockey sense into the backend.

While McAvoy is undeniably talented,  even if you’ve been there before. Making the jump when you won’t have the practice time to get comfortable with how other players communicate and play, or adjust to the pace of the game, sounds like a recipe for disaster at the toughest position to play.

This afternoon I had a discussion with a hockey fan who believes the Boston Bruins are tanking. Not just for this year, but for next year as well. I’m not saying I believe this idea, but with all the evidence it is certainly possible.

The Evidence:

  1. No one in the NHL, CHL, USHL, SPHL, AHL or anywhere else in first world hockey thinks that Bruce Cassidy is a better coach than Claude Julien.
  2. The resigning of John-Michael Liles and allowing him to play so much.
  3. The signing of David Backes who five years ago would have been the perfect pickup, but who now is only questionable without being outright wrong.
  4. Absolutely no upgrades at defense which many thought was their biggest need coming into the season.
  5. No additional scoring forwards
  6. Riley Nash was “added” to a team trying to get into the playoffs, when he couldn’t even stay in the NHL in an organization that wanted to be seen on the same page of the standings as the playoff teams.
  7. Allowing Jack Adams winning, Stanley Cup winning, World Cup winning Claude Julien, who knows any of the home grown players, and most of the rest of the roster better than anyone else in the league from having coached them for so long, go to the other half of the greatest rivalry in North American sports.
  8. Sliding a rookie defensemen onto the ice with Zdeno Chara to play against the best players on the other team.
  9. Failure to bury Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes in the minors or otherwise remove them from the roster to allow more talented forwards to fill the roster.
  10. Signing Anton Khudobin, who when healthy is a solid netminder to a two year deal, and who also hasn’t been healthy more than two months since the end of his first tenure in Boston.
  11. The entire fourth line. Seriously, Tim Schaller? Did marketing pick him because ratings were down in NH? Dominic Moore is, possibly, an accidental exception given that he’s having an above average goal scoring season. Or maybe he’s just in Boston because he’s a Harvard guy? Colton Hargrove, Noel Acciari, Austin Czarnik, and others could have done the job as well, and with more cap space left over to address very real needs in the theoretical top nine
  12. The fact that nobody is talking about this years draft, but that name for next year are coming up.

So here’s how this theoretical Rick-Rolling works: The Bruins were bafflingly in a playoff spot 50 plus games into the season, and that needs to change. Not just so the team has better draft position this year, but so there are lower expectations for next year when among other things the no movement clause on Rask’s contract becomes an NTC. Remember, this is Rask’s fourth straight year of sv% decline, and according to Hockey-Reference.com is a below average goalie already according to GSAA.

Also, for this theory to work you probably have to believe what 29 (going on 30) other NHL teams have thought of Bruce Cassidy for more than a decade; That he’s not a good NHL coach, assuming he’s one at all. He has never won at any level, when he was given the bums rush from Washington he belly flopped into the OHL. In his last 10 seasons as a head coach in the AHL, OHL, and NHL he as won just three rounds of playoff hockey. For comparison Ted Nolan who is not employed as an NHL coach right now won championships in both the OHL and QMJHL, and won a Jack Adams award for best NHL coach. That’s a stark comparison, and one would think if you’re trying to win, you take (or keep) a guy who has won, and who given the trends in the NHL, has done so with young players versus not at all.

So given that the Bruins are lacking top draft picks this season. What happens if they trade out of this years draft? What happens if they trade this years pieces for picks in the seemingly stronger 2018 draft class? They get high picks, and underdog status in the following season. Boston, all of New England loves an underdog. And in sports nothing, not even winning is sexier than hope. We know Sweeney loves draft picks. We saw him take three first round picks in a row in the low teens instead of trading even one of them to improve the team now. That’s unprecedented in the modern era. Think of trading one or more of those picks and bringing in Trouba or Dumba, but no, not the Sweeney way.

If you truly believe the Boston Bruins front office covets young men like Rasmus Dahlin or David Levin, or Joe Veleno and they might make people forget a couple bad seasons if they laced up and lit up in Black and Gold, I think it’s safe to say this idea might not be pure vapor. When you remember that there are articles and posts from people in the know pegging players at the top of the 2018 draft going back to more than 18 months before the draft, and look at other drafts where that happened like say in the 2009 draft one begins to wonder why the fan I spoke to had Rick Astley on the brain.

No team is perfect, even the cup winners. Some have more faults than highlights, and those teams end up drafting very high. That’s not quite the case with this year’s Boston Bruins. But they do have faults. Some of them are pretty obvious, some need a closer examination to uncover.

The Obvious Symptoms of their faults:

  • They have nothing like a viable backup.
  • They have issues scoring.
  • A powerplay that is wildly inconsistent
  • Incomplete top six
  • Poor offense from the backend
  • Lack of speed or physicality in some top 9 players

That’s the six problems. Some of this is covered up by some extraordinary strengths. The top six is graced by Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who are speedy, and near the top of the NHL in scoring. That helps, but Patrice Bergeron is behind even the pace he set in the lockout shortened season, and is still thirteen points short of his 2008-09 season which was frankly dreadful by his standards.

David Krejci is scoring at a lower than expected, if still acceptable pace, but for just the second time in his nine full seasons on the Boston roster he’s got a negative goal differential. Part of this is his linemates, who have been varied and frequently very young. Part of it is that he’s never played the game at even average speed for the NHL, and he’s now on the down-slope to his 31st birthday. I’ve yet to see an NHL player who was faster at 31 than 21.

The defense is masked by Torey Krug who is 10th in scoring by defensemen. The next highest scoring defensemen are rookie Brandon Carlo who is currently at 89, and Zdeno Chara tied with the youngest player on the roster. The other guys are well over the event horizon. As a whole, they are quite good at limiting shot attempts, only two teams have allowed few shot attempts than the Bruins, and they are the Blues and Kings in the wretched western conference. They have also generated the most shot attempts meaning they are doing a reasonable job getting the puck out of their  own zone and keeping it in the offensive zone.

But their inability to score is undeniable. Only seven teams have scored less goals per game than the Bruins 2.52 per game.

  • The Buffalo Sabres
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • Florida Panthers
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • New Jersey Devils
  • Arizona Coyotes
  • Colorado Avalanche

You can’t win games that way, you just can’t. And as Tuukka Rasks non-contact groin injury proves, he’s not physically capable of playing so much of an NHL schedule. Despite the low number of shots per game, they all add up, and so does the time in the crease. Neither youngster has seized the backup role, and Khudobin is not the guy who was in Boston a couple years back.

So what do we know about the Bruins?

  1. They have an efficient, orderly defense that has performed its primary duty well, even though only one player (Krug) has played in all games.
  2. They aren’t getting scoring from anywhere not named Marchand or Pastrnak in enough weight to push them from “hurting themselves by making the playoffs” to “let’s show the youngsters the second round”.
  3. The coach must be being listened to or the defense would be worse and with the current offense it would have them well outside the playoffs.
  4. Backup goaltending is spotty at least this year with McIntyre still learning the progame, Subban rediscovering his balance in net after his throat injury, and Khudobin likely playing through an injury.
  5. They can probably spare a defenseman or two to help secure a good forward because scoring wise after Krug the difference between next and worst is minimal, and as a whole they play well, even through injuries and illnesses.

What are the biggest issues:

1: They need an offensive contributor in the top 6 who is a legitimate top line winger.

2: They need to find a way to compensate for the lack of speed of Krejci and Backes (or move on from one or both).

3: They need to get the powerplay settled so that it continues (as it has the last 5-10 games) to look like a top unit, and keep everyone’s head on straight.

3a: They need to get a backup who is going to get the team to play for him (and themselves) and who will in turn put in a respectable performance.

4: They need to remove guys from the roster/system who can either net a return to solve #1 or 3a (Budaj might be available soon).

I’ll be the first to say I was surprised to see him make the opening night lineup. I’m even more surprised he’s still getting top pairing ice time. With all the young defensemen who were theoretically available earlier in the year; Trouba heading the list, one has to wonder if the original plan wasn’t to groom him, fluff his numbers and get him gone for a true heir to Zdeno Chara. If that is the plan, it has to be working pretty well. He’s not putting up gaudy numbers, except in ice time and goal differential.

It doesn’t matter if you think no one ever had a thought of moving Brandon Carlo or not. It doesn’t even matter if that is still the plan. There are two enormous reasons to ask the question. The first is Dougie Hamilton. He went from playing a lot of time with Zdeno Chara, to playing third pairing time for the Calgary Flames. That’s a huge swing, and you can’t ignore what that says.

The other half of this inquiry is the Boston Bruins captain himself. The big guy has had a notable resurgence. It isn’t just that he’s skating better than he has in two seasons. He’s clearly handling the puck better. When you look at him, he looks healthier. At a guess, he spent a good deal of last season in pain, and he looks to have eased or compensated for whatever caused that.

If Brandon Carlo is legitimately a top paring defenseman, you have to ask a couple important questions:

  • Do we have a compatible partner somewhere in the lineup if Chara moves on or retires after this contract?
  • Can he play about this well with a lesser partner?
  • Would the team be better with a more offensive player in his ice time?

The first one is probably unanswerable without experimentation, maybe Grzelcyk playing as either his partner or in his place provides more offense, and likely more speed. Grzelcyk is having a nice rookie professional season thus far in Providence. A bit further back in the pipleline are Jeremy Lauzon and  Jakub Zboril who are both enjoying solid seasons in the Q this year. Closer to home are Torey Krug who plays a good number of minutes and would bring more playmaking ability than many. Joe Morrow who entered the NHL as a very well regarded well rounded defenseman. He might just be a good long term match for Carlo, if he develop some consistency. Having the two of them as a pairing for the next decade the way the Blackhawks have had Seabrook and Keith would be a boon to the franchise. Colin Miller

If you don’t think he’s legitimately a top pairing defenseman, you have to get rid of him quickly and for as much as possible. If someone is willing to take him and Spooner for a Trouba or Vlasic, I think you take it. If a Pietrangelo or Hedman is available, there isn’t much short of Bergeron and Marchand that I wouldn’t add to the package.

I don’t think we yet know if he is a legitimate top pairing defenseman or ever will be.

Time for the second round of exams on the Boston Bruins.  The biggest concern everyone had this off season was defense, so I’m going to start there. The brilliant minds behind Hockey Reference lay out the stat I look at first for defensemen like so:

  1. Rob O’Gara 1.00
  2. Brandon Carlo 94.2
  3. Zdeno Chara 93.9
  4. Torey Krug 90.7
  5. Joe Morrow 88.9
  6. John-Michael Liles 88.8
  7. Colin Miller 88.8
  8. Adam McQuaid 87.9

Those are the eight defensemen who have played for the Boston Bruins this season. Rob O’Gara playe just three games at the beginning of the season totally just 48:02 in ice time. What’s most interesting about O’Gara besides him not being in Boston for a couple weeks now is that he played over six minutes shorthanded in those games, when their penalty kill wasn’t great and is still unblemished on the year. Joe Morrow is likewise dealing with a small sample size, and no shorthanded or powerplay time. But both of them are still better than the pairing of Liles and Miller. McQuaid has come back from another injury this season, and was still warming to the task when other players were nearing mid season form. I suspect his number will trend upwards. Also of note is that of the regulars, only Chara, Carlo, and McQuaid are starting more than 50% of their shifts in the defensive zone

Of note among the forwards are Brad Marchand who despite leveling off is still a point per game player this year, David Patrnak who has 1/4th of the Bruins goals this season. Dominic Moore is a head scratcher to sit alone at third in goals scored by the Boston Bruins, and if they are going to maintain a top three slot in the division, that needs to change. Krejci, Backes, Spooner, Bergeron, Beleskey all need to do more, and if we’re going to go off pure salary so does Hayes.

In goal we’ve been treated to a surprisingly good year in the games Rask has made it into, and shown the rest of the maked men are not quite top shelf goalies right now.

What is probably most remarkable about this team right now today is the coaching. Claude Julien not only has almost a completely new coaching cadre, he’s making it work and work well. At sixteen games into the season I’m not over my suspicion this is not a playoff team, but if they make it there someone needs to be at worst shortlisted for a Jack Adams, which he’s got a good shot at as long as the Columbus Blue Jackets don’t also make the post season.

The Boston Bruins finished last season in one of the worst spots imaginable; too bad to be in the playoffs, and less awful than the lottery teams. They drafted in the murky middle, and don’t seem to have a plan. Who they drafted didn’t seem to address any needs, and given how close to drafted to the consensus for each position, it didn’t seem to be the result of any insight. They drafted a local boy who played a couple years with another local boy, from a local college. The home town picks of late remind me of the rampant homerism the Montreal Canadiens were indulging in around the time Louis Leblanc was drafted.

Right now their needs are even more pronounced now than at this time last year. Last year they had a healthy Loui Eriksson. Last year at this time they had hope for a rejuvenated Chara and Seidenberg. They had the promise of a purportedly healthy David Krejci. They even had somehow nurtured the belief Rask was an elite number one goaltender. Last year was awash in hope, including the hope of a brand new and invigorated General Manager, might point the rudderless franchise towards the rising sun of league relevancy.

Today, there is none of that. Tuukka Rask not only didn’t have an elite season, he finished behind twenty-six other goaltenders who played thirty or more games. That makes him far less than elite. Chara had several stretches of looking above average that were certainly heartening, but never showed his Norris form. Seidenberg widened his history of not playing well consistently with anyone on the roster. Krejci missed ten games and was had multiple weeks of being the third or fourth best center on the team.

What was done about an aggressively mediocre team? Did leadership say; This just won’t work, let’s flip as many players as we can for assets and rebuild? Nope. Did they add long term help? Again no. They voided their bowels on a several assets and downgraded to Jimmy Hayes from Reilly Smith, and brought in Liles who was aggressively inconsistent, and Stempniak who they could have had at the start of the season. Five draft picks, and a prospect to get two rentals. Essentially, they’ve done nothing positive in more than year. There were two agonizing highlights over the last year. At the top of the roster Marchand, Bergeron, and Eriksson had stunning and futile seasons carrying the team as high as they could. No one could ask more of them, and Eriksson can almost certainly go anywhere that can afford him after returning to the top of his form even while alternating between right and left wing and among lines. At the bottom of the roster Noel Acciari bringing a level of energy to the bottom six that might not have been eclipsed by anyone since P.J. Stock, and his penalty killing and defensive play were outstanding.

But it was all for nothing. The effort of the men assembled could not overcome the lack of talent in the roster. They need right wings desperately. After Pastrnak, the next best right wing is anyone’s guess and that’s not comforting. No one right now has any idea who the defensive pairs will be, or the backup, or the best winger not named Marchand. The two best defensemen heading for UFA status were had for less than trade chips than it took to get Stempniak and Liles, and either is worth more than both.

At the draft while everyone from the Panthers to the Coyotes was wheeling and dealing to get their team to a better place. What did the Bruins leadership do? Charlie Jabobs CEO of the organization walked on stage to make the first pick. They traded their seventh round pick for, a seventh round pick from someone who will almsot certainly have a better season next year and hence make the pick mean even less than the average late seventh rounder.

Boston Bruins fans should be aquiver with hope. Simply aquiver.

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.

Season Outlook:

As currently constructed the Boston Bruins are a bubble team.