In recent NHL history, no team has had more of a legacy than the Boston Bruins. Yes, the Kings and Blackhawks are dynasties. But, the Bruins are like an earthquake. Not only do they attack you when you’re playing them, but they leave an aftershock, where teams felt the need to toughen up to match up to them.
Look at some of the bottom feeding franchises for examples. The Vancouver Canucks got bullied in the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, to the point where they felt the need to toughen up in the offseason, making the team worse, and now look at them. The Toronto Maple Leafs, after blowing a 4-1 lead in 2013 *experiences ‘Nam flashbacks*, also felt the need to toughen up, and added David Clarkson and Dave Bolland. The Buffalo Sabres, after Milan Lucic’s run at Ryan Miller in 2012, felt the need to toughen up, and added John Scott. Do you see the pattern?
Another team left in the wake of the destruction of the Boston Bruins? The Boston Bruins. Yes, the team that re-defined toughness has tried so hard to emulate that in recent years to the point where they’ve become a parody of their former selves. That’s how Zac Rinaldo and Kevan Miller came to be.
Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look at what the Bruins need to do this offseason to get back to contender status — or if they even can.
For those who were living under a rock in 2014-15, and missed all of the Bruins season, don’t worry, they were kind enough to play a rerun of it this year. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: after an offseason of getting rid of expensive contracts and young, promising players, the Bruins looked like a strong team, not strong in the sense that they were a threatening team, but strong in the sense that they were the fourth best team in the mediocre Atlantic division. However, they weren’t strong enough to fend off the team right behind them that caught fire midway through the season on the backs of a hot goalie and a dynamic offensive defenseman. This team would pass them, leaving the Bruins as the odd team out once playoffs rolled around.
There, I just summed the last two years of the Boston Bruins.
However, unlike the previous year, the Bruins weren’t a good possession team, falling at a mediocre 49.8% Score Adjusted Corsi For. Not bad, but compared to the past Bruins teams, not good. They didn’t even have bad luck either, as their 100 PDO indicates. They weren’t a bad team, they just weren’t good enough to make the playoffs.
It wasn’t all bad for the Bruins up front. Noted pest Brad Marchand, after realizing that his team was bad at being tough and pesky, discovered that he could score goals, so he decided to almost score 40 goals this season. Patrice Bergeron (peace be on him) is still a Corsi god, but since his team decided to not do the whole possession thing this year, took up a new job as a power play specialist. Underrated Loui Eriksson had an excellent 63 point season, and as a pending free agent, the Bruins were pleased to get assets in return for him…oh wait. David Krejci, after realizing that his team won’t be making the playoffs anytime soon, made good use of his playoff production, and decided to use it in the early portion of the season. From a possession standpoint, it just proves the point that the team has a good top 6, but after they have little depth.
On the back end, Torey Krug has officially established himself in Keith Yandle territory: a consistent 40-50 point defenseman, which is too low to be considered an offensive defenseman (especially when Erik Karlsson doubles your total without breaking a sweat), but it’s too high to be tagged with the “shutdown” defenseman role, especially with someone as small as him. Also, there’s Zdeno Chara, who…uh…still exists, and despite the fact that the Bruins toss his aging corpse onto the ice for 25 minutes a night, he’s still their best defenseman. After that, it’s basically pylons.
In net, we have the consistently inconsistent Tuukka Rask, who after finally cementing himself in 2014 with a Vezina, forgot how to hockey, and is no longer capable of stopping a beach ball. Behind him, it’s *spins the wheel of random UFA goalies* Jonas Gustavsson, who was so bad that the 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t want him.
The Bruins are looking at a situation where, for the first time in a while, they’ll have some cap room in the offseason. While they still have some bad contracts (*cough*cough*Seidenberg, McQuaid, and Miller), they aren’t being tied down as much anymore. However, they only have 9 forwards, 4 defensemen, and a goalie signed for next season, so even though they have $20 million in cap space, they can’t exactly go around signing Stamkos to a $10 million contract either.
First off, they need to resign Torey Krug, Joe Morrow, and Colin Miller on the back end, as well as Landon Ferraro and Brett Connolly, which I would probably leave them with about $8-10 million in cap space
So, their biggest issues is they need to get a backup goalie, and acquire depth forwards and at least one top 4 defenseman. The goalie issue should be an easy one. Either sign a cheap goalie for less than a million, since he won’t be playing much, or you could see if Subban is ready to finally be a good goalie.
That’s one issue down, and almost no cap space used. The next part should be a bit more difficult. Now, assume you resign Connolly and Ferraro, and you’re down to one more forward. With that spot, you could pick up a Stamkos or Okposo, and continue the Bruins trend of overloading the top six, and having no depth, or you could acquire a couple cheap depth forwards like PA Parenteau or Darren Helm, and have room to add a good defenseman. Speaking of defense, there are certainly decent options there as well. While Keith Yandle, Dan Hamhuis, and Alex Goligoski aren’t franchise defensemen, they would really round out the top four if you had the cap space, or you could also go cheap, and go after a guy like Christian Ehrhoff or Jason Demers. Also, the RFA route isn’t bad either, with Seth Jones, Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, and Hampus Lindholm all on the market.
You can also just resign the RFAs, and let the younger guys get a chance on the team in depth roles, and enjoy some breathing room in the cap department for the first time in years. Regardless, the Bruins aren’t completely screwed, and with a rich crop of UFAs, they could be in a good position.
Except, knowing Don Sweeney, he’ll sign David Backes and Roman Polak.
Despite the Bruins being a laughing stock for the last few years, notoriously known for trading away top talent, and getting fleeced in other trades (Rinaldo for a 3rd), while seeing very little success, they have a chance to turn the ship this offseason.
However, with a chance at success also means a chance at failure, and it could be very easy for the wrong decisions to be made. But don’t worry Bruins fans, you have Don Sweeney, you’re fine.