With the start of the 2015-16 regular season upon us, I would like to discuss what is going to be an unusual year for the Boston Bruins. The disappointment of missing the playoffs last year led new GM Don Sweeney to multiple huge trades to start the year. While many Bruins fans are pessimistic about the upcoming season, I believe the Bruins will return to the playoffs once again.
Notable Off-Season Moves:
The Bruins had the craziest start to the offseason in recent memory. They started by promoting Don Sweeney to be the new GM. He is a Boston man through and through who played his college hockey at Harvard before playing 14 seasons with the Bruins. He made a statement shortly after accepting the position that he was going to clean house by trading four of the core Bruins players over the summer. He started by giving the rights to Carl Soderberg to the Avalanche for a 6th round pick, then traded Dougie Hamiltion, who everyone thought was going to be the replacement for the aging Zdeno Chara, for one 1st round pick and two 2nd round picks. Following shortly after that was Milan Lucic who was traded for goalie Martin Jones, defensemen Collin Miller, and another 1st round draft pick. Lastly, Sweeney traded Reilly Smith and the contract of Marc Savard to the Panthers for Jimmy Hayes. The moves were all geared toward rebuilding.
Who Is On the Roster Today?
Due to the roster moves discussed above, the Bruins will have a lot of new faces in the lineup. My ideal lineup right now is as follows:
Left Center Right
Eriksson Bergeron Marchand
Connolly Krejci Pastrnak
Beleskey Spooner Hayes
Rinaldo Kemppainen Griffith
Krug Seidenberg (When Healthy)
McQuaid Colin Miller
A lot of people do not like the idea of Pastrnak and Krejci playing together because neither are particularly strong in the defensive zone, but I think that the offense that they could create with Connolly would be explosive. The Bergeron line is one that was together for some games last year and proved to be successful so I see no need in changing it.
As for the defensive pairs, the Bruins appear to be shorthanded. Chara and Seidenberg who have been the core of the Bruins defense for so many years are aging and some younger guys haven’t proved themselves yet. This is where I find the biggest weakness when the Bruins defense is usually their strongest asset.
3 Keys to Making the Playoffs:
1) New Guys: The key to the Bruins this year is going to be the new guys being able to adjust. We know Tuukka is going to be a top five goalie, and Bergeron is going to be a top five two way player, but for them to be effective, the new guys such as Beleskey, Spooner, and Hayes need to be able to learn the Bruins system and play some new roles that they haven’t in the past.
2) Health: The Bruins team this year is not as deep as it has been in the past. Therefore one of the keys for making the playoffs this year is going to be staying healthy, with most Chara being the most important to stay healthy. At his size and at 38 years of age, it is incredible that he is still able to play. However, this season is going to take a toll on his body and he needs stay healthy for the Bruins to be secure on defense.
3) Scoring: The Bruins of the past few years have been defense first. They have traded away two of the games best forwards, Seguin and Kessel, because they didn’t play well enough on the defensive end. This season Claude Julien needs to give players such as Pastrnak and Krejci the ability to use their creativity and talent so they can produce large numbers offensively. For the Bruins to be successful, they need the offense to make up for a below average defense.
If the Bruins are able to achieve the three keys above, I expect them to be a serious playoff contender. I do not think they are a Stanley Cup favorite unfortunately because of the lack of depth on defense, but overall they should be a 95 point team at the end of the year, and you never know what can happen once you get in to the chase for the Cup.