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Hockey Is Starting Already?!

I’m not ready.  Period.

Feels like last season just ended.

And we know how disappointing that end was for Boston Bruins fans.  I suppose we do not need to cover that again.

Speaking of disappointing, the Bruins transaction activity this offseason.  Sure, they re-signed Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo…and I suppose Danton Heinen if you will.  But the team did not sign any new acquisitions…none of any note anyway.

We also know they didn’t lose much in Noel Acciari and Marcus Johansson.  Sure, Marcus would have looked nice on the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.  But we also knew the B’s were not going to pay him.  Well, because they had to pay Carlo and Chaz.  And they had to keep Tuukka Rask on the roster.  And of course, they NEEDED to retain David Backes…sigh…

But, once again, that is a big part of the problem.  Bringing essentially the same team back after a long championship run is not a recipe for success.  Ask the 2011-12 Bruins themselves.  Or the 2019 Boston Red Sox.

But Team President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney obviously feel differently.  So there is not much anyone can do about it.

So where do we go from here?  What kind of preview of the 2019-2020 Boston Bruin season can we give, if the same team is basically the same from last year?

Not much.

Similar to the 2011-12 team, I expect a much shorter run from the team this year.  First round playoff loss seems about right.

Why do I say that?  Well, let’s dig a little deeper.

The first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak remains intact.  You know, the same first line that disappeared in the Stanley Cup Final?  Ok, maybe that is a little unfair.  But while Pasta should continue to grow, how much more upside is there for the other two?  Marchy broke 100 points last year, can he do it again?  Bergy is now 34 years old.

Listen, these guys won’t be the problem.  They will most assuredly enjoy productive regular seasons, barring injury.

But once again, is all the scoring going to be on that line?  Well, you’ve got David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk anchoring the second line.  Krejci enjoyed a bit of a scoring renaissance last season.  But at 33 years old, already banged up even before the season starts and once again, without a decent right winger, what does his season look like?  Hopefully Jake keeps trending up.  But…who is the other winger?

All indications were that Karson Kuhlman would at least start out in that role.  BUT…he was shipped to the minors yesterday.  Some sort of procedural move?  Perhaps.  You find hockey teams doing things like this all the time.  Maybe he suits up tonight in the end.  But as I write this, he is not on the team.

So who is the winger in this case?  Backes?  Brett Ritchie?  Par Lindholm?  Based on the roster as I write, those are the options.

Take your pick.  There are only 12 forwards listed on the current roster.  So they will all play.  Unless there are roster shenanigans, as I said.

Heinen and Charlie Coyle make up the rest of the third line.  Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner the fourth.

I will say that none of those last 3 lines excite me.  Will Coyle play wing on Krejci’s line?  Doubtful.  But I wouldn’t be opposed to it.

So I just wonder who is going to score.  Especially if the old guys get older and the injuries become more prevalent.

Reinforcements in the minors?  I don’t know.  Sweeney had stockpiled the minors with “prospects” for years.  But have (or will) any of them pan out?  So far, just DeBrusk…and I suppose we have to count Heinen.  But there have been many, many more that haven’t (or will not make it).

Peter Cehlarik was once a popular name.  But he just cleared waivers.  That should tell you all you need to know about his prospects.  Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed with a Swedish team even before their Cup run was over last season.  Anders Bjork always comes with some hype.  But he was shipped out again.  Kuhlman?  Maybe.  Jack Studnicka?  Pavel Shen?  Samuel Asselin?  Yeah, we will see.

I know one thing:  I am not counting on any of the kids to come up and light things on fire.

So we shall see where the goals come from.

The defense should be solid with all the returnees.  Chaz, Carlo, Torey Krug, Big Z, Matty Grzelcyk…John Moore and Kevan Miller when they are healthy…Connor Clifton…wait, he just got demoted too.  Oh yeah, Stevie Kampfer is back!  And Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vakakakakakaeienen may soon be ready to contribute too.  I’m not worried about the defense, no matter how old Big Z is.

But you know who I AM worried about?  TUUKS!!!  I am sure you are shocked.  He did play well for most of the postseason.  Speaking of shocking.  Until the end of course.  Which wasn’t shocking.

Ok, enough of that.

Tuuks will be fine…for the regular season.  Splitting time again with Jaroslav Halak will once again “keep him fresh”.  Yup, paying a goalie like a #1 when he can’t play as many games as a true #1 can.

So where does that leave us?  Or the team rather?

Unless some of the youngsters provide some scoring touch.  Or if there is a mid-season acquisition or two that does, I think we are looking at a playoff run, but an early exit.  Tampa Bay is most assuredly looking to redeem themselves after their playoff disaster of a season ago.  Other teams have made improvements.  And the Bruins stood still.

Not good enough.

Week Two Already?

Where did the week go?  Oh yeah, I guess it has only been a couple days since the last games.

In any event, a short and sweet one here (the post, not necessarily the pick…or the game itself).  Especially after that extended piece from yesterday.

What is there really to talk about after that anyway?  The Boston Red Sox got 2-hit by a bunch of bums on the Toronto Blue Jays last night.  Did they quit already?  Perhaps.  I suppose we could confirm that if Clay Buchholz no-hits them today.

The head coach of the Boston Bruins got a contract extension.  That was nice.  It would be even nicer if they could get their 2 restricted free agent defensemen signed.

AB news?  Well, he practiced Wednesday.  So there’s that.  I guess he will play Sunday.  But who knows?

Ok, that’s enough…

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-6.5)

Thursday night divisional games are always tricky.  Especially ones between teams that were a combined 12-20 last season.  And both lost in Week One as well.  The feeling here though is that Carolina has the upper hand.  Tampa lost at home in their opener, against what appears to be an average San Francisco 49er team.  Carolina also lost at home, but against a much better Los Angeles Rams team.  Christian McCaffrey is absolutely the real deal.  I didn’t believe in him when he came out of college and was drafted in the Top Ten.  Looks like I was wrong.  Oh well, wasn’t the first time, won’t be the last.  And although he has his critics around the league, Cam Newton can play QB.  Can Jameis Winston?  Many people thought Bruce Arians could help Winston take the next step in his career.  Perhaps he will at some point.  It is early, after all.  Hard for me to see Carolina dropping two in a row at home to start the season either.  Even at 7-9 last year, they were 5-3 at home.  Riverboat Ron Rivera needs this win more than Arians as well.  He may be on a short leash this season.

Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 17.  

Week (against the spread):  9-7

Week (straight up):  14-2

Lock Of The Week:  1-0

Season (against the spread):  9-7

Season (straight up):  14-2

Still Waiting…

…for ANY significant move by the Boston Bruins this summer.

Wait, why the hell are we talking about the Bruins in August?

Easy.

The Red Sox are done…and we’ve covered them more than enough based on that fact alone.  The Celtics have done absolutely nothing of note since we last wrote about them about a month ago.  We chatted about the Patriots last week, but what more is to say about a team one week into the preseason schedule?  Nothing.  Well, Danny Etling just got released.  Guess he isn’t the next Julian Edelman.  Whatever…

And if you want me to comment on Tom Brady’s contract “extension” then you came to the wrong place.  Go hit the local radio airwaves if you want non-stop chatter about that.  Who cares if he is selling his house?  Furthermore, do people realize that going into next season Brady will be 43 YEARS OLD?!

Listen, the guy is a legend and likely the greatest NFL player of all time.  But if you are asking me to worry about a 43-year-old QB, you came to the wrong place.  I love the guy as much as anyone.  But we really don’t know how much he has left.  He could plummet as soon as this year.  After all, Bill Belichick has seemingly “loaded up” on the running game, defense and has like 10 mediocre (ie:  “blocking”) tight ends in camp now.  Oh, and not many receivers either.  Looks like he may be thinking ahead about Brady regressing, no?

In any event, SHOULDN’T you go “year to year” with a guy like that?  Yup.  And if he is pissed, well, I am sorry.  He could’ve battled the Pats harder over the years to get more money if that is the underlying issue.  And maybe he absolutely should have.  But since he didn’t, why are we talking about it now?

Some of the greats finished their careers on other teams.  Maybe Brady does too.  I really don’t think he will be going anywhere.  Highly doubt it.  But I am not sure the topic is even worth discussing at this point.  Let’s see how this season plays out at age 42 and then take it from there.

Ugh…I know, I just got caught up in it…

As for the B’s…well, despite the run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals last season, as far as I am concerned, there is a great reason to be well, concerned.

Why?

I will tell you.  Did you think otherwise??!!

Here’s the first reason(s):  Maxime Lagace, Brendan Gaunce, Brett Ritchie, Par Lindholm, Pavel Shen…

These guys are the free agents brought in by the team since the start of the signing period.

Who??!!

You may be like, “well, they only lost Noel Acciari (replaceable) and Marcus Johansson (oft-injured and expensive)”, so they are basically bringing the whole team back that came within a game of winning the whole thing!”

And I will retort, “it was a huge f’ng mistake to bring back basically the entire team after actual championships for the 2019 Boston Red Sox and 2012 Boston Bruins, did we forget??  Complacency, fatigue, all that crap??”

But that isn’t even the biggest issue.

The B’s still have 2 kind of huge restricted free agents sitting out there in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Ok, nevermind.  The re-signing of Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton should offset that.

HAHAHAHAHAHA…just kidding my friends!!

I’m still not even sure why they re-signed Kampfer.  To a TWO year deal, to boot.  Assuming the two aforementioned d-men come back in the fold, Kampfer will then be at least the eighth defenseman.  Well, I guess ninth, now that they re-signed Clifton too?  Then they have some kids in Providence that seem to be on the cusp of the NHL, such as Urho Vaakanainen?  Maybe Jeremy Lauzon too, but perhaps not Jakub Zboril…

I don’t get it.

Maybe that means they are dangling some of the “top seven”?  McAvoy, I would doubt.  Carlo too.  No one wants John Moore’s contract.  Or Kevan Millar’s injury history.  Someone would take Zdeno Chara, despite his age, but he is going nowhere.  Matty Grzelcyk?  Sure.  But what happens if Torey Krug leaves after the upcoming season as a free agent?  Gryz may be a natural replacement…and far cheaper.

Trade Krug before he walks away for nothing?  Something I would strongly consider.  But all indications are that the team has no interest in that.  And Krug wants to be here.  So maybe he signs a “team-friendly” extension at some point.

There are a lot of capable D-men signed.  And let’s face it, Carlo and McAvoy will eventually sign as well.  Their options seem to be kind of limited.  I just read where Chaz can’t even sign an offer sheet with anyone.  Had no idea about that.  In any event, it’s nice to have depth.  But 10-11 deep?  I don’t know.  And please don’t give me, “well they used 12 defensemen last year…”  That has to be an aberration.  Plus, Urho and Zboril only played 2 games apiece, so really it was 10.

All that being said, they can keep all these D-men if they want.  It won’t hurt them, no question.

In net, expect a regression from Tuukka Rask.  Bet on it.  But at least he and Jaroslav Halak should form a pretty good one-two punch in goal…at least for the regular season.

Me?  This would appear to be a GREAT time to trade Tuuks (would be even better if the Bruins won the Cup, but alas…).  But we already know that ain’t happening.

Forwards?  Ugh…this is where the issues lie.

As noted above, the B’s signed a bunch of 4th liners/Providence type dudes.  Not scintillating to any degree.

Oh, and they made sure they gave Danton Heinen 2.8 per for the next 2 years.  Why?  You got me.  They love the guy though.  I guess he plays awesome defense.  Because he is less than mediocre on offense.  At least last year he was…and he got some run on the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand line.  Not good.

So we still have that Bergy/Marchy/David Pastrnak line.  All well and good.

But here we go with the second line issues again.  David Krejci centering Jake DeBrusk and…who?  I guess the leader in the clubhouse would have to be Karson Kuhlman.  Kid showed some flashes.  But are we ready to anoint him?

I think we can assume Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen make up 2/3 of the 3rd line.  With Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom starting out as the 4th line.  In my eyes anyway.

So who gets that last spot on the third line?

Would you believe David Backes and his 6 mil per year are still around?  I am absolutely astonished at this fact.  He should have been bought out the first day that was possible.  At this point, is a buyout still even an option?  The front office has led us to believe that he will not be bought out.  Why is this?

So Backes HAS to get that spot, no?  What, are they going to waive him (of course he will clear) and send him to Providence?  Healthy scratch every night?  No and no.

This absolutely pains me.  I understand that General Manager Don Sweeney probably doesn’t want to eat 3 mil the next two years against the cap (half of Backes’ salary, which is what I think would be the case on the buyout…but maybe I’m wrong).  And I get it, as they already have a smidge over 3 mil in dead cap money for the upcoming season tied to former greats Matt Beleskey and Dennis Seidenberg.  Actually, Seids was pretty good.  I just thought this wording was smooth!  And Beleskey did suck badly.  Anyway…

Then all these other guys apparently are out of luck.  Ritchie, Lindholm, Shen, Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic, blah, blah, blah…I guess we don’t really care unless Bjork or Cehlarik or a guy like Jake Studnicka (a new “name” that has picked up some steam recently) can, you know, actually play.

I don’t know man…I would have loved to have seen a little turnover in the forward group.  A little more turnover overall actually.  There is limited cap room to sign McAvoy and Carlo.  Not only should Backes be gone, but one would figure there would be other trades to free up room.

But nothing…yet.  And I don’t feel like that other proverbial “shoe to drop” is going to happen.  I was absolutely convinced it would in June.  Doesn’t seem that way now.

It has been eerily quiet over there, however.  Does that mean that this could be a calm before the storm?  I truly do not think so.  But something has to give with those two D-men needing to re-up.

There is still some offseason left.  I won’t completely lambaste the front office at this point.  But it’s clear I am leaning that way.

Hope I’m wrong.  Goes without saying, I guess…

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