…yup, it’s been pretty much a month since the Boston Bruins were sent packing from the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Who in turn blew a 3-2 game lead and got shut out in Game 7 at home to the Washington Capitals. Who in turn may very well win the Stanley Cup tonight…or at some point over the next several days.
I suppose none of that matters, other than the B’s being ousted after a pretty good run. They only made the second round of the playoffs. But after a season in which they had the second most points in the Eastern Conference, fourth overall across the entire league.
Who saw that one coming? No one. If they did they are blowing smoke up your arse.
So of course, the Blowhard has been meaning to write for a while about what was really a successful season under the circumstances. So why not now, as the NHL season is about to wrap up? I guess that’s one reason anyway…
We could write about how the season was an unexpected success. Or how coach Bruce Cassidy changed the teams’ gears and focused more on offense. Or how so many young guys made contributions out of nowhere. Or how the team was just more fun to watch in general.
But I suppose enough has been written already about all that stuff. So we will congratulate them on a good season and look to the future. One that still will need some more maneuvering to become a true Cup contender…in my eyes anyway. Many people thought they had a legitimate shot this year. I am not sure I agreed with that, but what do I know?
So anyway…one of the biggest issues facing this team going forward is all the young talent they appear to have. That’s what everyone tells me anyway. I haven’t seen a ton of these kids play, so I have no idea if they can actually survive in the NHL, no less make a huge difference. But “people in the know” insist the pipeline is deep. So what do they do now?
They can start by unloading Tuukka Rask!! Ok, I despise the guy, as we all probably know. But I suppose that’s not really where they need to start. I can at least reluctantly acknowledge that.
I think we can all agree that we can say goodbye to all of the Bruins unrestricted free agents. The team has already said that they are not bringing Brian Gionta back, but did they really need to tell us that? In any event, the five most notable are: Reilly Nash, Rick Nash, Tim Schaller, Nick Holden and Anton Khudobin. Tommy Wingels and Austin Czarnik may whet some others’ appetite, not mine, however.
Reilly had a career year (despite the dud of a finish…but we will blame getting nailed in the face with a puck and the concussion and all) and Anton also played very well, so those guys are probably poised to cash in a little bit…or more than they should get as a 3rd/4th liner and a backup goalie. Rick didn’t light the world on fire after being traded here (do Donnie Sweeney’s trades all suck or what? I suppose it just seems that way on the deadline acquisitions anyway…but I digress) and probably wants some more dough as well. If he takes something like 1 year for 3 mil or 2 years for 5 mil, I’d bring him back. Fat chance of that happening though. Schaller and David Pastrnak were the only B’s to play all 82 games…who saw that with Schaller when he was supposed to be like the 13th forward to start the year? He may actually get some better dough too…but is ultimately replaceable, as is Wingels. Not sure why Holden didn’t play more in the playoffs…but when you can’t beat out Adam McQuaid, that should tell us everything (another deadline deal by Donnie Hockey…sigh). Czarnik never got a real chance despite putting up some serious points in Providence. But he weighs like 90 lbs, so…
Now that we’ve beaten those borderline bums to death, where does that leave the team? Welp, it leaves the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak intact (if Marchy can stop doing stupid things and getting suspended by the league, that is). But it leaves David Krejci with Jake DeBrusk on one side and…who on the other? David Backes? Danton Heinen? Ryan Donato? No, no and no. So here’s where we start…a top scoring right winger to play with Krejci. Me? I’d consider moving Krejci. Though he’s at 7.25 mil with a no-movement clause. So forget that. I’d also consider dropping Pastrnak down to play with Jake and David. And fill Pasta’s first line slot with someone like Anders Bjork. WHAT?! Well, let’s all remember that this is how the team came out of the gate in 2017. With those two lines. Bjork couldn’t stay healthy though. I’m not opposed to trying it again.
Let’s also put it this way: How are you going to get a big-time right wing scorer when you will have Marchand, Bergy, Krejci, Pasta, Backes, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara and Tuuks all over 5 mil next year? Not to mention that Charlie McAvoy is going to get paid after next season…maybe Brandon Carlo too. Let’s try not to talk about the 4 mil worth of baggage from the leftover contracts of Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Dennis Seidenberg. But we kind of have to add that in as well. Plus, it’s not like you can trade any of the first 8 dudes to free up some cap room. Most have some sort of no movement/no trade clauses (thanks Peter Chiarelli!). The one that doesn’t (Pasta) is the one you would least likely trade of the eight. (Yes, Bergeron is a local icon. But at this stage of their respective careers, you keep Pasta over Patrice. Sorry.).
So that’s that.
The third line could be something like Backes/Heinen/Donato…in some combination. And the 4th line can be anyone. Sean Kuraly (if he returns after hitting restricted free agency). Noel Acciari will be here. And then anyone else…Peter Cehlarik…Wingels…Schaller…some other cheap vet. While kids like Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (JFK!) and Zach Senyshyn still marinate on the farm.
Defense? Z, Charlie, Torey, Quaider, Carlo and Kevan Miller return and we will see if Matty Grzelcyk returns with him being a restricted free agent. Let’s put it this way though: Don’t expect much change here.
Net? Tuuks and…some veteran who is down on their luck a bit and comes here trying to rebuild their game on a 25-30 game schedule. Think Khudobin both times he arrived here. Or Chad Johnson. Someone similar. Zane McIntyre? Restricted free agent. I suppose he could be in the mix. But all of a sudden he is 26 years old in August. When did that happen? So much for being a prospect. Maybe they should have hung on to Malcolm Subban…
My point? The Bruins SHOULD do more maneuvering to bolster the squads’ chances next season. But, what CAN they really do? After reviewing all of the above, I am thinking just about the same team comes back and they keep going with the youth movement. Maybe add a few low-cost veterans to supplement the youth a bit. But their hands may be tied more than we think they are.
Now, there is plenty of talent to compete again next year. For the Cup? Perhaps. Depends on how the kids keep developing…or not developing, as the case may be. Expectations will be much, much, much higher. How do they deal with that? Would not shock me if the team pretty much stands pat roster-wise, as noted above, while at the same time ends up taking a step back from their finish this past year.
How do we all feel about that?? Well, in a year the expansion Vegas Golden Knights are currently a mere three wins shy of a Stanley Cup, who the hell knows what anyone will do next season, regardless of what talent they have on their roster?