Cam Neely expects the Bruins to be better on defense next season, he said on Joe Haggerty and Kevin Walsh’s podcast. He believes this not because GM Don Sweeney has found a trade partner to improve the defense or made a free agent signing who will have an impact but simply because Tuukka Rask will raise his game from above average to elite (again) and the young D (who didn’t really get a full shot at developing last season because they were hell bent on making the playoffs they eventually missed) will produce at least one or two studs to fill at least two glaring voids. Oh, to have that kind faith in the Bruins again. Instead, I’m faced with an all to familiar cynicism: A successful season to the Bruins will be a playoff birth, and furthermore they are trying to pass that off to fans as acceptable.
In a rebuild, a playoff birth would be welcomed, supported, praised, discussed in town, and be a net positive for an organization moving in that direction. But the Bruins find themselves in a purgatory typically reserved for middling NBA franchises. Their identified core of players are aging, they’ve allowed assets to walk for nothing in the hopes of achieving a goal they inevitably missed, and the teams around them are getting better. Not to beat a dead horse, but they are making decisions that set their franchise back/postponing a rebuild in an effort to make the playoffs, and they are still failing to achieve their goal of simply qualifying for the greatest tournament in sports.
Say Cam Neely is correct though, and Colin Miller in a full season as a trusted top 6 NHL D-man flourishes. Give him the benefit of the doubt and give Brandon Carlo a roster spot as this season’s Colton Parayko. Joe Morrow finds his game. Tuukka Rask comes back to prove all you crazy people wrong (again). What would the Bruins be then? Where would they be going now, or in the next 3 years? My answer, I think, is not too much of a different spot than they are currently in unless they demonstrate a change in their philosophy. I do believe the Bruins are good enough to be a bottom seed playoff team. They match up well against some teams better than others, so I could even see a team like this stealing a series. But Zdeno Chara is no longer elite. He’s very good, but for sure not the corner stone of the future and arguably will not be around to see a hypothetical 3rd year of a 3 year plan. As good as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have been and project to be, or how promising Pastrnak looks, or how productive a healthy David Krecji can be, or how fun it will be to watch the bowling ball that is David Backes play in Boston, the deficiency on the back end even with their young guys flashing will be too great. Their ceiling with Chara, Liles, McQuaid, Miller, Miller, Krug Morrow (Carlo) is punching their ticket to the second round before golfing in May.
So, Cam tells us the Bruins D should be better, but these are ultimately troubling words. Buying out Seidenberg but re-signing Kevan Miller doesn’t show fans they are serious about improving the defense. Without demonstrating that they realize their serious problems on the blue line, there’s not much hope that they are thinking about hockey in June any time soon. When will they be ready, and how old will Bergeron/Krecji/Marchand/Backes/Rask be when they are? Judging from their actions, they don’t have a clue. And that’s truly disappointing.