Several months removed from a vomit inducing Game 7 against the Habs, the 2014-2015 Boston Bruins figure to be one of the strangest stories in the league. Considered by most to an Eastern Conference force once
again, there are enough questions about this team to cast doubt about the ceiling for a club that SHOULD be competing for a cup every year. Here’s how we got…well…here.
Nerd talk: CAP JAIL
You probably know by now Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli didn’t have a lot of room to navigate the salary cap when assembling the new roster. Why? You’ll likely hear it is because the team really “went for it” last season, signing Jarome Iginla for short money, with a ton of incentives. Turns out the guy could still play (in the regular season), and he hit every. single. one. Incentives were also used on rookie phenom Torey Krug after he shined during the 2013 shortened season cup run that fell short. He alone hit 400K worth of incentives in the team’s final game alone. Incentives earned can, in certain situations, mean penalties the following year. So, here we are, penalty city population Peter. Two solid young players in Krug and Smith sitting out much of camp because the cap puzzle is just too hard to figure out. What is a guy to do?
The fact of the matter is the Bruins are NOT in this position not because they sold out last year to win a title. A team with this type of talent should be doing just that. Nor is it due to the Bruins “loving their guys”. Signing Chara, Bergeron, probably even Seidenberg (see Orpik, Brooks) early saved the team a ton of money on the open market, even though they were crucified by some for overpaying. They even experimented away from this with Rask, and they paid the piper. Where they could have locked up Rask for cheaper before he was officially the #1 of the future, they opted to go for a one year bridge deal and had to pay out the nose to keep him going forward because Rask proved to be the world class goaltender he was thought to be. So, locking up the championship core early allows the team to spend to keep legitimate pieces of their championship caliber core when they have to: Krecji (and Rask in this category because they had to). And reasonable people can debate these points, on what was truly wise, and what could be different, but the strategy there isn’t what concerns me. The real issue is just how overvalued bottom 6 forwards are in this franchise. That locking up for a price tag approaching 5 million dollars 2 players who total together about 11 goals a season is just as important as locking up elite talent makes me want to lay down in the fetal position thinking about the true length of this contending window. Being nice about it, I’m of the opinion that the production of Chris Kelly could be replicated by a number of cheaper alternatives, but the Bruins organization just loves the SHIT out of his sub par play. Same for Gregory Campbell. Couple their burning love for guys that just don’t produce with their absolute reluctance to play actual young talent (read: speedy goalscorers #freespooner) and you have enough to question the entire roster evaluation strategy.
ON TOP OF THAT
While it is true that Krug and Smith were in a unique situation with neither having any leverage what so ever, each of them deserved better than the $1.4 million contracts they received to bridge them to next
season when they will have actual rights as a restricted free agent.Put another way “Next time we get the chance to screw you, count on getting screwed”. Still, given how tough the cap situation looked, we are told the Bruins could use Marc Savard’s Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) money to keep the bruins under the cap. Barely, but they would be under. After a summer of hearing the Bruins would not be adding anything to their roster, that a major piece would be dealt to make cap room available, we had a few days of relief. Sure, the team on paper didn’t get any better, but for the most part it didn’t get any worse either. After all, if the Bruins could handle their temper better than an angst filled teenager this past post-season they would have beaten the habs, and then matched up great against the NYR team that went on to represent the East in the cup finals. But, nay, cap mismanagement came back to break our (my) heart. Just this week, #3 defenseman Johnny Boychuck was shipped off to the Islanders for an underwhelming array of draft picks. There is a lot to complain about here, but suffice it to say there are a number of other players that should have been shown the door. Boychuck was not a victim of the salary cap, he was a victim of bad management. Now Matt Bartkowski will log a ton of ice, and that makes me sad.
Moving away from that dumpster fire, the Bruins signaled at a slight paradigm shift. After parting with ST22 this off season we thought maybe, just MAYBE, the bruins would consider going younger, faster, and more skilled on their bottom two offensive lines. We thought they had enough grit on this roster to keep their hard nosed identity and that bringing up a fourth line that could threaten to score instead of commit felonies would finally be possible. Fast forward to the end of camp, and there is some truth but not a ton to this line of propaganda. Skilled forwards Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner have cracked the opening day lineup, though the latter may be only until Campbell returns from injury. However, pugilist Bobby Robbins will be sticking with the team as well. If the team is keeping Robbins for when things get ugly, I’m fully on board. Especially in the dog days of the regular season, having a little bit of that in the lineup is probably a good thing. But if he dresses consistently we’ll know the Bruins haven’t learned their lesson.
Now that I’ve gotten the obligatory complaining out of the way, I do think this years team will be worthy of our attention. A number of story lines (and player line combinations) will play out, but I think
the Bruins will be considered a contender come April and here is why: While I’ve spent much of this summer cursing Chiarelli for the cap situation he has a ton of money locked up in for real players. No longer do i have to spend September trying to fire myself up over the never ending line of mediocrity. Instead of Metropolit and Kobasew, it is a healthy Krecji and Bergeron. Instead of Hal Gill, it is Zdeno Chara and company. Sure, the team needs a top 6 forward like I need to lose 50 pounds, but it isn’t as glaring a need as it was during the 2008-2010 stretch. Ultimately i think the bruins will run 3 threatening lines out night to night, with the jury still out on the 4th line.
Eriksson is going to start on the top line, but the chemistry of the Swiss connection last year makes too much sense to keep it apart too long. By mid season, I think Fraser plays his way to playing with play making guru David Krecji, leaving him two literally and figuratively hungry wingers to fight for pucks.
A staple to last season’s regular season success, this line will be better than last year. Look for Bergeron to follow up on his 30 goal Selke winning season with another strong year with 25-30 goals, and
Brad Marchand to get of the funk he’s been in since the post cup bender #sorryforpartyingfor3seasons. I expect Riley Smith, with a chip on his shoulder from the summer’s contract debacle, to be more
consistently on the score sheet.
Real intriguing line here. Danny Paille has wheels for days, but just can’t seem to find the scoring touch consistently. Playing with the Swedes who seemed to have it clicking last season could help push him
to be the top 9 forward he’d be on most other clubs. Soderberg will be playing for a contract, has a better understanding of the NHL game, and just might have a monster season.
I don’t know what the fourth line will end up being this year. As of this writing 97 year old mush brain Simon Gagne is “sticking around” with the club despite not being signed. While he has usually had the
goal scoring touch in his career, he’s suffered some pretty serious head injuries and isn’t getting any younger. Hard to think he’ll still have it after missing a season and a half. Ryan spooner will be on
the opening night roster, but easy to see him being sent down when Campbell gets healthy, unfortunately. Claude keeps calling him out in the media as a liability. literally calling him a liability. My god.
Bobby Robins will be with the big club to start the year. I can’t really complain, even though i didn’t give him a rave review earlier. I’m going to love to watch him fight if we are being honest. That’s
pretty much the long and short of it and i’m not going to hide it. Damien Cox will call us neanderthals and we’ll troll him and the other fake anti-fighting clowns. Good times will be had by all, except for
Robbins’ victims. And then there is Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron somewhere in the conversation waiting to ruin my hopes and dreams. So that’s the sparknotes version. If i get picked to write more consistently, I’ll be happy to go into far more depth with my Chiarelli rage. Bruins Flyers to kick things off tomorrow night, and questions will start to be answered for better or worse.
NHL 2014-2015 Teams to Watch
Putting Aside for the moment the asinine money thrown at average players (Brooks Orpik), there has been a ton of shifting in the league this season. Since i think the Bruins will be contending for a
championship this year, here are a few teams i think could stop Boston in the playoffs.
Scary to think that they are going to get better, but they seemed right on the cusp of greatness for most of the year last year (though they were pretty much smoked every time they played Boston). Tampa is the sexy pick this year, and i can see why. They are young, fast, tough, with a great young goalie and elite scoring talent. With Stamkos healthy for the whole year, they will be a real threat to win every single night.
New York Rangers
While not nearly as embarrassing as the 2009-2010 Boston Bruins playoff collapse, I think there are a ton of comparisons to be drawn between this years Rangers and the Boston team that blew a 3-0 lead to freaking philly. Both teams overachieved in the post-season, got their young guys some post-season experience, and came into the next year a threat to make a deep run.With the veteran leadership of a guy
like Marty St. Louis married with young skill and the elite goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist they are paper monsters. Still, I’m not sold on Alain Vigneault as a coach, and think they have a bit of a comedown this year. But a ton of people said that about Claude going into 2010-2011 as well…
Meh. Crosby, Malkin. I get it. They aren’t going anywhere if MAF is their starter come postseason time. Guy is an utter headcase.
Dark Horse: Washington Capitals
I love me some Barry Trotz. Also love me some Kuznetsov. If Ovie can manage to try a little bit without the puck they’ll be a top team this season.
The West is wide open. I could be convinced the Blackhawks, Blues, Ducks, Kings come out of the Conference Finals. Dark horse out there is Dallas. Seguin/sleeve tattoos coming in hot.