Many are writing off the upcoming Bruins season, as a transition year of sorts. Too much talent lost, not enough talent coming back, etc. etc. And while that may be true, I’m not ready to say this isn’t a playoff team. And here is why:
1. Younger and Faster: Overall, this should be a faster team than last year, especially the forwards. No more plodding Milan Lucic, and forks sticking out of the backs of certain guys (cough*Greg Campbell*cough). The defense should be a bit more mobile as well with the addition of Zach Trotman and perhaps Joe Morrow (free at last?), Colin Miller or Matt Irwin.
2. Healthier: David Krejci comes into the year in full health after missing basically half of last season, and struggling due to his injuries when he did play. Big Z is healthy too after a tough year, and the hopes are that Dennis Seidenberg is better another year removed from his ACL. Of course, injuries are bound to happen, and if a major guy gets hurt all bets are off.
3. System Adjustments: Thanks to Fluto Shinzawa, we got a glimpse of how the Bruins will adjust their breakouts this year in an attempt to create more speed entering the offensive zone. Fluto points out that the Bruins did not lack for scoring chances last year once in the O Zone, but had a hell of a time getting there. if all goes well the Bruins will be much better breaking out of their zone. But what happens when teams adjust to this?
4. Defense: Despite all their issues last year, the Bruins were 8th in goals against, and that was with a hobbled Chara and Matt Bartkowski getting significant minutes. They’ll be fine in that regard, perhaps even a bit better this year if they can stay healthy on the back end and get reliable backup goaltending. The feeling here is that Tuukka Rask let in some goals he ordinarily wouldn’t due to simple exhaustion.
5. Moves to Still be Made: The Bruins have just under $5 million in cap space heading into the season, certainly enough to plug a hole either at the deadline or sooner. Rumors of a Dustin Byfuglien deal are out there, but he may be too rich for the B’s right now unless they move more salary at some point. New GM Don Sweeney has shown nothing but a willingness to be bold so far in his tenure, and the belief is that he’ll make a move to better the team if the chance arises.
6. A Weak Eastern Conference: Besides Tampa, what Eastern team got better in the offseason? Maybe Washington. But Montreal regresses a bit (Carey Price can’t be that good again, can he?), Pittsburgh will lose a ton of 5-4 games and other teams like Florida and Ottawa, while on the rise, haven’t proven a damn thing over the long haul.
Now, keep in mind, I’m not saying the Bruins will be great this season. But they had 96 points last year even with all their issues, and are getting a healthy David Krecji back which should be a boon to the offense. The defense won’t be the train wreck everyone thinks, even if they do drive Claude to do a shot of whiskey between periods every now and then.
It says here that not making the playoffs with 96 points was an anomaly and that the B’s will return to the playoffs this year, at a 7 seed that will scare the hell out of their 1st round opponent.