With less than a month before the start of hockey’s regular season, the Guardian Liberty Voice will be taking an in-depth look at the 30 organizations, one for each day. Today, 30 in 30 will look at the Boston Bruins. What can be said about the Bruins that has not been said over the past few years? The powerhouse in Beantown has consistently been a threat to win the Cup for the past six seasons, and with the vast majority of their core locked into long-term contracts, there is no reason to expect that to change for the next couple of years. Keeping the status quo, both on the ice and in the standings, is the name of the game for the Bruins this year.
Last Season – The Boston Bruins finished last season at the top of the Eastern Conference and at the top of the NHL, squeaking past Anaheim by only a single point. Standout performances by David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Jarome Iginla, and Tuuka Rask allowed the Bruins to execute their gameplan consistently throughout the season. Any time a team can earn over 50 wins, the season has to be considered somewhat of a success, but at the end of the year, only one can win the Stanley Cup, and the Bruins fell embarrassingly short. After Boston and the Montreal Canadiens handled their first round opponents with ease, the two rivals faced off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Bruins managed a 3-2 lead in the series, but a stellar performance by Carey Price and the Montreal defense held Boston to only one goal over the final two game, allowing the Canadiens to take the series in seven games.
The Offseason – The offseason has seen the Boston Bruins attempting to manage their expensive roster. The league’s announcement that the salary cap would be at $69 million this upcoming season – $2 million less than the expected amount – put the Bruins in a bit of a crunch, as they were at just over $67 million at the time with three roster spots left to fill. Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli managed the best he could, but the almost-five-million dollars handed out in bonuses left some difficult decisions to be made for the Boston Bruins. As the season quickly approaches, depth forward Riley Smith and depth defenseman Torey Krug appear to be the odd men out, as the two restricted free agents have yet to find an offer they like.
The offseason did see Boston sign top line forward David Krejci to a six-year, $43 million dollar extension, The forward would have received much more on the open market, but given the tough situation the Bruins find themselves in with regards to the salary cap, a couple hundred thousand less per year could have made all the difference. Still, $7.1 million is a price worth paying for a guy who just put up 50 assists last year and has a history of playoff success.
What to Watch for This Season – The Boston Bruins are hoping to keep the status quo, and in order for that to happen, some players have to start living up to expectations, while others need to maintain the high standards they set for themselves last year. The future of the Bruins may be significantly altered by the actions taken this season, as the organization will have some tough decisions to make at year’s end.
The future of Boston’s wrecking crew could be decided this year. Both Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand have been in the Bruins organization for years, and though they both were productive last year, their contracts may be expendable, should the Bruins feel the pressure from the cap ceiling. Chiarelli shut down rumors that surfaced over the summer that Boston was putting Marchand on trading block, possibly in a deal for San Jose’s Patrick Marleau. The rumored deal never came to pass, but if the cap fails to rise significantly over the next few years, unloading Marchand’s $4.5 million or Lucic’s $6 million cap hit would give the Bruins some breathing room.
With Jarome Iginla heading to Colorado, the Boston Bruins will need to find a way to replace the 30 goals he produced last year. Boston fans are hoping they come from one player that has failed to live up to the expectations since joining the Bruins organization: Loui Ericksson. Ericksson was once a star winger for the Dallas Stars, putting up anywhere from 25 to 35 goals on the year. However, last season, he managed a measly 10 goals in 61 games. To make matters worse, Tyler Seguin, the player the Bruins traded to Dallas for Ericksson, has developed into a player worthy of his draft position. Boston needs a big year from Ericksson if they want to keep the status quo.
A stifling defense and unbeatable goaltending have been the mantra of the Boston Bruins of late, but that failed to get them past the Montreal Canadiens last year. Though Rask won the Vezina trophy last season, he was outplayed by Carey Price when it truly mattered. Price stole the last two games of that Semifinal series, and it is hard to claim Rask stole any games in that short playoff run. He will need to be better when the chips are down. A full season of the Bruin’s top pairing should help him immensely. Dennis Seidenberg missed the majority of last year with a torn ACL/MCL ligaments in his knee, taking one piece out of a frightening defensive pair with Zdeno Chara.
It will be hard for the Bruins to improve on last year’s regular season performance. Over 50 wins, less than 20 losses in regulation, and the greatest goal differential in the league by far, Boston will simply need to maintain the status quo in that regard. The playoff performance is where the Bruins need to be better. Both the Chicago Blackhawks and the Los Angeles Kings have won two Cups in recent years. There is little in the way to prevent the Boston Bruins from doing the same.
Join the Guardian Liberty Voice tomorrow, where 30 in 30 will examine the rebuilding Buffalo Sabres. Also check out yesterday’s team, the Arizona Coyotes.
Commentary by Jonathan Gardner