Where do the Boston Bruins go from here? Certainly a fair question to ask. The Islanders smacked them around all night in the old barn that is the Nassau Coliseum 6-2 to the end the B’s season. If this season didn’t show that it is time to move on from Tuukka Rask, then I don’t know what will. Is the front office delusional? Probably, and I’ll explain why.
Scoring depth and physicality have been the achilles heals for the Bruins for a long time now. That first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak can only do so much. The second line did get a boost from the new configuration off Taylor Hall (trade deadline pick up from Buffalo and pending free agent), David Krejci (pending 35 year old free agent), and Craig Smith. But the bottom six forwards, especially in the playoffs, were down right terrible. Curtis Lazar (also a trade deadline add from Buffalo) did provide a spark on the fourth line in the regular season, but any change of momentum from that line left the building when he left injured in game five. Lazar is the only person on that line I would keep moving forward. Kuraly is a pending free agent who shouldn’t get retained and Wagner is getting old and doesn’t do much, Kuraly did play well as a third line center when he got to move up briefly, and he is better than Charlie Coyle which isn’t saying much. The point of all this? There has been nothing done to address those key problems for years under the Neely and Sweeny regime.
Speaking of Coyle, he has got to go. Coyle has just been bad as the third line center since he got the contract extension, no other way to sugar coat it. Jake Debrusk’s inconsistent effort and play makes him detrimental to the team. Nick Ritchie on that left wing showed growth on that line this year and brings toughness. That is something the Bruins lack as well, and looking back at the 2011 cup team they had an abundance of it with guys like Milan Lucic, Daniel Palle, and a much younger Zdeno Chara serving as enforcers. These Boston teams as of late have been a long way from the Big Bad Bruins. And of course, we can’t neglect to mention the new look defenseman group that besides Charlie McAvoy and Mike Riley (deadline add from Ottawa) left more to be desired. Carlo and Miller did battle injuries this year, but Carlo deserves another chance based on youth. Everyone else, just not good enough.
The Bruins also need to begin planning on free agency and who to protect from the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. We know that the first line and McAvoy will be untouchable. Only one goalie can be protected and the answer to that is obvious, Jeremy Swayman. That’s five out of ten players they can protect. After that it gets tricky. My best guess for the other five would be Richie, Lazar, Trent Frederic (who did well as a rookie and brought toughness), Mike Riley, and Craig Smith. With only a little over $373,000 in cap space, the Bruins would need to dump some big contracts to even try to trade for/ acquire young and talented guys like Jack Eichel and/or Pierre-Luc Dubos to upgrade the center position. The right wing position could be upgraded by Patrik Laine, Connor Garland, or Alexander Nylander. If they don’t, then they’ll have to rely on Jack Studnicka who played well as a center to fill the third line void, and then right wing on lines three and four are still a mystery. At defense, it’s not a great free agent class but some young names that stick out as left hand shooters are Rasmus Dahlin, Miro Heiskanen, Travis Sanheim, Nikita Zadorov, and Vince Dunn. In terms of young right hand shooters, yes there is Cale Makar but there is no way he is leaving Colorado, so the best names left on that list are Henri Jokiharju and Brandon Montour. If they choose not to go shopping, then it will just be more of same brand of Bruins hockey –low scoring, slow and soft.
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