Is status quo good enough?
The Bruins got to home ice for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final, and they failed, but a single game can be a coin flip, so their team was virtually good enough to win a championship. Can the same team make it back to the final in 2019-20, then? Bruins fans have to hope so, as GM Don Sweeney barely touched the roster in the off-season. He let depth forwards Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari go in free agency, inked checkers Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie as replacements and…that’s pretty much it, as Sweeney had to focus his energy and cap space on RFA defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. In the past 10 seasons, only one team has reached the final consecutive times (Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017), so Sweeney is rolling the dice bringing in no major help for a team with significant wear on its tires.
Can Charlie McAvoy become elite?
The young blueliner showed his beastly, Norris-contender ceiling in the post-season, logging 24-plus minutes per game, but injuries have prevented him from putting together a full, all-star-caliber season. He’s missed 47 games over his first two NHL campaigns with everything from a heart arrhythmia to an MCL sprain to a concussion.If he can stay on the ice, he’ll become the star successor to Zdeno Chara Boston needs. A dominant season from McAvoy would also offset the fact Boston hasn’t added much to its lineup.
When will father time defeat the veterans?
Chara was held together with duct tape by the end of the post-season, soldiering on with a broken jaw, and while his Hall of Fame shutdown skills remain intact now, he’ll be 43 by spring 2020. One of these years, his skills will erode irreparably. It’s science. Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron continues to play the best all-around hockey of his career, but he’s 34 and averaged just 64.5 games the past two seasons. With 136 career playoff games, he’ll age out of No. 1-center status one of these years, and the Bruins don’t have a guaranteed future star pivot in the pipeline, so they need at least one more all-world season from Bergeron. If he slips, the Bruins could fall behind the Lightning and Maple Leafs in the Atlantic penthouse race.
Stanley Cup Odds: 20/1
Undrafted college free agent Karson Kuhlmanhas quite the opportunity. The Bruins are thin on the right wing, so he could start the season on Line 2 with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. Kuhlman already got some work there late last season and gained valuable experience across eight playoff games.