It’s not unusual for a defending Stanley Cup champion to suffer a slow start, or “Cup hangover,” the following season.
For the Boston Bruins, the hangover has yet to lift, as they stumbled through October with a 3-7 record.
With the exception of convincing wins over the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins looked anything like champions in the opening month of 2011-12.
Unlike the 2010 Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who returned to action the following season having dumped nine players for salary cap reasons, the Bruins returned from their “summer with Stanley” with their championship roster pretty much intact.
Defenseman Tomas Kaberle and right winger Michael Ryder were lost to free agency, while right winger Mark Recchi retired. Center Marc Savard remains sidelined by the post-concussion symptoms that kept him out of the second half of last season and will likely end his career.
Despite having virtually the same lineup that marched to playoff glory, the Bruins have been sluggish.
The offense has sputtered, scoring two goals or fewer in seven of their first 10 games and sitting 26th in goals per game. Their power play hasn’t been any better, ranked 25th overall at a woeful 12.8 percent.
They haven’t been shooting less, as they’re currently fifth in shots-for per game, but they’re not burying their chances.
Forwards such as center Patrice Bergeron, left winger Milan Lucic and right winger Nathan Horton went several games without scoring, which certainly contributed to the problem. Horton and Lucic were held scoreless in six of 10 games, Bergeron in four of 10.
Center David Krejci, who was expected to anchor the first line this season, has one goal in seven games and missed three with a leg injury.
Defensively, the Bruins have struggled to regain last season’s form and have failed to operate as a five-man unit.
Only the goaltenders, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, have played up to expectations and thus far have escaped criticism in Boston.
The Bruins’ poor start led GM Peter Chiarelli to admit he’s doing his “due diligence” in talking to other GMs, but he’s reluctant to break up his championship roster.
Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe speculated Chiarelli would be targeting a scorer, while Joe Haggarty of CSNNE.com noted “names like Kyle Turris, Ray Whitney and Rene Bourque have been tossed around” in the rumor mill.
Haggerty also speculated over which Bruins would become trade candidates, citing Krejci, Rask and defenseman Johnny Boychuk and listing the pros and cons of moving them.
Turris has been a fixture in the rumor mill this young season, but Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney insists the young center won’t be dealt, plus he’s probably not the kind of fix Chiarelli is seeking.
Whitney would certainly bring leadership, skill and experience, but he’s also tied for the Phoenix Coyotes scoring lead and with the Desert Dogs off to a 5-3-2 start, they have no reason to move him.
Bourque is believed to be available because he’s a streaky scorer, which wouldn’t make him a good fit for a club seeking offensive consistency.
Bourque’s consistency issues stem from playing with the Calgary Flames, a club lacking offensive depth. Perhaps he would find the back of the net more often playing on a team with more talent up front.
Chiarelli will remain patient with his club and see if his players can play their way out of this situation. Performance will determine the fate of the current Bruins roster.
A strong couple of weeks to bring them back to .500 would take off the pressure to swing a deal.
On the other hand, if the struggles continue over the same period, Chiarelli will have little choice but to shake things up with a trade.
Rumor Focus appears Tuesdays and Thursdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.