There’s still an opening in Boston’s championship window as the team remains one of the big hitters in a weak Eastern Conference. We have them finishing first in the Atlantic Division. Do you agree?
2013-14 record: 54-19-9
Departures: Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Andrej Meszaros, Jarome Iginla
Top five fantasy players: David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: When you were the NHL’s best team last season and are bringing back every cornerstone of that team, you have every confidence you’re going to enjoy similar success when the next season begins.
That’s where the Bruins are at. They won the 2013-14 Presidents’ Trophy thanks to captain and Norris Trophy finalist Zdeno Chara, leading scorer and Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, and star goalie and Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask – and all are returning. They’ve got more talent than that, including stellar playmaker David Krejci, secondary scorers Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand and a deep defense unit.
Salary cap concerns forced the departure of notable veterans Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton, but as long as Boston keeps finding affordable youngsters such as Reilly Smith (20 goals, 51 points in 2013-14) and Torey Krug (14 goals, 40 points), they’ll assuredly be the East’s regular season beast again.
Bust: The loss of Iginla – whose 30 goals tied him with Bergeron for the team scoring lead – is going to hurt. The longtime Calgary Flames captain more than filled the void left when Nathan Horton signed with Columbus in the summer of 2013, but the aforementioned cap concerns prevented Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli from going out and signing a top tier free agent this off-season. Boston has a hole to fill at right wing, and the injury-riddled Loui Eriksson will have the first opportunity to audition in that spot.
Although Chara remains one of the most fearsome defensemen in the league, he’s also going to be 38 years old in March, and Dougie Hamilton isn’t ready to assume the No. 1 role just yet. Boston needs Chara to be fresh for the playoffs, and leaning on him too much during the regular season will cause him to break down.
It would take a complete catastrophe for the Bruins to miss the playoffs, but could they be eliminated by a pesky club in the first or second round, as the Canadiens did last year? Absolutely.
Bottom Line: With Rask, the Bruins have a chance to win every night, and coach Claude Julien is one of the coaching fraternity’s premier tacticians and knows how to get the most out of his players. Lucic and Marchand give the B’s their swagger, and few GMs have navigated the cap system as well as Chiarelli. There’s so much to like about this organization and so little reason to see them as anything but a leviathan in the Eastern Conference.
Prospect To Watch: Ryan Spooner has a real shot at making and sticking with the Bruins this time after he was a late cut at last year’s camp. Spooner, a center, played 23 games with Boston last season and scored 11 assists. Back in AHL Providence, Spooner continued to show off his playmaking abilities, logging 35 assists (46 points) in 49 games. It’s a bit of a log jam at the center position on the NHL roster, but if one of the depth pivots is moved to the wing, it’ll be because Spooner was too good to send back to the farm.
THN’s Prediction: First in Atlantic Division
Contributors: Adam Proteau, Rory Boylen