Don’t look now, Eastern Conference collective, but the Boston Bruins are set up to be a force in both the near and distant future.
There’s no doubt the B’s have disappointed badly this season after sky-high expectations followed their impressive 2008-09, which saw them finish only one point back of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Sharks. A Boston Harbor boatload of that underachievement, however, can be pinned on the plethora of injuries sustained by key spokes in the wheel.
The Claude Julien collective has been without offensive catalyst Marc Savard for 23 games (foot, knee), shift-disturber Milan Lucic for 32 (finger, ankle), solid stay-at-homer Mark Stuart for 21 (sternum, finger) and the resurgent Patrice Bergeron for eight and counting (thumb, groin).
But as inconsistent as the Black and Gold has been this campaign, it’s really only their one extended losing streak – winless in 10 straight between Jan. 18 and Feb. 6 – that has them fighting fang and claw to stay in the East’s top eight. Had Boston played .500 hockey during that stretch, they’d be battling Ottawa for the division lead and sit third in the conference.
If I were the Caps or Devs or Sens or Pens or any other easily abbreviated East upper-echeloner, I sure as H-E-double-hockey-sticks wouldn’t want to draw the Bruins in the first round.
Enough about this season, though. What’s really exciting about this organization is the way the Bruins have set themselves up for years to come via competent drafting and crafty trades.
The Bruins have an impressive lot of eight draft picks in the first two rounds of the next two drafts. That bounty includes, thanks to the Phil Kessel trade, the Maple Leafs’ top selection both this summer (a sure-fire top-five) and next (likely a lottery pick, too).
The B’s would have had nine selections, but they traded a second-rounder to Florida for the underrated Dennis Seidenberg, who led the Cats in ice time and is a serious upgrade from Derek Morris on the blueline. Seidenberg, 28, is a UFA this summer, but if the Bruins can get him to ink an extension near his $2.25 million stipend, it’ll be a pick well spent.
The plethora of prospects sure to arrive via the draft won’t be alone in the pipeline, either. Boston has three players in the top 75 prospects in THN’s Future Watch 2010. The best of the trio is Joe Colborne, a 6-foot-5, rapidly developing power forward who has become a point-a-gamer as a sophomore with the Denver Pioneers.
GM Peter Chiarelli has taken a lot of heat for not adding more at the trade deadline to help the club this year, but it was the right move not to mortgage the future to bring in a rental.
It’s one thing to put together a competitive team for two or three seasons, but quite another to have a realistic shot at the Cup year after year. Chiarelli and Co. deserve a lot of credit for creating an organization that’s set up perfectly to do just that.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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