From the moment the team suffered the Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins have had a firework show of an offseason. Don Sweeney finally got the extension everyone expected. The man also fired Bruce Cassidy at Cassidy’s home, while replacing him with Jim Montgomery. Jake DeBrusk rescinded his trade request and has opted to stick with the team.
Introducing the 29th Head Coach in Boston Bruins history. Welcome to Boston, Jim! 👏 pic.twitter.com/UvxCHhS7T3
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 11, 2022
The Boston Bruins are an interesting team to keep an eye on. They will begin the season without Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk due to injury. But more significant problems lie ahead. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are rumoured to be back, but nothing has been announced. The current state of the team rides on them returning. Is there a cause for concern? But the Bruins are a team to watch going forward.
Boston Bruins Team Direction Remains Uncertain
Boston Bruins Veterans Impact
The one thing that has made the Boston Bruins successful for nearly two decades is the 1-2 punch down the middle with Bergeron and Krejci. These two simply make the team better.
Bergeron had a great season, which he also won his record-setting Selke Trophy. In 73 games played, he scored 25 goals, 40 assists, and 65 points. Per Evolving Hockey, it illustrates just how great he was as a two-way centre in the league. Bergeron was elite in the faceoff dot, winning 61.9% of his faceoffs. The captain of the Bruins does it all, and the impact he makes on this team is great on and off the ice.
Krejci left to play in his home country, and that void never got filled. In his final season in Boston, he tallied 48 points in 51 games and was nearly a point per game player. In 962 games for the Bruins, he has 215 goals, 515 assists, and 730 points. Always known for being “Playoff Krejci” he has 124 points in 156 playoff games. Krejci has made the most of his production playing with average wingers. Bruce Cassidy always kept “The Perfection Line” together.
If these two players sign, the depth projected lineups for the 2022-23 season could look like this:
The Remaining Forwards
Having these two in the lineup illustrates what direction the team is headed in. It shows they are running it back and continue to contend. And with the injuries to key players, these two keep this team afloat instead of it sinking hard and fast. Don Sweeney traded Erik Haula for Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils. The former sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft can play both center and wing.
As of today, according to Daily Faceoff, this is the current Bruins depth chart. It is quite alarming down the middle. I say that because Charlie Coyle is not a top six centre, and Jack Studnicka has not shown enough at the NHL level. Zacha is inline for second-line duty, but his 36 points in 2021-22 are nothing compared to Krejci and was slightly less than Haula.
The Bruins only scored 144 goals, which was middle of the pack. The Bruins top six did majority of the damage and lacked production from the bottom six. This top-heavy play led to a struggling offence. The offence runs through the top six, and if they get shut down everything goes quiet. A lot is hinging on the return of Bostons star centres and the type of season they will have for the upcoming campaign.
Lets say Bergeron and Krejci don’t sign, the depth chart would be scary looking and not in a good way.
The Bruins are paper thin down the middle and could be the downfall of the team during the course of the year.
On the back end, the Bruins are built to compete. The exact same pairing for all three pairs is returning. Even down Charlie McAvoy to begin the year, there are pieces on the back end to keep this team afloat. The Bruins have Hampus Lindholm (who signed a seven year deal after being acquired), and Brandon Carlo. Both are already top four defencemen on the Bruins. This graph chart created by Evolving Hockey shows that Lindholm is a solid 200 foot defencemen and is good in all three zones. He is good in transition and is not a liability in his own end. He will be heavily relied on in McAvoy’s absence. Enter Norris calibre blueliner in McAvoy and the Bruins are in business.
Jakub Zboril will more than likely have an increased role with McAvoy being out. Connor Clifton and Derek Forbort will also pick up the slack. The Bruins will be fine defensively. This past season, they finished fourth in goals allowed at 144, and had the fourth-best Corsi For Percentage at 54.51%. The Bruins played a strong defensive system and throughout the season they faced only 104 shots from the high danger area, which was the lowest in the league. The team kept everything to the low danger, where they faced most of their shots against.
The Bruins will be fine on the back end to begin the year. It is not the position that needs to be worried about. McAvoy is the stallion on the back end, and despite making the team better, there are players that can step up large in his absence.
Swayman is young but his future is bright. He finished the season with a 23-14-3 record. The 23-year-old posted a 2.41 goals against average (13th) and a .914 save percentage (26th). He finished with a 4.2 goals saved above expected which ranked 23rd among all goalies. The Anchorage, Alaska native posted a .663 save percentage in the high danger area, but was much better in the medium and low danger areas.
Ullmark did not have a bad season either. He finished with a 2.45 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. His goals saved above expected at 5.4 ranked 21st among all goalies.
Final Thoughts On Boston Bruins Direction
The Bruins are awaiting the decision on their two stat veteran centres. That alone dictates the type of team they will have entering the season. With them, they are a playoff contender like they have been for over a decade. Without them, the Bruins are in serious trouble and given that they currently have $4.7 million in cap space, it’ll be tough to make major boosts to give them the competitive edge. With Zacha being a restricted free agent heading to arbitration, and the two veteran centres not signed, clearing out cap space is a must.
The team could look to trading players with higher cap hits such as Craig Smith, Mike Reilly, and possibly Nick Foligno. None of this will be easy, but Don Sweeney and Cam Neely have their work cut out for them.
Ownership has said they won’t necessarily head for a rebuild or a retool and it would be hard to sell to the fan base. The Boston Bruins will be a team to watch in terms of the direction they head into.