2010-'11 Boston Bruins Season Preview

After being bounced from the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers in the most brutal fashion, the Bruins and their fans are eagerly looking forward to the '10-'11 season. The B's return the core of last year's team along with key offseason addition Nathan Horton and rookie Tyler Seguin, who will try to improve an offense that lacked a consistent scoring punch last season. With young goaltending phenom Tuukka Rask with a year of NHL experience under his belt and Zdeno Chara anchoring the defensive corps, the Bruins look pretty solid in their own zone. The real questions will be whether or not they can put the puck in the net on consistent basis and deal with the absence of Marc Savard, who could miss significant time while dealing with post-concussion symptoms. B's fans hope that Horton can be the finisher that the Bruins have been searching for since #81 was sent packing. There are high expectations in "The Hub of Hockey" for the 2010-'11 edition of the Boston Bruins. Anything short of a top two finish in the Northeast Division and two playoff wins will be a disappointment to a fan base that has been patiently waiting for the Black & Gold to return to glory. No one in Boston wants to hear about the "same old Bruins" next summer.

2009-'10 Season Recap

As Mark McGwire once said, "I'm not here to talk about the past. I'm here to talk about the future". Let's move on.

Who's In

Tyler Seguin (F, 1st Round Draft Pick in 2010 NHL Entry Draft)
There are big expectations for the 2nd overall pick. Seguin will likely see time on the third line. The 18-year-old forward has the ability to play wing or center. The consensus during the summer was that the Bruins would ease him into the pro game by lining him up as a winger, but with Marc Savard on the shelf, Seguin could be called upon to play the pivot. The Brampton, Ontario native came out of the OHL and in accordance with an agreement between the OHL (and the rest of the CHL leagues) and the AHL, Seguin can not play in the AHL (or any minor league) until the age of 20. This means that the Bruins will either have to return Seguin to his junior team before he plays 10 NHL games or keep him up in the NHL for the season. Chances are it will be the latter option.

Nathan Horton (RW, Trade with Florida)
Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins sent a message this summer when they shipped Dennis Wideman out of town and acquired Nathan Horton: "we want to improve up front and score goals". The 6'2", 229 lb winger adds some size, physicality, and finishing ability to a lineup that could have used all of these qualities last season. The 25-year-old has never scored less than 20 goals in a season since cracking the Florida Panthers lineup full-time. He had a career-best 31 goals during the '06-'07 season. Horton will be surrounded by a more talented cast of players in Boston and he seems excited about the change of scenery.

Gregory Campbell (C, Trade with Florida)
Gregory Campbell came over from Florida in the Horton/Wideman trade. Look for Campbell to muck things up in front of the net on the 4th line. Based on the limited time I have seen Campbell play in the preseason, he appears to be an upgrade over Steve Begin as the fourth line centerman. The real silver lining of adding Campbell is that Old Man Campbell has to recuse himself and put away his "Wheel of Injustice" when the NHL reviews incidents involving the Bruins.

Who's Out

Dennis Wideman (D, Trade to Florida)
There were not too many tears shed in The Hub this summer when the B's sent Dennis Wideman packing for an all-expenses-paid trip to the Sunshine State. All the fans that Wideman had won over with a solid campaign in '08-'09 had turned on him by the time the mercury started to drop and the snow started to fall. The (alleged) puck-moving defenseman was a magnet for miscues and boos last season as he was routinely jeered by The Garden gallery.

Miroslav Satan (F, Not Re-Signed)
The 35-year-old (36 on October 22nd) Satan was a solid low risk mid-season pick-up for the B's last season. The Slovakian winger was a surprise key contributor for the B's in the playoffs, racking up 10 points (5-5-10) in 13 games, including 3 game-winning goals. The question is: how would Satan's slender, aging body hold up to the grind of an 82-game season? The B's chose to let Miro walk at the end of the season. He is currently looking for work.

Steve Begin (C, Not Re-Signed)
Begin was advertised as a gritty pest, who could get under his opponents' skin and score the occassional goal by crashing the net. He was none of these things during his time in Boston. Aside from a few games late in the season when he showed the grit and physical presence we were promised, Begin was a complete non-factor for the Bruins last year. He is also still looking for work.

Vladimir Sobotka (F, Traded to St. Louis)
Shortly after being thrown under the bus by Marc Savard for his role in the "too many men on the ice" call in Game 7 of the Flyers series, Vladimir Sobotka was traded on Draft Day to the St. Louis Blues for BU defenseman David Warsofsky. The saddest part about this trade is that we may never know if it is "So-BOT-ka" or So-BOAT-ka".

Marc Savard and Marco Sturm (Injuries)
The Bruins will have to start the season without the services of playmaker Marc Savard (post-concussion symptoms) and winger Marc Sturm (recovering from off-season knee surgery). Marco Sturm is expected to be out until at least mid-November (more likely December) after undergoing his second knee surgery in the past 2 years. Due to the nature of post-concussion issues, there is no timetable set for Marc Savard's return to the ice.

Team Strengths

Goaltending
The B's have a solid goaltending tandem in Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas. Rask now has a season of NHL hockey behind him and there is no reason to believe that his stellar rookie season was a fluke. Tim Thomas is coming off of off-season hip surgery and has not seen any preseason game action yet at the time of publish. Thomas says he is ready to play and compete for the starting job, but let's be honest, this is Tuukka's job. I would be surprised to see Thomas win the starting job back. Regardless, Thomas will still see significant time as a backup. Look for Thomas to get about 25-30 starts this season.

Defense
The B's held opponents to just 2.33 goals per game last season. With the core of their blueliners returning this season, this should be an area of strength for the Bruins once again this season.

Up the Middle
The Bruins have a log jam of talent at the center position: Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Marc Savard (when healthy), Tyler Seguin, and Gregory Campbell at the NHL level with several prospects waiting for their shot: Zach Hamill, Joe Colborne, Jamie Arniel, Ryan Spooner, etc.

Weaknesses

Offensive Production
The Bruins scored a league worst 2.39 goals per game last season. Hopefully the addition of Nathan Horton, the drafting of Tyler Seguin, and a fully healthy Patrice Bergeron can help to rectify this problem. On paper, the Bruins are a much better offensive team than they were last season.

Power Play
The Bruins struggled on the power play last season, especially without Marc Savard making things happen with the man advantage. The B's ranked 23rd in the league on the power play (16.6%) and ranked 27th in power play goals (44 goals). That's roughly a power play goal once every two games (for those of you keeping score at home).

Veteran Leadership
It is difficult to really measure leadership qualities from a fan's perspective, but it seemed like the Bruins were missing strong veteran leadership last season. Veterans like Aaron Ward and P.J. Axelsson, who were known to be strong influences in the room, left the team and the Bruins never really replaced them with veteran leaders. Look for Patrice Bergeron to step up as a leader this season.

Depth Chart

The recent revelation that Marc Savard will miss the start of the season has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the depth chart. While the roster is pretty much set in stone, the lines are still a big question mark. Instead of speculating on lines at this point, I will just give you the depth chart at each position. The biggest battle coming out training camp seems to be who the 3rd center will be. Will it be Seguin? Will it be Zach Hamill? Will they move Blake Wheeler to center?

Centers
Marc Savard (LTIR)
David Krejci
Patrice Bergeron
Tyler Seguin
Gregory Campbell
Zach Hamill
Blake Wheeler (could move to center)
Brad Marchand
Joe Colborne

Left Wingers
Marco Sturm (LTIR)
Milan Lucic
Mark Recchi
Tyler Seguin
Blake Wheeler
Daniel Paille
Brian McGrattan
Joe Colborne

Right Wingers
Nathan Horton
Michael Ryder
Mark Recchi
Tyler Seguin
Shawn Thornton
Jordan Caron
Brad Marchand
Brian McGrattan

Defensemen
Zdeno Chara
Dennis Seidenberg
Mark Stuart
Johnny Boychuk
Andrew Ference
Matt Hunwick
Adam McQuaid
Matt Bartkowski
Steve Kampfer

Goaltenders
Tuukka Rask
Tim Thomas
Nolan Schaefer

Prediction

2nd in Northeast Division

5th in Eastern Conference

2nd Round Exit

....Prove me wrong B's

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