Welcome to the 2013-14 Season! It seems like only yesterday that we were evaluating the individual Bruins' performances from last season. It's time to turn the page and look forward to a fresh new year -- one in which, for the first time in a couple of years, there are significant changes in the lineup.
2012-2013 Bruins Forward Depth Chart
Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Tyler Seguin
Rich Peverley - Chris Kelly - Like 17 different rotating dudes
Shawn Thornton - Gregory Campbell - Daniel Paille
The Forwards: 2013-2014
The departures of old friends Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, and Rich Peverley means that the Bruins will be icing a somewhat new look top nine. Let's take a look at each of the lines and try to get a sense of what we can expect from those trios this upcoming season.
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
We all know by now the drama surrounding Jarome Iginla's "He's a Bruin! No he's not, he's a Penguin! JK, he's a Bruin for reals, this time!" journey these last 6 months or so. With Horton leaving, the assumption has been that Iginla would slot into the right side of the Bruins' 1A line alongside Krejci and Lucic. So far the preseason has born that assumption out, and Iginla potted 3 goals and 1 assist in the 4 preseason games he played.
Milan Lucic, coming off a spectacular playoff effort, seems to be avoiding the slow start that plagued him last year. He has 5 assists in 4 preseason games, and despite losing a fight to Capitals prospect Joel Rechlicz, remains a physical presence on the ice. Golden Stick winner David Krejci missed the final preseason game against the Jets with back spasms, but prior to that seemed to be beginning to mesh with Iginla-as-Horton-replacement. His stellar post-season (Chicago series aside) and all around offensive abilities should once again be on display this year.
I can provide you no advanced metrics like WOWY or CorsiOn as of yet, since they aren't available for the preseason. The three looked decent enough together throughout the games they've played so far, though, and while Iginla is certainly on the decline and won't match Horton's projected output -- his P/60 during the regular season last year was 1.86, a touch lower than Horton's 1.95 -- he may see a bit of a bump in his previous year's production if he ends up clicking with Krecji and Lucic.
The potential is certainly there for this line to be a good one for the Bruins, if not quite AS good -- David Krejci remains an elite center, Milan Lucic should have a bit of a bounce-back regular season, and if Iginla still has some juice left in the tank, it should be a fun line to watch this year.
Loui Eriksson-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are coming off a year that would make almost any fan of advanced metrics swoon. They, alongside Seguin, were possession monsters in the regular season, and Marchand added to that by having a delightful and unsustainable offensive explosion. Subtracting Seguin's speed, possession abilities, and scoring touch (when he's not having a ridiculously low SH% year) will hurt, for sure: Seguin's P/60 was a pretty bitchin' 2.27.
Nonetheless, Bergeron and Marchand represent two-thirds of a line that is exceptionally good at controlling play, and that should continue into this season. While Marchand is unlikely to match his scoring pace from last year, he will continue to be an offensive contributor and, alongside Bergeron, a talented two-way player. Bergeron, of course, is practically perfect in every way -- so long as lingering ouchiness from his billion post-season injuries don't give him any problems, we can expect to see more of his overall awesomeness this year.
The x-factor is their presumed new linemate, Loui Eriksson. After playing in the Dallas organization his entire professional career and being constantly heralded as one of the most "underrated" players, Eriksson arrives to fill the spot vacated by Seguin. Eriksson's P/60 of 1.44 last year isn't even in the same zip code as Seguin's, and he (like Iginla) is trending down in terms of his offensive output. On the other hand, that was by far the lowest offensive number of his career, and that combined with a PDO that was below his career average (987 vs 1004-ish), it suggests that he, too, should see a bit of a bump in production this year.
This line hasn't seemed to come together quite as quickly during the preseason as the LKI (KIL? LIK?) line, but did have one heck of a pretty goal in the final preseason game against the Jets (and that's not even mentioning Eriksson's OT winner against Winnipeg the night before). Those who've watched Eriksson more than me say that his style will fit well with the strong two-way play of Bergy and Marchy -- that's presumably what Chia and co. were hoping as well, and will be one of the important questions going into this season.
(See 1:25 and 1:55 for some grainy footage of the abovementioned sassy goal)
Carl Söderberg-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith
Ah, the third line. Source of frustration and consternation for Boston fans and media, the revolving door of third-line wingers got even more ... revolver-y? ...this offseason with the trade of Rich Peverley to Dallas as part of the Seguin trade. Fortunately, the arrival of Carl Söderberg from Sweden late last season provided a hopefully strong offensive option for that line. While Chris Kelly looks to remain the foundation of the trio (though possibly not as a center -- Claude seems open to the idea of moving folks on that line around) -- Söderberg is a lock to fill one of the other two spots. His three goals in the preseason bode well for his ongoing transition to the North American game.
The other open winger position is the one for which there has been a battle throughout training camp. With Jordan Caron continuing to fall short of expectations (the final game against the Jets notwithstanding), the possibility opened up for another player to grab that spot. The last couple of games saw recent acquisition Reilly Smith (yet another piece of the Seguin trade) make a serious case for himself, and the trio played together pretty consistently down the pre-season stretch. In the meantime, Chris Kelly, he of the just effing terrible 2013 season, scored 2 goals (including an OT winner) in the preseason, only one less than he scored in the entire regular season last year.
While this line still projects to be the most malleable, since there are several other capable candidates for all three roles (more on that later), I don't mind this trio starting out the season together. It'll be interesting to see how Söderberg's game continues to develop, and if Smith can contribute. Plus, since this is the Chris Kelly Redemption Tour: 2013*, I'm excited for the possibility of more consistency and offensive contribution from this new-look third line.
*Note: author's opinion, does not represent the views of Stanley Cup of Chowder, any of the other writers/editors, SBNation, the Boston Bruins fanbase, the Boston media, or any human with eyes.
Shawn Thornton-Gregory Campbell-Dan Paille
The only line that projects to remain the same as last year, Merlot should once again be comprised of the Thornton-Campbell-Paille trio, especially now that Campbell seems fully back from his post-season exploding leg. Much has been written about the strength of Boston's fourth line, but those conversations haven't taken into account more nuanced looks at the numbers. Basically, the fourth line is very, very average (with Paille being better than that).
We all know what to expect from this fourth line by now. Provided no injuries happen to shake up the lineup, Campbell, Thornton, and Paille should provide some very limited offense, some pk duties from Campbell, especially, and an occasional donnybrook courtesy of Thornton. While an argument can and has been made that it is long-past time to shake up this line and think about upgrading a player like Thornton, for the moment the Bruins seem comfortable with what they've got.
The Extra: Jordan Caron
As of the end of training camp, the Bruins had retained 2 forwards, Jordan Caron and Nick Johnson. Johnson, a dude who I completely forget signed with the Bruins in the offseason, had a hell of a preseason, leading the Bruins in scoring with 4 goals. Caron didn't impress much until the last game or so, where he had a goal and an assist. Despite Johnson's success and Caron's "eh"-ness, it was Caron the Bruins elected to keep after the final roster trim. Time is very much running out for Caron, and the consensus seems to be that this is his last shot with the B's. Nonetheless, he's the dude on deck should one of the regular guys go down, unless...
Postscript: Ryan Spooner
... it's a center who's injured. Ryan Spooner at this point looks to be the Bruins' most promising prospect at forward. Sent down to the PBruins after the final preseason game, Spooner had an excellent camp. Alas for him, the team is fairly stacked at the center position, and both Claude and Spooner himself have expressed a desire for him to stick to that position, rather than move him to a wing. And, since he's not displacing any of the top 6, it might be a waste of his considerable talents for him to play fourth (or even third) line minutes. Whether that stays the case remains to be seen, but I truly believe that Spooner will be up in Boston at some point this year -- in the meantime, he'll play top line minutes in Providence and, much like Krejci did before being promoted to the big club, continue to make a case for his NHL readiness.