This morning, as I talked about the Bruins' style of play with my colleagues, even though they know barely anything about hockey ("you like it because they fight a lot, don't you?" Is something I get every time I mention my appreciation of the sport), I had to think. Is it really a tough time to be a Bruins fan?
And, at the edge of this upcoming season, I'm not above saying it: the Bruins are a mess. During the off-season, they lost their GM, their most promising defenseman, and multiple forwards -- some old and done, some with plenty of potential that they didn't get to show in the last few seasons. Aside from that, they acquired some mid to low level talent, nothing extravagant. They kept their head coach, even though he was under heavy scrutiny after the Bruins didn't make the playoffs last season. So, where does that leave the Bruins?
It's a pretty precarious time. By January, it might be time to panic - right now it's too early to tell, but there are massive gaps to be filled.
Last season, Tuukka Rask played 70 games. Too many, one could argue, and he slumped pretty hard for a while midseason. Unfortunately, the B’s are lacking in terms of an experienced backup goalie, even this season, with Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban both NHL rookies. They're rookies with loads of potential, and Subban has a great season in the AHL under his belt, but still. This year may be more of the same, although expect Subban to either play some more in the Big Show, or get traded for a goalie with some more experience. Martin Jones would have been great as backup, but he was a Bruin only for a hot minute.
There is plenty of young talent from the AHL and recent signings. Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev, Jimmy Hayes, and/or Brett Connolly could all prove themselves and stay this year, like Ryan Spooner did last year. But one of the recurrent Bruins problems is that they don't trust 'flashy' players, mainly goalscorers with under-developed defensive skills; it's why Griffith only played a small number of games in the NHL last season and why Spooner kept being sent up and down. But they have lost the 'Merlot line' this year, with Paille singning a PTO with the Blackhawks, Gregory Campbell signing with the Blue Jackets, and Thornton having been sent away a while ago. So the idea of a quick, skilled 3rd line of Spooner, Griffith and Connolly pleases me.
There can be hope to see David Pastrnak some more on the 1st line with Krejci, provided Krejci manages to stay healthy. However with Lucic gone, who had incredible chemistry with Krejci, it's up in the air who will be his second winger. Eriksson is a right wing, like Pastrnak, so my money is on Beleskey. The 2nd line might be some more of Eriksson/Bergeron/Marchand.
It'd also please me to see newly signed Zac Rinaldo warm the bench for most of the season, but I unfortunately doubt that'll be the case. The 4th line is doomed to be a mess at this point.
This is where things get quite dire. Losing Dougie Hamilton was a massive blow to an ageing D corps, and now the Bruins have to lean heavily, once again, on Zdeno Chara, and Torey Krug. Seidenberg, having a difficult contract to move, is still clobbering on the blue line and bringing more issues than he is resolving. Zach Trotman is an asset, young and with an excellent shot, but he's still needing a lot of work, and he's still so young, while Adam McQuaid is...inoffensive, I guess is the best way to put it. They did acquire Matt Irwin from the Sharks, but I’m on a wait-and-see mindframe with him, as I’ve only seen very few Sharks games. Whether he’ll fit or not in the Bruins system is still to be seen, and if there’s one thing with the Bruins, is that the system won’t change for any player.
Which brings us to the coaching staff, who also deserves at least a mention; it’s never all on the players. Claude Julien has been talking about how he’s got solutions for last year’s issues, but I guess he’s on a little bit of a tightrope when it comes to my trust (and, according to some media, when it comes to the trust and respect of his locker room, too). If the Bruins don’t start strong, it might be another Berube just waiting to happen.
The thing is, I'm worried, but I'm not. It's probably too early to be worried just yet, but I'm not a fan of the new GM and the moves he's made during the draft or the summer, so I feel like it's justified. However I trust a lot of the remaining players and I want to absolutely believe in young talent that we have in the minors. Is it going to be easy? God no, it’s probably going to be a slog, and they’re probably going to struggle while things get going. Last year, they were unlucky with bad injuries and terrible puck luck, but you know what? Hockey is one of the only places in my life where I can allow myself some childlike optimism, and I want to keep believing in them. Speak to me again in three to four months, though; I might be crying out for a fire sale at that point, but until we’re actually started? I want to believe the Bruins can still do it.