Here at SCOC, we are always vigilant in hoping, and in scouting, just how good or bad a team will be when they take the ice to face our hometown Boston Bruins, and if the team itself is capable of handling them. Even if it's only July 12th.
That's why I have devised the THREAT INDEX, a comprehensive look at the Boston Bruins' 29 other opponents and have graded them using a handy THREAT METER, which helps us put out a visual as we assess these other teams.
Which is generally self explanatory. So now, we look to classify Boston's opponents at the homestead: The Atlantic Division
The Atlantic is the most important division for Boston to tread water against, as they face these teams for almost half the season combined, and it can often mean make or break games towards the end of it. Here, we assess these six teams and place them upon the THREAT METER. Let's dive in, shall we?
Last Year's Performance: 7th in Division
Key New Players: Justin Falk, Dmitry Kulikov, Kyle Okposo
Key Leaves: Chad Johnson, Mark Pysyk
Assessment: The addition of Kyle Okposo is one of those things that Buffalo's rebuild has been sort of wondering if they'd ever actually get: a name guy on a team of YOUTH. Youth that, as it stands, seems to be fairly up and down in terms of play. While players like Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart are a nice eyecatcher, the reality of the situation for Buffalo has largely been a series of downgrades or stallouts to fit a certain kind of team. In fact, one could point out that their 2nd line of last year: Moulson - O'Reilly - Reinhart, had sizeably better possession than their first, regardless of what tim horton's had to suffer for it. Even a coach like Dan Bylsma can't exactly fix a team that took Ls across the board in either not demoting or promoting certain players, or bringing in players sizeably worse than the ones they had. Mark Psysyk, one of their best defenders, has gone to become a Panther and in his place, the former worst defenseman on the Florida roster. Okposo still needs a linemate that can help him on keeping shots down, and Deslauriers, a player who has disappointed, was extended to 2019. To say nothing of the Goaltending, which currently sits at Linus Ullmark, Robin Lehner, and Anders Nilsson. None are exactly known for being elite players at their chosen position.
With that, Buffalo is still firmly in the realm of Cool. The decision to go LARGE ADULTS that are worse than the YOUTH screams of a group that's starting to chafe under the idea of a multi-year rebuild plan. Boston in theory should be able to pick up most of their games based on that alone.
Detroit Red Wings
Last Year's Performance: 3rd in division, in playoffs, first round exit
Key New Players: Frans Nielsen, Alexey Marchenko, Steve Ott
Key Leaves: Pavel Datsyuk
Assessment: Whoo man, Detroit. You uh...you're in for a treat.
As much as we as fans would like to believe Boston had it bad, we often forget that the Red Wings had a bizarrely similar path for the 2015-16 season. Great forwards bolstered by "Youth" (or what counts for it in Detroit's system), some good(ish) goaltenders, and a ghastly defense. If anything, the Bruins had it better than Detroit, as they still technically have a small fortune of good defensive prospects and young guns itching for a shot.
Detroit has Brendan Smith, Alexey Marchenko, and Mike Green.
The rest? Sewer water. And while yes, they still have that vaunted Niklas Kronwall, he's currently clocking in at 35 years old, and his spark is fading fast. Ericsson has proven to be not worth his contract extension at all.
To make it even better, the Forwards on Detroit's roster are starting to start a logjam of top heavy badness. Glendening is the kind of bad you read about when you read about Greg Campbell, Riley Sheahan has been up and down the lineup in all sorts of bizarre fashions, Anathasiou does not just allow shots, but I'm fairly certain they actually phase through him, Abdelkader's Dark-Souls-Bossesque contract leaves them with a player in their depth that might just stay that third line winger forever, and now the Magic Man has left. Henrik Zetterberg is good, but he's not a replacement for the kind of player Datsyuk is. Steve Ott is definitely the sign of things starting to go screwy.
Detroit is going Cool, and if this is finally the year where the Wings exit the playoff picture for a couple of years, then this is the time to do it. They've lost too much, and they have a lot of burning questions about themselves to answer, and the answers seem to be looking towards "It's time to be bad for awhile".
They do have Vanek now on the other hand, so the Bruins better not put up C+ games against them.
Last Year's Performance: 1st in the Atlantic, First Round Exit
Key New Players: Mark Pysyk, Keith Yandle, Jason Demers
Key Leaves: Dmitry Kulikov, Erik Gudbranson
Assessment: The Florida Panthers let Brian Campbell, a player who has morphed his game into one of the finer shutdown players of the last few years, leave.
The Florida Panthers ended their July 1st much...much...much...better than they were with Brian Campbell.
It is truly astonishing...and more than a little scary that a team that has typically been associated with poor performance both on the ice and in the stands has been able to turn it around as spectacularly and as quickly as the Cats have. GM Tom Rowe has put together (through some luck, intrigue and straight up robbery) a team that Gerard Gallant can not only get extraordinarily lucky with down the stretch as they did last year, but ultimately succeed in a meaningful way. The defense has been completely overhauled, promising young star Mark Pysyk, Undersold bright spot Jason Demers, and shocker of worlds Keith Yandle. The best parts of their offense, like the eternal Jaromir Jagr, a bright youth spot from Vancouver in Jared McCann, Reilly Smith under a 5 year deal (d'oh!) and a genuinely talented first two lines.
Oh yeah, and Luongo has help in the form of James Reimer. Two very good goaltenders basically playing 1a and 1b.
Now that they've tasted the playoffs, it looks like they're not giving that up for anything. They're Hot as the weather in Sunrise. And you should definitely pay close attention to these games. The Bruins are not going to be playing the same kind of games they have been in the past. And it is gonna be fun.
Last Year's Performance: 6th in Division
Key New Players: Andrew Shaw, Shea Weber, Alexander Radulov
Key Leaves: PK Subban, Lars Eller
Assessment: Allow me to be very clear.
Montreal is a talented squad on paper. They are, on paper, a Medium team.
Most of those forwards are pretty darn good. Some of those defensemen are great examples of how to be defensively responsible. They still have a player that is a fantastic name in Shea Weber. They still have Carey Price.
However, what is not often discussed is how easily all that can fall apart if Carey Price gets hurt, or is still hurt when he hits the ice in October.
Subban and Eller's leave means the Habs are VERY worse off defensively. Shea Weber's day in the limelight in terms of defensive play may have finally come, as he no longer has multiple players to hold him up. He will be red and nude for all to see. The forwards that have been added are largely window dressing for the fans easily placated by the physical side of the game instead of results, and to top all of that off, they still have Michel Therrien.
Oh man. That's comedy gold.
Lemme tell ya something, a team coached by Michel Therrien coaches does not play to its strengths. At all. Ever. It is a "defensive" system in the same way a cup with a hole in the bottom holds water. Marc Bergevin has created a horrific homunculus of a team that is both really good and really bad at the same time, and has entrusted this roster full of genuine talent and "character" guys (read: huge reaches that tell corny jokes to make the coach laugh) to a french-speaking bulldog obsessed with shot blocking without leaving the zone. This team could go Negative Zero very...very...VERY fast. Will this mean this finally translates to regular wins against the Habs? Signs seem to point towards yes.
Whatever the case, I will be laughing at your ultimate fate, Montreal.
Last Year's Performance: 5th in Division
Key New Players: Chris Kelly
Key Leaves: Alex Chiasson,
Man, an internal cap's a bitch, ain't it.
While Chris Kelly staying in division so we can still see him and reminisce is nice, the Ottawa roster is still kinda...Top Heavy. And not very defense oriented.
Mika Zibanejad, Kyle Turris and Jean-Gabriel Pageau are all good...but they're not good at defense. Dion Phaneuf is a good player, but he's not a perfect defender. the rest of his defense corps, while decent, didn't do enough to take this team back to the playoffs.
Really, the only players you can say for 100% certain who were good the whole way through were Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson.
But here's the thing: They still do have Mark Stone and Erik Karlsson, and with arbitration will get Mike Hoffman and those three can help those underwhelming defensive players like Pageau succeed and overcome their strengths. There is hope in there somewhere for Ottawa, they just gotta be REALLY lucky that they find it in time, or they'll likely be in the same position they were this year.
Namely, they can't have an injury list six miles long. So while they are talented, they're still very much a Cool team.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Last Years Performance: 2nd in Division, ECF Runner up
Key New Players: Not about who left, more about who stayed
Key Leaves: Looking to be Kucherov or Bishop, but neither have confirmed. Matt Carle
Assessment: what kinda crazy wizard powers does Steve Yzerman have that allowed him to not only keep Steven Stamkos for under 9 million bucks, but also sign Victor Hedman until he retires? That's just not fair, man.
So yeah. Tampa's still an Eastern Conference contender because the man in charge is a freaking mastermind. They have talented forwards, they have a mind-boggling 1-2 punch in Anton Stralman and Victor Hedman on their first pairing on the blueline, and a pretty solid setup in goal.
At least, for the time being.
Extending Vasilevskiy has put the future of Ben Bishop in serious question, and one can only wonder if he ends up leaving due to cap concerns or because of a trade that somehow benefits them even more because Steve Yzerman says so. I dunno man, the Bruins usually manage to play them pretty well, but ultimately jettisoning one of their not good players can only mean some hidden gem or something will replace Matt Carle. This team is Hot and by magic they stay hot.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Last Year's Performance: Last in the league, but that's on purpose
Key New Players: Auston Matthews, Roman Polak
Key Leaves: Jonathan Bernier, Jared Cowen...eventually
Assesment: Toronto fans have a lot to be happy about this upcoming season. The tank worked, they have that once in a lifetime kinda player who could easily help their team catapult themselves back into the playoff picture, and now it falls to the ever shrewd Lou Lamiorello to fill in the final pieces to make them great again!
Unfortunately, the "final pieces" might be a little bigger than fans would like to admit.
Frederik Andersen is a slight upgrade from Jonathan Bernier. And while the defense is promising...they still are a bunch of unproven players, and they are also paying Roman freaking Polak to play in Blue and White. with Matt Hunwick presumedly returning as well. That might not exactly work out in their favor. And while sure, some might defend the move with the stock answer of "VETERAN PRESENCE" or say in a more pragmatic mood "He'll obviously get dealt for picks at the Deadline..." That person might've forgotten how long it is between Game 1, and the first game after the Trade deadline. It may not seem like much now? Well, those games of lousy defensive play can add up.
Just ask the Sharks.
Otherwise, the forward group is promising. Nylander is a 1st liner waiting to happen, and it'll be borderline criminal to have both Matthews and him as centers one and two. Nazem Kadri can finally get some relief in not having to be the best player on the team, Tyler Bozak will-oh right....he's still there, isn't he? And Brooks Laich too? oh, and JvR is still around?
Yeah, as it turns out the dirty little secret of Toronto's game is that while they have plenty of genuinely talented players coming their way, they're still VERY hamstrung by a ton of useless contracts and players that, while they seem alright on the outside, the depressing reality is that they're pretty baaaaad defensively. Leaving a core that, while it now falls to Matthews and Nylander to carry the torch, may watch as their teammates get torched.
Other than that, they're much better than the Absolute zero they were before the draft. But they've only managed to make it up to about a Cool on the basis that some of those players that were promising may return in favor of the older, more experienced players that Babcock likes. if they do come back? The team is a surprising, but not unwelcome Medium.
That's it for the Atlantic, next time, we look to the Metropolitan division to see where any potential threats to the Bruins season may lie.
Thank you for reading, and remember, stay vigilant!