Editor’s note: Chris wrote this piece before the Zdeno Chara news broke, so adjust your reading accordingly.
Could the Bruins miss the playoffs in 2021?
The obvious technical answer is ‘yes,’ as any of the 31 teams in the NHL COULD miss the playoffs and each year, and 15 teams actually do miss out on the post-season.
So perhaps a better question would be “what is the likelihood of the Bruins missing the playoffs this upcoming season?”
And while many Bruins fans may hate to recognize it, the chances of the Bruins missing the playoffs this year are much greater than they’ve been in a long time for a number of reasons.
The quality of competition is arguably greater
One of the primary reasons for a potentially disappointing season is the competition Boston will face for one of the 4 playoff spots in its new division.
The NHL did not do the Bruins any favors when re-aligning the divisions this fall for the upcoming shortened season.
Last season, Boston was one of just three teams in the Atlantic division to record 80+ points, with the Lightning and the Leafs being the other two.
In Boston’s new division, they will face 4 teams that recorded 80+ and a promising Rangers squad that ended last season with 79 points.
Its obvious that the Capitals have had their way with Boston over the last 8 years or so, but the B’s have struggled against against the Flyers over the past 2 years as well, going 2-5.
The Bruins were 3-3 against the Penguins during the same period.
Add in the fact that the Rangers and Sabres both look improved over last season and that the Islanders will be as stingy as ever with Barry Trotz behind the bench, and it’s easy to see the Bruins will have their hands full with their opponents next season.
The Bruins suddenly young defense could falter
With Torey Krug signing in St. Louis
and Chara's future up in the air (see editor’s note above), the Bruins' defense looks a whole lot younger and more inexperienced than in 2019-2020.
There's a real possibility that Boston could, all at once, dress two 23-year-old prospects in Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril to go along with Charlie McAvoy (23), Brandon Carlo (24), and Matt Grzelcyk (26).
And while the latter three have proved their merit in the NHL in their short careers, they've typically been flanked by veteran defenseman, in some cases to provide backup for defensive lapses.
Besides John Moore and Kevan Miller, that veteran presence has left the building.
The Bruins’ young defense will be thrown into a 'sink or swim' scenario, with sinking being a real possibility.
You have to wonder: can the Bruins current d-men line up against the likes of Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Panarin, Eichel, Hall etc. on a nightly basis? We'll soon find out.
Where does the secondary scoring come from?
Doesn’t it feel like we’ve been asking this question for 5 years now?
While most will agree that adding Craig Smith should provide a few more goals to the middle six, there are still questions about where the Bruins will get their secondary scoring.
Ondrej Kase and Jake DeBrusk could certainly do this, but their 2019-20 seasons didn't instill a lot of confidence in many Bruins fans. Kase didn't score a single goal as a Bruin, and DeBrusk, while scoring 19 goals last season, dropped in his goals per game and points per game rates from his previous season.
To make matters worse for Boston, they could also be without the services of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak at the beginning of the next season. If this is the case, the Bruins may not just be looking for secondary scoring, but also primary scoring.
Finally there's also the question of what removing Torey Krug from the lineup will have on the Bruins' overall offense.
His impact will obviously be felt on the power play, but how about 5v5, where the Bruins struggled to score all season?
Father time finally catching up
The Bruins have had the luxury of consistent performances from Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask for many years now, but at some point, all players (even the greatest to ever play the game) experience the effects of aging.
And even though all three played very well last season, there has to be a gradual decline at some point. The upcoming compressed season could be the catalyst for one or more of these guys to experience some kind of slowdown in 2021.
If that happens, the Bruins simply may not have the depth in their lineup to make up for any of these three veterans struggling next season.
Of course, all of this is extremely premature, as the season hasn’t even started yet.
However, we should confront the fact that these are stark possibilities in 2021.
The Bruins have had one of the best decades in franchise history, but it would be prudent for management to recognize these very real possibilities and to start addressing them.
How optimistic are you feeling about the Bruins’ upcoming season? Could they actually miss the playoffs next season? Is this article complete nonsense? Discuss below!