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Midseason state of the Bruins: Same problems, just harder.

What else do you say when you’ve been hammering home one singular point for almost a year and a half and it’s still the big problem?

Change generally does not have an end goal in mind.

It’s often that people assume that change in and of itself is either good or bad in any way, shape or form. The reality of change is that is simply does as it does, creates a new reality, and we react to the new reality. NHL Hockey changes all the damn time and is going to keep doing that until the league folds or becomes something else, because that too is change. Teams change all the time as well: captains change, goalies change, depth changes and prospects move all around. While yes, motive can definitely be added to change, but most of the time, change will just kind of...happen, whether or not it’s warranted or needed. And it’s up to those players, as well as the ones who didn’t change, to make it work.

And what makes this current stretch of losses so frustrating is that it once again feels so...familiar. A frustrating constant in spite of all the change that went into this version of the Boston Bruins. Needed, intended, or not.

The Moebius Strip of Ups and Downs

Last year when I did one of these, the feeling I’d had was one of confusion over why it was still an issue for the B’s when they were demolishing the league pretty much every night. And much of the positives from last year still kind of apply to this one! The goalies are playing incredible hockey (when they’re healthy)! the defense is strong (when it’s healthy)! The first line still rules! Nick Ritchie is the surprise of the year by being an impressive net-front presence!

But man, how foolish I was, knowing that soon every part of the frustration side would not just rear it’s ugly head again, but be so prevalent.

  • Pretty much half of all goals scored by this team have been scored by a single line.
  • Coyle has scored 8 points in 25 games, and is possibly on pace to have one of his worst seasons in recent memory in terms of fancystats of any kind, as well as some of the lowest point totals in his career.
  • Pretty much any middle six winger you can consider has less than 5 even strength goals scored, and that does include Ritchie. Again.
  • Kuraly and Wagner have regressed back into borderline replacement level players. AGAIN.
  • The team’s got about six players or so on injured reserve...AGAIN.

The Boston Bruins are not just a one line team. The are a one line team that needs one line to be the best in the league on that particular night, or they’re not scoring much at best, or not winning at the absolute worst. And that’s absolutely maddening, because when they’re not sending a whole line of players off to Mass General, they could still very easily make the playoffs!

The East turned out to be kind of hard to be bad in, and if you are, you EARN that right by not winning a game for like a month or so and being basically a bad goal-against from having a fight among your own teammates or something! They absolutely can break this streak! Y’know, if half their team wasn’t watching the games from a waiting area labelled “Beth Isreal”.

But the frustration fans are feeling is in something that, try as they might, the Bruins top brass has somehow failed to change in spite of the consistent effort in doing so. Problem players or frustrating players have been excised and replaced, AHLers have graduated and not been completely demolished, and picks traded like halloween candy to hopefully get the proper, desired change of “good at scoring goals when ten skaters are on the ice”, and it’s largely been nothing but window-dressing. Cassidy’s system works, but the man plugging the pieces together has ultimately failed to allow it to thrive in spite of it all. The Bruins can still control the shot share, but still can’t translate it into even-strength goals. The Bruins defense is still systematically strong, but can’t overcome it’s offensive deficiencies:

  • Dependent on the man-advantage which has only gotten worse in the time in-between. Same as it ever was.
  • Injured to hell and back for the fourth consecutive year. Same as it ever was.
  • A fourth line living off of reputation and years past it’s sell-by date. Same as it ever was.
  • A lineup constantly in flux. Same as it ever was.
  • Right back where you started in 2018-19. And maybe even a little before that. Same as it ever was.
  • And a prospect pool that is ultimately only barely deep enough to compensate for all that. Same as it, ever was.
  • Completely unable to attack the slot. Same as it ever wa-okay, that one is actually a new development, but I don’t have to like it.

Sweeney’s probably going to have to do something, and fast.

He’s said he’d entertain the idea, and we’ve called for similar action as well. He knows it, too, because it’s probably more than just fans breathing down his neck; the future of this team is one that the Jacobs family sees only in playoffs. Not playoff success, mind you. Playoffs in the abstract: the ones that get fans in seats. That get playoff dollars. That recoup the costs of playing a truncated season.

And we’re getting pretty uncomfortably close to the point in this core’s time as NHLers where that’s going to get harder and harder to do without major help or major shakeups. Ones that could start doing some bad things to the core of this team in order to make it happen. But he’s gotta start doing it, or he’s more than likely going to be in a lot of trouble. From fans, and from on high, who are now more aware than ever that a vast majority of what makes this team special only has a few bright spots that he can say that he had a hand in.

Until he does however, we’re stuck waiting, and hoping the team gets healthy, and hoping the team gets back into more comfortable position in the playoffs with what they have.