By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards
The Boston Bruins have been one of the top teams in the National Hockey League for the last decade. The Bruins have been to three Stanley Cup Finals and won the ultimate prize in 2011. Boston has done it with a solid nucleus led by captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captains Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Over a ten year period, the team has had two varying styles. Former head coach Claude Julien preached a more conservative style based on fair defensive play and careful exit from the defensive zone. The Bruins perfected this style in winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and advancing to the Cup Finals in 2013, only to lose a heartbreaking Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks.
But Julien’s style was wearing thin in Boston, and management wanted the Bruins to play a more up-tempo style with more speed and skill and jettisoned Julien for Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy implemented a more offensive attack that emphasized advancing the puck ahead and attacking, which would elevate the skill set of goal scorers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Bergeron also experienced an increase in point production under Cassidy. Under Cassidy, the Bruins have a .682 points percentage and have been an elite team. It is hard to argue that the change in style has been an excellent move for the organization.https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
However, in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals against a heavier, more physical St. Louis Blues team, the Bruins seemed to wear down, which resulted in a Game 7 home loss and a missed opportunity that could haunt the organization for years. The loss also had many diehard Bruins fans screaming for something they always harp on, “They need to be more physical!! Now, after a second-round exit courtesy of a bigger Tampa Bay Lightning team, the Bruins are faced with a decision of whether to find more speed and skill to coincide with today’s fast NHL or get back to their roots, which is physical, heavier play.
Traditional Boston Bruins fans love blue-collar players who play hard and sacrifice every night, even they lack elite talent. This is why fans loved Milan Lucic, but great frustrated with David Krejci. Krejci is entering the argument of a top ten player in Bruins history, while Lucic’s game is now in Calgary and has deteriorated quickly. But it is hard to tell Bruins fans that the game has changed. Players in today’s game have a hard time playing heavy and banging bodies every night for eighty-two games plus the postseason. The league has become more about puck possession and speed. The Bruins have been amongst the best in the league in both categories, but have eventually lost to bigger, stronger teams.
So what does general manager Don Sweeney do now? The team has some holes to fill and could use a right-wing to play with Krejci and some bottom-six depth. The Bruins could fill these needs within the organization with 21-year-old Jack Studnicka and maybe grinding center Trent Frederic. The other alternative would be a go outside the organization to improve the club and add some scoring and more physicality. Other young prospects in the Boston system are more diminutive like Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn, and neither player may be an upgrade from what is there now. The Bruins tried to add some size at the trading deadline by acquiring Nick Ritchie in exchange for Danton Heinen. Ritchie did not bring much of a physical presence and had difficulty generating offense. The result was a reminder that acquiring bigger, physical players is not enough.
So, from here, Sweeney and team president Cam Neely, the ultimate power forward in a much different NHL of years ago, must find some scoring touch to create more balanced scoring and increased productivity in five on five play. While doing this, the Bruins must get bigger to fend off teams like the Lightning. Bruins fans would love a big winger like Josh Anderson (6’3”, 222-pounds) from the Columbus Blue Jackets or Zack Kassian (6’3”, 207-pounds) from the Edmonton Oilers. Maybe one of those wingers finds a home in Boston and settles in on a line with Krejci or third-line center Charlie Coyle. But there is always the concern that one of these heavy power forwards becomes another Nick Ritchie rather than Cam Neely, regardless of how much Bruins fans clamor for more “old-time hockey.”