By: Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards
For the Boston Bruins to compete for another Stanley Cup, their offensive production will have to improve from all four lines, particularly in even-strength situations. The talk has mostly been about adding a capable scoring threat at right-wing for the second line with center David Krejci. This is a significant need along with a left-shot defenseman to potentially replace Torey Krug, who may not re-sign with Boston. However, the Bruins also need more production from the bottom two lines and will need to solidify who will play regularly in those roles.
A big question mark that needs to be answered entering into next season is whether young players such as Anders Bjork, Karson Kuhlman, and Jack Studnicka can progress into productive NHL players. The hope is that Studnicka can be the spark the second line needs and use his talents to become the next Bruins star. He might even be a fit on the top line with David Pastrnak moving down to play with Krejci. Kuhlman is a restricted free agent who has shown great speed and a decent skill set but needs to be more consistent to remain in the lineup. However, general manager Don Sweeney has to decide if Kuhlman’s potential is worthy of a contract. The feeling is that Bjork will get a long look as a third-line winger with Charlie Coyle at center.
If the makeup of the roster does not significantly change and management believes that holes can be filled with in-house prospects, then this is what I would like to see for line rushes as the 2020-21 season begins in December or early January:
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Jack Studnicka
Jake DeBrusk (if re-signed)-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Anders Bjork-Charlie Coyle-Ondrej Kase
Trent Frederic-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner
Ondrej Kase was a midseason addition who did not produce as much as the team had hoped and then missed some time when the group entered the bubble. He never seemed to get himself into a rhythm, and his point production suffered. I think he may be better suited for the third line with Coyle as both players have had good puck possession numbers.
The fourth line is very intriguing and could be a real strength for Bruce Cassidy’s team. Wagner and Kuraly have both shown an excellent ability to hunt pucks and provide some offense while in the lineup. The addition of Frederic could ultimately complement them well. The former University of Wisconsin star has shown promise at the American Hockey League level with Providence. He is a grinding player who can play center and wing and has a feisty side which the Bruins would welcome on their roster. Frederic would replace unrestricted free agent Joakim Nordstrom, who will more than likely sign elsewhere. Par Lindholm is also in the mix with one year remaining on his deal. The time is now to see what the Bruins have in Frederic.
With all of the uncertainty facing the Bruins this offseason, the team may be in an excellent position to roll out two good bottom-six lines to begin next season. This will be paramount in terms of competing with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who made significant changes to their bottom-six this past season. With talk that the Bruins may not spend to the cap limit going into the upcoming campaign, the organization’s player development program will be on full display in 2020-21 and could be the reason the window stays open one more season for the Boston Bruins.