By: Mike Cratty | Follow Me On Twitter @Mike_Cratty
One of the most unorthodox offseasons in the history of the NHL hasn’t been the best one for the Bruins. Losing Torey Krug and missing out on multiple top free agents has plagued this offseason for some people across the hockey world. Regardless, when looking at this team, I find it hard to imagine them not entrenched in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Potential divisional relocation could make things interesting in that regard as well.
The Canadiens and Maple Leafs are the two teams in particular that are going magnify any issues that the Bruins have this season. Whenever they slip up, everyone is going to default to not doing enough in the offseason and/or that the Canadiens and Maple Leafs had better offseason showings than them. This is fair, to an extent, but I hope it doesn’t get too obnoxious.
The additions of Craig Smith and Greg McKegg are not bad, at all. But they pale in comparison to Tyler Toffoli, Josh Anderson, Joel Edmundson, and potentially top defensive prospect Alexander Romanov in Montreal. Plus Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, TJ Brodie, Zach Bogosian, and Mikko Lehtonen in Toronto. I’d even throw acquiring Joey Anderson in with the group. I really think he could fit there when he gets a look.
(Video Credit: Maverick Highlights on YouTube)
Furthermore, on season storylines for the Bruins, next offseason’s big thing will be not doing enough to compete if they underachieve in a run at the Stanley Cup. It won’t just be a thing during the season, if an underwhelming season is what we get. Until the Bruins give you a reason to believe otherwise, it’s not outlandish to say the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs are the better teams right now.
If they can’t keep up, Don Sweeney could find himself in a tough spot. That’s a big “could.” Even after having to make some maneuvers for cap space, the Stanley Cup champion Lightning will be in the mix as well. Right now, I don’t see teams like the Panthers and Sabres being too big of threats. I actually wonder if Mike Hoffman gravitates back to the Panthers after the waiting game is all said and done.
Whether Zdeno Chara returns to the Bruins or not, young players are going to be especially relied on. The average of the current Bruins defensive core is 24.8 years old, according to CapFriendly, which is subject to change. But the point stands, young players are going to need to take on more responsibility. How a different-looking defensive core affects the performance of the team as a whole including the goaltenders will be interesting to monitor.
Starting the season off without Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak could be dicey. So we won’t get a glimpse at this team’s full potential right away. Their absences could be huge a big factor in Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka solidifying NHL jobs. In my eyes, there’s no doubt either of them are NHL ready, it’s just a matter of finding a role for them in a perfect world.
I could have waited to write this on the off chance that someone like Hoffman, Anthony Duclair, or Mikael Granlund sign with the Bruins, but I think Don Sweeney is done, personally. Everything that happens, especially if the season is shortened, is going to be heavily scrutinized and magnified whether the team is a bonafide cup contender or not.