By: Mike Sullivan | Follow me on Twitter: @_MikeSullivan
The beginning of this upcoming Bruins’ season will most likely boost or bust their season. Brad Marchand has undergone surgery on both hips, and the Bruins don’t expect him back in the lineup until sometime in December. In addition, Matt Grzelcyck will be unavailable until mid-November due to shoulder surgery.
Charlie McAvoy had some work done on his left shoulder and won’t be back until December.
The Bruins will be missing two foundational players in McAvoy and Marchand for at least 25 games, maybe 20 if they’re lucky. In addition, the team will be without Grzelcyck for 15-20 games.
The Marchand injury opens the door for Jake DeBrusk to play first-line minutes with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. The McAvoy/Grzelcyck injuries clear a spot for Jakub Zboril and Jack Ahcan to step up and prove they can be a reliable top-six defensemen.
The case is a strong one for Jake DeBrusk. I believe DeBrusk will have a career season in 2022-2023. He’s going to be shot out of a cannon. He has proven to management that he can be reliable and productive when Cassidy split up the first and second line hoping to diversify the offense. Jake was able to be a reliable winger on a line with Marchand and Bergeron, rarely dragging that line down. Now, the question is, can he be as dependable or even more reliable when playing with David Pastrnak? I believe so.
If the Bruins expect to be a playoff team come late April, the beginning of their season will have to be dynamite. There’s no time to find their game when you’re missing two stars in your lineup. If the first two months of the season go poorly, climbing out of that hole will be tough by the time Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyck return. Especially when the Atlantic Division got tougher. I.e., Ottawa and Detroit. If things start poorly in Boston, don’t expect an easy catchup to teams like the Senators, Red Wings, or even the Sabres! (maybe) Start strong.
DeBrusk will have to be a significant key early into the season. I mean, MAJOR key. I believe in staying positive and looking on the bright side. With Jim Montgomery behind the bench, I think DeBrusk will be more comfortable on the ice leading to more creativity from him. We’ve seen flashes of offensive talent from DeBrusk in the past. The problem is that it always seems to flare out. I don’t think that’s going to be the case this season. I’m predicting a 60-70 point season from DeBrusk with at least 25 goals.
Jack Ahcan is an undersized defenseman at five foot eight inches and 185 pounds. That’s minuscule for an NHL defenseman and could realistically put an NHL career out of reach. Here’s the thing, Ahcan is skilled, he has reliable hockey sense, and he’s savvy in the offensive zone, but when you picture a player like Tom Wilson or Andrei Svechnikov barreling down the ice with him on a one-on-one, Ahcan will rarely win that battle. He doesn’t have the size and strength needed to force those bulls to a stop. They will beat him nine times out of ten. I have more confidence in a guy like Jakub Zboril, but that being said, I think Ahcan still gets some looks.
Former 13th overall pick by Sweeney in 2015, Zboril has yet to live up to his ceiling. He’s still young. He’s 25 years old and stands six foot two inches and 185 pounds. Zboril is strong, he’s big, but can he stay healthy? When Zboril plays, he isn’t a liability out there. He’s played in 54 NHL games and has a career +/- of +1 with 12 points. I understand those numbers don’t blow anybody out of the water, but I think it’s a foundation that you can consider and gauge what kind of player he could turn out to be IF he’s able to stay healthy and give you an entire season. I could see Zboril slide in with Lindholm on the right side and keep the other defensive pairings locked in. By the way, I vote to play Zboril over Clifton. I cannot take any more of “Cliffy hockey.” Click below to see how new acquisition Pavel Zacha may impact Zboril.
Watch Taylor Hall closely. This isn’t criticizing his game whatsoever BUT and it’s a big but, he needs to be a top three producer for the first 25 games. He needs to be reliable night in and night out. Hall had 61 points in 81 games last season, which is excellent as a second-line winger. In the first 25 games, I’m looking for Hall to have at least 20 points. He needs to be driving that second line every game. He’s going to get power play time and will be seeing 18:00-22:00 of ice time a game. Hall is at his best when he’s allowed space to utilize his creativity, and Montgomery will push for that.
One more guy who needs to have a good start is Derek Forbort. Forbort won’t be an offensive producer, but he can make up for that in the defensive end. The former Winnipeg Jet is a massive man standing at six foot four and 217 pounds. Forbort uses his size and strength to his advantage playing physically around the net and blocking shots. That was never more evident than in the playoffs against Carolina. He was a shot-blocking machine and needs to do the same to hold down the fort early in the season. He will likely be seeing top-four minutes in the absence of McAvoy.