(Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

By: Gayle Troiani | Follow me on Twitter @LadyBruinsFan

We all know how the 2021-22 NHL season ended for the Bruins. We all know what has happened following the Game 7 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs – Bruce Cassidy took the fall and lost his job, Jim Montgomery was named as his successor, Jake DeBrusk rescinded his trade request, the brass traded Erik Haula for Pavel Zacha, and the best news, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci signed team-friendly contracts bringing some excitement amongst Bruins fans. But amongst all that, three key members of the black and gold had offseason surgery, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Gryzelcyk leaving fans speculating whether or not the team can keep pace with the rest of the league, let alone the Atlantic Division.

On September 22, during the first week of training camps, The NHL.com and LNH.com staff members released their first Super 16 of the 2022-2023 season. To no one’s surprise, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche was at the top of the list. Of course, each team’s fans argued about where their faves landed on the list.

What could be a bit of a head-scratcher was eight of the 13 writers voted for the Bruins, which resulted in the black and gold ranking 15th, just ahead of the Washington Capitals. Earning 30 points to Washington’s 25, the Bruins were picked as high as number nine by Senior Rewrite Editor David Satriano and as low as 16th by Columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika.

“Three key players — forward Brad Marchand, and defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk — are recovering from surgeries and will not start the season. Their top two centers, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, are 37 and 36 respectively. This team has the pedigree to move up the rankings but only if it can fend off the injury bug and Father Time. For now I have them at No. 13, but clearly some of my colleagues think that’s generous.”

nhl.com writer Mike zeisberger

Despite the injuries, the Bruins have more depth than most realize. Even without Marchand starting the season, the black and gold will have two lines with scoring capability, whether Hall moves up to the top line with Bergeron and DeBrusk or stays on the second with Krejci and David Pastrnak. Another option is to give Fabian Lysell a chance to skate with Bergeron to start the season.

“I think he’s one of the best players in the world,” Lysell said about playing alongside his captain in camp. “It’s just the overall game and all the small details, how good he is with the stick and communicating.

“If there’s something coming up, he will talk about it right away, and you will understand really quickly, and you know what he means. You can kind of change up the route you’re going or whatever right away, so you just got to be alert all the time and try and take in as much as possible.”

And let’s not forget that Zacha needs a spot too. He may benefit from playing with Bergeron or Krejci. If not, a third line combination of Charlie Coyle, Craig Smith, and Zacha doesn’t sound too shabby either.

With key players side-lined, Montgomery will be tasked with finding the right combinations of youngsters like John Beecher, Jakub Lauko, and Jakub Zboril to compliment the veteran play of Bergeron, Krejci, Pastrnak, and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo.

Though the Bruins lost 2-1 in their first preseason game to Philadelphia, Montgomery had positive feedback for young defenseman Zboril.

“He just continues, from the first two days of camp, he just continues to impress,” the new bench boss said. “He’s a dominant player out there right now. Very impressive for a year off. Missing the whole season for him to have the confidence that his playing with the puck, right now; it’s really good.”

Bruins fans should remember Zboril’s 2021-2022 season was cut short after undergoing successful surgery last December to repair his torn ACL sustained by a clean, hard hit by Nashville’s Tanner Jeannot during a Bruins 2-0 victory over the Predators on December 2.

Montgomery will have more options on the back end if Zboril continues to impress. For example, instead of pairing Lindholm and Carlo as the top pairing, Montgomery could put Zboril with Lindholm, Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton, and Carlo with either Jack Achan or Mike Reilly. It’s not a bad place to be while waiting for your top defenseman McAvoy to complete his rehab.

The Bruins may have key components out of the lineup on October 12 when they face Washington for the season’s first game. Still, the depth of the team, coupled with the goaltending tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark, means the B’s cannot only tread water until Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelyck return, but it also means they don’t have to rush back before wholly healed. As a result, the Bruins can keep pace with other teams in their division. The biggest challenge may come in December when decisions on who sits and who plays need to be made.