( Photo Credit: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers )

By: Theo Lander | Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo

The Bruins roster as it stands today is incomplete. They are a borderline playoff-caliber team with a lot of upside potential that may overperform, given their talent level. However, how they play in the opening months of the year will make or break their season. On the sidelines due to injury are top defenseman Charlie McAvoy, top forward Brad Marchand, and Matt Grzelyck. The Bruins roster already left a lot to be desired when at full strength, but with those key contributors missing a large stretch of time to start the year, this team mustn’t lead off the year already in the hole.

Even if the team keeps its head above water in the meantime, who’s to say those players will return at 100%? The aforementioned trio is missing time due to some serious off-season surgeries that could potentially alter the rest of their careers. It is important to note that many players have gone through similar surgeries and returned to play at their previous level, but still, you never know how an athlete will bounce back from these serious procedures.

One thing is for sure; if the Boston Bruins cannot remain competitive with the rest of the division while missing Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelyck, they are in big trouble. The type of trouble prohibits them from participating in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Goaltending Situation

Currently, the Bruins have two evenly matched NHL starting goalie-caliber netminders. Jeremy Swayman posted a .914 save percentage and a 2.41 goals-against average last year at just 23 years old. His counterpart, Linus Ullmark, played at a similar level, with a .917 save percentage and a 2.45 goals-against average. There has been plenty of debate amongst the fanbase over which pairing should command the starting role.

Given their similar statistics, it’s not such a clear-cut call to make. Swayman is much younger than Ullmark, with a seemingly much higher ceiling. Since this is the case, I think it would be wise not to overwhelm Swayman with a high volume of games this year. Unless Ullmark begins to play at a significantly lower level, it makes the most sense to me to split the games evenly between the two. Then, when it comes playoff time (huge, maybe there, but regardless), the team can make the call on who deserves to lead the team in the postseason. Any NHL team planning on winning a Stanley Cup (which should be all of them, to be honest) shouldn’t run their starting goalie into the ground with an overly demanding regular season schedule.

Since the Bruins don’t have a definitive number one goalie, I can’t see why they would choose one netminder over the other. Give the goalies 41 games apiece, then make that call when the time comes.

David Krejci

David Krejci has been the Boston Bruins’ white whale ever since his abrupt departure in 2021. His offensive output remained consistent until he left the team, but how will he fare now, having taken a year away from the NHL? Playing back home in the Czech Republic for Olomouc HC, David was 12th in league scoring, totaling 46 points in 51 games.

The main takeaway from this should be that Krejci could perform at a high level while still playing in a volume of games comparable to an NHL schedule. Had he been just coming off the couch to rejoin the Bruins, then yes, I would be much more concerned about his ability to compete in this league. However, this is not the case, and he has proved he can still play soundly. His success is crucial, though, as the Bruins do not have a clear-cut second-line center that can fill his role if Krejci underperforms. This shouldn’t be much of a problem, as he will likely play alongside Taylor Hall and perhaps David Pastrnak for stretches of the season.

We all know what David Krejci is capable of when he gets to play with top-level wingers, and it seems like he’ll get the opportunity to prove just that this year. Regardless, this remains a big question mark for the Bruins heading into this season.

David Pastrnak’s extension

When this article was written, David Patrnak did not have a contract extension signed with the Boston Bruins. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney commented on this situation earlier this month

“Ongoing would be the best way to describe it. We’ve been in regular communication. Obviously, David (Pastrnak) is still in Europe and the likelihood is he’ll come back. We’ll talk between now and then. (When) he gets back we’ll maybe have a better idea of a deal timeline but I don’t have one today.” Sweeney continued by mentioning, “We’ve made our intentions known all along and we’ll continue to do that, and we’ll go from there. As far as entering the season (without an extension), we have no problem with it.” 

Don Sweeney August 10th, 2022

The switch in attitude from earlier in the offseason when Sweeney mentioned that the team would be “aggressive” in extending David Pastrnak is alarming. Suddenly, the team’s direction went from being aggressive to get a deal done to being fine with entering the season without an extension in place. This leaves the door wide open for fans to speculate, for reporters to question David and Sweeney throughout the season about this situation, and ultimately for this to be a distraction for the team.

If this deal doesn’t get done before the season and the team underperforms, how does that affect Pastrnak’s decision? What happens if we find out that this truly is Bergeron and Krejci’s final season? What if Marchand and McAvoy don’t return to their former forms? So many things could go wrong between now and the end of the season to sway Pastrnak in either direction.

Unfortunately, if he decides to leave and test the open market, the Bruins will be reduced to mediocrity overnight. David Pastrnak is a generational talent on offense who was robbed of a potential 50-goal season by the 2020 pandemic, and this team absolutely cannot afford to lose him. No pressure, though; just get the deal done, and this all goes away. Until that happens, consider this a dark cloud over the 2022-2023 season that is already forecasted to be a bumpy road.

Jim Montgomery

For as many question marks as this team has heading into the 2022-2023 season, Jim Montgomery may just be the great equalizer. However, he is walking into a less-than-ideal situation. As I wrote earlier in this off-season, Montgomery has been somewhat of a player whisperer, especially with young talent. He had many years of college success, which has so far translated to a respectable NHL career. His ability to get the most out of his players is crucial this year, given the current roster and the young talent that will potentially be cycling in and out of the lineup.

Montgomery has the capabilities to have a sub-par roster perform above expectations, which will be critical for this team’s future. Suppose the Bruins are able to mesh better together under Montgomery. In that case, it increases the likelihood of Pastrnak re-signing, of Bergeron and Krejci sticking around, and on top of that, it would open the door for younger players to contribute more at the NHL level. Jim Montgomery represents the light at the end of the tunnel, the last hope for Bruins fans to keep this ship steering straight. If he cannot connect with this team, then the Bruins are in deep trouble.

Like everything else listed in this piece, Montgomery’s success is integral to the short-term trajectory of this franchise. If he fails to do so, consider this season a wash.