Is Pasta a 2nd Line Dish That Could Be Served For The Bruins In 2020/21?

( Photo Credit: Getty Images )

by Matt Barry | Follow me on Twitter @oobcards

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, production was coming from all four lines. Even in 2019, the additions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson provided depth and solid 5 on 5 play from the third line. But the second line has provided inconsistent play and was a detriment to Bruce Cassidy’s team in the second round against a deeper Tampa Bay Lightning team this past season. A major offseason focus should be to finally get David Krejci a legitimate scorer on the right-wing. Could it be that the answer is already on the roster?

The “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak is widely considered one of the top lines in the National Hockey League. In recent seasons, the trio has dominated 5-on-5 play and had been a threat to score nearly every shift. However, this past season, the Bruins production numbers at even strength dipped which included their top line. The Bruins scored just five even-strength goals in their five-game series with Tampa Bay. The power play was excellent all season, but even-strength play will need to improve for the Black and Gold to get back to contending for a Stanley Cup.

General manager Don Sweeney will certainly attempt to address this need in the offseason. The Bruins could look outside of the organization to fill the second line right wing hole or try to give Ondrej Kase more time to build chemistry with David Krejci. The more creative move might be to move Pastrnak, one of the top goal scorers in the league, to the second line and give Krejci his first real goal-scoring threat since Nathan Horton. If Jake DeBrusk is re-signed, Boston could have a second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak. This would be more effective if someone like 21-year old Jack Studnicka, who showed flashes of being a top-six forward at the NHL level. The team could also deal DeBrusk and try to get a more consistent scorer who can possess the puck.

I would not advise the team to move third-line center Charlie Coyle up to the second line. Coyle has been terrific on the third line with his size and physicality. Ideally, Anders Bjork could continue to develop with Coyle or coach Bruce Cassidy could possibly slide Kase down to third-line duty. It will be imperative for Sweeney and team President Cam Neely to create more offensive attack across all four lines. The fourth line should still have Chris Wagner and Sean Kuraly providing good puck pursuit and some scoring ability. Former University of Wisconsin star Trent Frederic could slot in on that line as Joakim Nordstrom will probably not be retained. Par Lindholm has one year left on his deal, but did not provide much offensive production.

Having Pasta play with Krejci on the second line could create the offensive balance the team seeks. Much of this scenario depends on Studnicka. The thought here is that the team gives Studnicka a long, hard look on the first line. If it works out, it could provide a much better result than the team could find elsewhere, and at a much cheaper cost. If not, the Bruins will need to use money and, possibly, resources to find a linemate for Krejci.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Potential Boston Bruins X Factor?

( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

All over social media, you’ll find rumors circulating around the Boston Bruins. Within the Boston media, this tends to happen. You’ll hear the Bruins are chasing this player or have expressed interest in this player. There will almost certainly be changes coming to the roster for the 2020-2021 season, but what if I said that a player that can make a huge impact is right under our noses?

By now, every Bruins fan knows who Jack Studnicka is. Studnicka was drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in the 2nd round after the Bruins took Urho Vaakanianen with their first-round pick. Studnicka has been impressive ever since. In his first season after being drafted, he put up 72 points in 66 games as the Oshawa Generals captain in the Ontario Hockey League. After Oshawa was eliminated, he got a taste of the American Hockey League, putting up five points in five games with the Providence Bruins.

Jack Studnicka Oshawa Generals
( Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images )

It was at this point where Studnicka started to make some noise about competing for a roster spot. The problem, and it’s a great problem to have, is that the Bruins have a decent amount of depth, so it was challenging for Studnicka to crack the NHL roster at 19 years old.

He ended up getting sent back to juniors and didn’t miss a beat. He put up 83 points in 60 regular-season games between the Oshawa Generals and Niagara Ice Dogs. He even added a gold medal to his trophy case, winning the World Junior Championship with Team Canada.

Entering training camp again, he showed off his confidence. “My goal every year is to play in the NHL; it’s every player’s dream. I just want to be as comfortable as possible, limit my nerves, and play well,” Studnicka said. He got looks on the top line with Pastrnak and Marchand in some preseason games. Again, the depth was too deep for Studnicka to make an immediate impact, but he took some valuable lessons. “The leadership in that room speaks for itself, the older guys are really nice and made it really easy on the rookies and draftees. Being on a line with Marchy and Pasta was really cool, they were talking and trying different plays with me,” Studnicka said. “The biggest difference I noticed is the players, the pace is higher than juniors. It’s amazing how they just keep working and play at a high level so consistently. You can’t take a stride or two off otherwise, you’ll get beat.”

( Photo Credit: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images )

He ended up going back to Providence and having a tremendous 2019-2020 season in Providence leading the team with 23 goals and 49 points in 60 games. He played well enough to make his NHL debut and even added an assist in his two games in the big leagues. He even impressed so much in the bubble that he got into some playoff action.

Here is where I and every Bruins fan should get excited. The kid has raw talent that you just can’t teach. He kept up and even looked good in his NHL games. Keep in mind, he is only 21 years old. I like to compare his development to that of David Pastrnak’s. In no way am I setting some unreachable limit for Studnicka because that is a pretty hefty comparison, but let’s look as how far Pastrnak has come. Pastrnak spent some time in Providence and took to the NHL being smaller and having a tough time adjusting to the NHL level. Studnicka is in that same spot right now. What happened next? Pastrnak got older, gained experience, got bigger, and bloomed into a superstar. I think this offseason will be huge for Studnicka to get stronger and really be at that prime NHL level.

( Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer / Associated Press )

We all know Studnicka has the skill and the heart to succeed. I had the pleasure of talking to him in his junior days, and I can tell this player is confident, loves being in the Bruins organization, and wants to succeed. I firmly believe he can be a massive asset for the Bruins next season and the years to come.

Get ready Bruins fans, the future is here.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Do The Bruins Have A Potential Trading Partner In The Calgary Flames?

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By: Dan Anderson | Follow Me On Twitter @DanAnderson5970

As the aging core lineup for the Boston Bruins has limited time to win another Stanley Cup, Don Sweeney has been busy trying to find the right combination of players to put the team over the top. Trades for Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase in recent seasons have not worked as planned. With free agency pending October 9th, 2020, the Bruins are looking, aggressively, for upgrades.

One such team that the Bruins could target is the Calgary Flames, and two players specifically: Noah Hanifin and Johnny Gaudreau. Hanifin is a similar player to Brandon Carlo in both age and playing style but plays left defense. There is a difference in contracts in that Carlo becomes an RFA after next season while currently making $2.85M. Hanifin is under contract through 2024 at $4.95M. With Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara both UFAs as of October 9th, and Matt Grzelcyk an RFA at that time, John Moore is currently the only left defenseman on the roster.

Would the Bruins consider a straight-up trade? In theory, Hanifin and McAvoy become the first line, Grzelcyk and likely Jeremy Lauzon become the second line, with Chara coming back for one more year paired with Connor Clifton on the third line. Calgary might like this trade to add a right-handed shot, as they currently are overloaded with left shooting defensemen.

Gaudreau is apparently on the trading block. Arguably their best player, he isn’t far removed from thirty plus goal seasons and close to one hundred points. He would undoubtedly be an immediate upgrade if the Bruins decided to trade Jake DeBrusk, an upcoming RFA, who will be looking for a pay raise over his 863K rookie deal. Gaudreau is four years older and carries a contract that pays him $6.75M through the 2021-2022 season. Both Gaudreau and Hanifin played at Boston College for Jerry York’s Eagles. Hanifin was born in Boston.

While on paper, this deal would appear to favor the Bruins short term, Gaudreau and Hanifin for Carlo and DeBrusk with other possible add ons, there are some concerns. If this trade is made, it is highly unlikely the Bruins could sign Torey Krug. Might his rights be part of the deal? I don’t know that Krug would want to play there, but Calgary doesn’t have an offensive defenseman. Calgary is also weak at left wing, with ex-Bruin Milan Lucic on the third line, and at center, where the Bruins have several prospects. Could Nick Ritchie be sent to Calgary? Gaudreau would address some offensive concerns but adds another smaller player to a team trying to get bigger. Adding cap space might be attractive for the Flames as they are likely rebuilding.

The Bruins are also light on picks early in this year’s draft with no first or second-round choice currently. Calgary is without their third, and fourth-round picks this year, so a draft pick exchange would seem unlikely and make a possible trade harder, but it’s not hard to see why the Bruins might want to add both Hanifin and Gaudreau.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Could Boston’s Charlie McAvoy Be A Norris Trophy Contender Next Season?

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Tyler Smith | Follow Me On Twitter @foxboro_ty

After the sting of a second-round postseason loss, unfulfilled expectations, and a window closing, the Bruins have many questions going into next season. One development that could go a long way toward keeping the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup contenders for the next decade is the emergence of Charlie McAvoy and his potential as a Norris Trophy candidate as the best defenseman in the National Hockey League.

I know…I know…you are probably thinking to yourself, “Emergence?” McAvoy is already the Bruins’ number one defenseman as he leads the team in average time on ice with over twenty-three minutes per game. The former BU standout was the leader among all Bruins’ defensemen in blocked shots and hits while posting a +24 plus-minus rating in 2019-2020. McAvoy’s defensive game is exceptional and continues to improve game to game. Charlie’s offensive game has shown improvement as he tied a career-high in points with thirty-two; however, McAvoy’s defensive game is still ahead of his offense. Some say McAvoy would be better suited to play with a more mobile partner like Matt Grzelcyk to open up his offensive game. With the almost certain reduced roll of Zdeno Chara (if he returns), it appears McAvoy will get that chance.

Charlie McAvoy has had moments where he takes over games and is the best player on the ice. The 22-year old is making great outlet passes, rushing the puck, jumping up into the offense, shooting more often, and delivering bone-crushing hits. This is the player the Bruins need on a more consistent basis. Developing this consistency is the difference between the elite players in the league and the very good players. Jake DeBrusk is a perfect example as the left-winger is streaky and looks like a forty goal scorer for a month and then disappears for games at a time.

Victor Hedman is widely regarded as one of the best defensemen in the game today and had his breakout season with the Tampa Bay Lightning five years into his career, one of those years being a strike-shortened season. Essentially it was four full years into the league before Hedman established himself as elite. The 2020-21 season will be McAvoy’s fourth year in the NHL. It is time for the young star to put it all together. Though the defense is there and is getting better, it is the offense that needs to make “the leap.”

McAvoy needs to shoot the puck more. The Bruins rearguard has 257 total shots in 184 career games. That is not enough for a top-pair defenseman with his skill set. Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators had 260 shots on goal in 2019-2020 alone. Not having enough power-play time is affecting those numbers. The Bruins defenseman should see more time on the first power-play unit this upcoming season with the probable departure of Torey Krug. McAvoy’s passing has always been exceptional and will be an asset if inserted as the power-play quarterback and increases his point totals.

McAvoy is an underrated skater with a powerful stride and good speed, which allows him to join the rush while having the ability to recover if plays do not materialize. Charlie delivers big hits and physicality, some of which change game momentum and energize the team. With a few improvements and continued development, the Long Beach, New York native has all the tools to be the next great Bruins defenseman and become the dominating presence on the back end that the Bruins envisioned when selecting him in the first round of the 2016 draft. I am predicting a breakout season for McAvoy with over 10 goals and over 50 points. The twenty-two-year-old may sneak into the Norris conversation, and once number 73 gets talked about in that regard, he will remain there for years.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Should The Boston Bruins Trade Youth For Experience?

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By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

As the National Hockey League offseason approaches, The Boston Bruins seem to be at a crossroads when it comes to their roster for the 2020-21 season and beyond. General manager Don Sweeney will look to add some pieces to a squad that won the President’s Trophy as the best team in the league before the pandemic hit. When the team returned to play, a second-round exit was just around the corner, exposing some of the flaws that prevented the Bruins from reaching their ultimate goal.

First, we must consider the salary cap situation that faces Sweeney. Defenseman Torey Krug is an unrestricted free agent and seeking top dollar on the open market. The Bruins have approximately fifteen million dollars available and signing Krug seems to be a long shot. The void created by Krug’s departure creates a hole on the blue line and on the power play. The Bruins are already thin on the left side defensively. In-house options for Sweeney are young defensemen Urho Vaakanainen and Jakub Zboril who have each played sparingly at the NHL level. Let’s keep in mind that the Bruins Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011 had only one defenseman younger than 27, and that was Adam McQuaid.

Another left-shot defenseman, Zdeno Chara is approaching 44 years old and wants to return for maybe one last season with the team. The Bruins will probably sign him, but his skills have declined and he has struggled to match the speed of today’s game. Matt Grzelcyk is a restricted free agent and would be a logical choice to assume some of Krug’s responsibilities and ice time, but he is 26, and taking on a bigger role has its risks.

The 2011 team had a great mix of young talent and wily veterans. Brad Marchand was 22, Tyler Seguin was 19, and even Patrice Bergeron was only 25 years old at the time. The question for next season’s Bruins team is; Can the Bruins expect to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender by filling their needs with some of their younger, inexperienced players? Or does Sweeney go all-in for one last time to get one more ring for Bergeron, Chara, and David Krejci while mortgaging some of the future?

Let’s consider two factors when determining how to shape the roster. The expansion draft will take place after next season, as the Seattle Kraken creates its very first roster. All teams will have to decide whether to keep eight players and one goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie. The team has suggested that they will choose the latter, meaning that any roster addition could be added to that group. Also, winger Jake DeBrusk is a restricted free agent along with Grzelcyk which presents a decision for the Bruins. The team would like to bring back DeBrusk, who will turn 24 years old in October, but the second-line left wing has stated that he could be seeking five million dollars per year. You would have to think that the Bruins would not want to commit quite that much salary to a fairly inconsistent player.

The options are to trade DeBrusk, Grzelcyk, or maybe even young right-shot defenseman Brandon Carlo, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. Or the Bruins could just re-sign DeBrusk and Grzelcyk now and then Carlo next offseason. The issue would be that the roster would not see much change and the cap would prevent a major free agent signing like former number one pick Taylor Hall or move for defenseman Matt Dumba from Minnesota or former Boston College star forward Johnny Gaudreau. Signing DeBrusk and Grzelcyk does not leave the team with much cap room when the next trade deadline arrives. In 2011, the Bruins relied heavily on veterans such as Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder, and Gregory Campbell. Will there be Bruins prospects who can step in and play important roles on a Stanley Cup contender?

The Bruins could also use some young players in their system for trade bait. Anders Bjork makes an affordable salary and could be traded as could restricted free agents Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn. Sweeney will have to decide if Bjork can be a factor on the third line after creating some chemistry with Charlie Coyle and if Trent Frederic can slot into a fourth-line role to replace Joakim Nordstrom who will likely not be re-signed. Look to Sweeney banking on 21-year old, rookie center Jack Studnicka to be inserted into a top-six role. If Studnicka can produce, he may be the 2020-21 version of Seguin and be a great low-cost value.

Look for the Bruins to try to sign Grzelcyk to a deal similar to Carlo’s last deal, which was a two-year bridge deal at roughly three million dollars annually. DeBrusk’s negotiations might be a little stickier. Sweeney’s hand may be forced to deal DeBrusk for a similar player who would be a little more cost-effective. I see DeBrusk re-signing with the Bruins for maybe four million per year over three years. I would think that the Bruins would certainly want to move John Moore’s $2.75 million contract. Ondrej Kase might also be someone on the block as Sweeney could look to gain some draft picks while trimming salary.

Many moving parts will happen this offseason, and Sweeney, who went to Harvard, will have to use all of his book smarts to create some roster flexibility while being mindful of the cap and upcoming expansion draft. I do not see the roster having many additions from outside the organization, as there are some intriguing options within. The management of the Bruins has been loyal to the core of this group for years, and other than the departure of Krug, I see that continuing for at least one more year.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Bruins Would You Rather: Torey Krug Or Oliver Ekman-Larsson

( Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA TODAY Sports )

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Ever since Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman mentioned the Bruins and Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the same breath in his latest edition of 31 thoughts, speculation has started to swirl. This has me thinking that Bruins GM Don Sweeney is scouting potential replacements for Torey Krug, if he is to test the free agent market. When it comes down to would you rather between the two blueliners, people are divided.

Both defenseman are in similar situations to an extent, and have fairly similar playing styles. They’re both excellent puck-moving, transition defensemen that are 29-years-old. While Ekman-Larsson is locked up through 2027 at $8.25 million AAV, Krug is looking for a new contract that could last around that long, and be of similar dollar value and length.

One thing that makes Ekman-Larsson’s position as a trade asset an interesting one is his NMC that lasts the entirety of his contract, while Krug is a pending unrestricted free-agent in line for a substantial payday. I’m here to make the case for either player.

Torey Krug

Bruins fans know what Torey Krug is at this point. The quarterback of the Bruins power play, and their best puck-moving defenseman. Over the past three seasons, he put up 161 points (29-132-161) in 201 regular season games. Additionally, he put up 36 points (5-31-36) in 48 playoff games. Quite the offensive resume. Playoff experience is an advantage he has that Ekman-Larsson doesn’t have much of, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be an effective playoff performer in the future.

He’s a proven, consistent contributor in Boston. For an undersized defenseman, he holds his own in the defensive zone, more often than not. This is despite what some observers choose to believe. I think the notion that he is bad in his own zone is overblown. He makes the occasional mistake, or gets overmatched by a bigger adversary in front of the net, but stuff like that happens. It’s one of the challenges of being undersized. He makes up for it with his bulldog mentality, offensive production, and power play prowess. Not every defenseman is a defensive stalwart.

The COVID-19 pause ended up putting him one point short of achieving the milestone above. The biggest area of concern regarding his future is term and dollar value on his next contract. There’s reason to expect as we’ve seen with countless players signing long-term deals in their late 20’s, that a 6+ year long deal could look ugly towards the tail end of it.

Additionally, something to consider is the fact that Krug could sign for cheaper than the $8.25 million AAV that Ekman-Larsson makes. He could also sign for more, but more likely the same amount or less. There’s plenty of reason to re-sign Krug.

Video Credit: FaZe Raptor on YouTube

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Captain of the Arizona Coyotes for the past two seasons, Ekman-Larsson boasts quite the resume himself. Finding himself at #4 on TSN’s latest trade bait list, trade speculation has come to the surface. Unlike Krug, bringing in Ekman-Larsson would require a trade, which outside of dollar value and term, makes his situation a bit different, obviously.

Acquiring Ekman-Larsson would require significant assets going the other way, while signing Krug would come down to signing on the dotted line and not giving up any assets. Ekman-Larsson has the size advantage on Krug at 6-foot-2, 201 lbs., per Elite Prospects. I think it’s fair to say he is better defensively too, not to say Krug is bad defensively, as I previously made the case that such a narrative is overblown.

What stands out to most people about him, I feel, is his offensive production and puck-moving prowess. Over the past three seasons, through 229 regular season games, he put up 116 points (37-79-116). In nine playoff games this season, he put up a goal and three assists. While not as many points as Krug, the numbers still support that he is very effective offensively. Like Krug, he also has a big role on the power play.

Wearing the “A” on his sweater for four seasons, and the “C” for the past two, Ekman-Larsson could bring valuable leadership experience to this team and it’s younger players. Also, the idea of him potentially on Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo’s left is worth getting excited about. He could be an excellent mentor for the Bruins defensive core, a lot of which are still in their early 20’s and paving their way in the NHL. In the right trade, Ekman-Larsson would be an adequate replacement for Krug if he signs elsewhere.

Video Credit: Sports Montage on YouTube

It’s going to be very interesting to see what the defensive core looks like for the Bruins next season. Will Krug return? Will Ekman-Larsson replace him via trade? Will neither player be on the team next season? Only time will tell at this point.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Big Offseason Decisions Lie Ahead For The Bruins

Torey Krug explained that his value is 'at its peak' ahead of free agency |
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Across the NHL, the Bruins have one of the more intriguing offseasons ahead. Primarily because they hold the fate of one of the league’s top unrestricted free agents, Torey Krug.

Krug’s decision ultimately leaves Bruins general manager Don Sweeney with a variety of options. If he stays, the Bruins retain their power play quarterback for the near future, and things are peachy. If he leaves, decisions have to be made. Do you try and trade his negotiating rights, or do just move forward and decide on what to do with the extra cap space?

The Bruins currently don’t have their first or fourth round picks. If a deal can’t be reached with Krug, Sweeney could try and deal his negotiating rights for some draft capital. Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell did this recently with UFA defenseman Joel Edmundson.

Video Credit: FaZe Raptor on YouTube

If Krug walks in free agency, Don Sweeney is tasked with making use of that cap space. Does he add on defense, add up front, both? Oddly enough, Krug’s defensive partner, Brandon Carlo has popped up in trade rumors as of late. His name was most recently due to the Athletic’s Craig Custance’s NHL Trade Big Board, published earlier today.

Carlo is an interesting trade chip. Regardless of whether Krug re-signs or not, Carlo could be leveraged in a trade for a legitimate top-six scorer. He is set to hit restricted free agency in the summer of 2021, and holds a pretty reasonable $2.85 million cap hit at just 23-years-old. He has plenty of trade value. But, as mentioned by Custance, trading him is a bit of a longshot.

Another potential trade chip that I have mentioned in the past is Jake DeBrusk. I think the case to move DeBrusk is to upgrade at the second-line left wing position with someone like Nikolaj Ehlers, or someone else. Other than that, I don’t see much of a reason to move him. Like I have also said in the past, I’m not campaigning to trade DeBrusk, but it’s possible that he is moved.

Not many people may be thinking about pending UFA winger and blocked shot machine, Joakim Nordstrom, but he has an interesting offseason ahead of him. In a world where the Bruins have more cap space and don’t have Trent Frederic knocking at the door for NHL fourth line duty, I think Sweeney would love to keep Nordstrom around. There’s a chance he re-signs here, but it’s looking more likely that he signs elsewhere.

His relentless, bullet train style is going to make him an attractive free agent option for a team with a bad penalty kill. Nashville, Ottawa, and Detroit are a few teams that come to mind. He had an excellent postseason especially, always being one of the more noticeable players on ice, flying around and hitting everyone in sight. I anticipate a big market for him in free agency.

While there are other matters to take care of with the team, those are the big decisions to make for Sweeney, in my eyes. This is the most important offseason of his career. This veteran core isn’t going to be around forever. It’s up to Sweeney to put a team that can make some noise together for the 2020-2021 season.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Is Bigger Actually Better For Next Seasons Boston Bruins?

( Photo Credit: Stuart Cahill / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald )

By: Matt Barry | Follow Me On Twitter @oobcards

The Boston Bruins have been one of the top teams in the National Hockey League for the last decade. The Bruins have been to three Stanley Cup Finals and won the ultimate prize in 2011. Boston has done it with a solid nucleus led by captain Zdeno Chara and assistant captains Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Over a ten year period, the team has had two varying styles. Former head coach Claude Julien preached a more conservative style based on fair defensive play and careful exit from the defensive zone. The Bruins perfected this style in winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and advancing to the Cup Finals in 2013, only to lose a heartbreaking Game 6 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

But Julien’s style was wearing thin in Boston, and management wanted the Bruins to play a more up-tempo style with more speed and skill and jettisoned Julien for Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy implemented a more offensive attack that emphasized advancing the puck ahead and attacking, which would elevate the skill set of goal scorers Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.  Bergeron also experienced an increase in point production under Cassidy. Under Cassidy, the Bruins have a .682 points percentage and have been an elite team. It is hard to argue that the change in style has been an excellent move for the organization.

However, in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals against a heavier, more physical St. Louis Blues team, the Bruins seemed to wear down, which resulted in a Game 7 home loss and a missed opportunity that could haunt the organization for years. The loss also had many diehard Bruins fans screaming for something they always harp on, “They need to be more physical!! Now, after a second-round exit courtesy of a bigger Tampa Bay Lightning team, the Bruins are faced with a decision of whether to find more speed and skill to coincide with today’s fast NHL or get back to their roots, which is physical, heavier play.

Traditional Boston Bruins fans love blue-collar players who play hard and sacrifice every night, even they lack elite talent. This is why fans loved Milan Lucic, but great frustrated with David Krejci. Krejci is entering the argument of a top ten player in Bruins history, while Lucic’s game is now in Calgary and has deteriorated quickly. But it is hard to tell Bruins fans that the game has changed. Players in today’s game have a hard time playing heavy and banging bodies every night for eighty-two games plus the postseason. The league has become more about puck possession and speed. The Bruins have been amongst the best in the league in both categories, but have eventually lost to bigger, stronger teams.

So what does general manager Don Sweeney do now? The team has some holes to fill and could use a right-wing to play with Krejci and some bottom-six depth. The Bruins could fill these needs within the organization with 21-year-old Jack Studnicka and maybe grinding center Trent Frederic. The other alternative would be a go outside the organization to improve the club and add some scoring and more physicality. Other young prospects in the Boston system are more diminutive like Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn, and neither player may be an upgrade from what is there now. The Bruins tried to add some size at the trading deadline by acquiring Nick Ritchie in exchange for Danton Heinen.  Ritchie did not bring much of a physical presence and had difficulty generating offense. The result was a reminder that acquiring bigger, physical players is not enough.

So, from here, Sweeney and team president Cam Neely, the ultimate power forward in a much different NHL of years ago, must find some scoring touch to create more balanced scoring and increased productivity in five on five play. While doing this, the Bruins must get bigger to fend off teams like the Lightning. Bruins fans would love a big winger like Josh Anderson (6’3”, 222-pounds) from the Columbus Blue Jackets or Zack Kassian (6’3”, 207-pounds) from the Edmonton Oilers. Maybe one of those wingers finds a home in Boston and settles in on a line with Krejci or third-line center Charlie Coyle. But there is always the concern that one of these heavy power forwards becomes another Nick Ritchie rather than Cam Neely, regardless of how much Bruins fans clamor for more “old-time hockey.”

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Truths Of Bruins Kase

( Photo Credit: Matt Slocum / AP File )

By: Jack Gotsell | Follow me on Twitter @jackgotsell

Ondrej Kase was not the reason why the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs but the Bruins choosing to acquire him was. Blake Coleman was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Kyle Palmeri stayed put in New Jersey. Those are two players that could have made an impact on the Boston Bruins. Instead, we sit here in the off-season, still needing to acquire some secondary-scoring being among the primary concerns.

There are some positives to Kase’s game, and he could be an asset moving forward. However, the negatives are clear and need to be addressed by the Bruins organization. Here is the good, the bad, and the ugly truths about the Bruins’ decision to acquire Ondrej Kase.

The Good

The Corsi loves Kase because he is good in his defensive zone and can create a lot of chances. In 49 games for Anaheim this season, he had 54.66 CF%. Kase has speed and can push the pace to create lots of opportunities. For a smaller player, Kase can find space and get open and has created many chances while he is on the ice.

The 24-year old right-wing can shoot the puck at will. The Bruins were struggling to get shots on net these playoffs in the second round, and Kase was one exception to that. Kase also can go into the dirty areas and come away with the puck more often than not.

Kase is an all-around forward with speed, a quick and happy trigger finger, the ability to be hard and come away with the puck possesses the ability to maintain puck possession in his offensive zone, and has a solid defensive game. For a 24-year old player, he has a ton going for him. The question, however, looms, is he a top-six forward?

The Bad

Kase had a history of not being able to finish in Anaheim. Nothing he’s done since he arrived here is an indication that he can change that. Getting the puck to the net has never been a concern for Kase. Unfortunately, just getting the puck on the net does not show up on the scoreboard; scoring goals does, which is an area where Kase has struggled. Krejci needs a finisher, and unless Kase becomes that, he’s wasting space on the second line. 

Can Kase change and become a contributor on the second line? Not so sure, and his commitment to the game is in question after the poor decision he made before Boston entered into the Toronto bubble. With a global pandemic going on, Kase decided to involve himself in an unsanctioned workout and saw himself quarantined and unable to skate with the Bruins for almost all of the team activities leading up to and including the first two round-robin games. That poor decision makes you question his commitment and caused him to not be in the greatest shape for the playoffs. 

To sum up, the bad Kase is injury prone and has a concussion history that is out of his control. He missed playing time when he first arrived in Boston dealing with an injury and sickness. This is not the first time Kase has missed playing time due to injury, as much of his days in Anaheim were spent on the disabled list. In 2018-2019 he missed 18 games with a concussion, played in 30 games, and then missed the rest of the season with a torn labrum. 

The Ugly

The ugly truth is that we moved out of the first round of this year’s NHL draft and gave up prospect Axel Anderson for Kase. Cushioning this blow, we also moved four and a half million of David Backes six million dollar contract. However, in making this move, Sweeney looked to sure up Krejci’s right side of the second line. 

It turns out that there is still a hole to be filled on the Bruins second line and that Kase may not be the guy the Bruins were looking for. Krejci and DeBrusk need a finisher, and that’s not Kase. Kase appears to be more of a third-line player with his inability to finish at a top-six level. 

It turns out that there is still a hole to be filled on the Bruins second line and that Kase may not be the guy the Bruins were looking for. Krejci and DeBrusk need a finisher, and that’s not Kase. Kase appears to be more of a third-line player with his inability to finish at a top-six level. Don Sweeney will look to make significant changes this off-season based on his press conferences to create secondary scoring. There will be limited cap space with the need to re-sign Matt Grzelcyk and fill the void that looks like it will be left by Torey Krug and possibly Zdeno Chara. They may look to re-sign DeBrusk at a reasonable price this off-season.

At the 13:00 mark Conor Ryan and Evan Marinofsky talk about upgrading the top-six via trade.

If DeBrusk and the Bruins cannot come to terms, there is the possibility of DeBrusk being shipped out of town and the Bruins trying to build their second line from scratch with center David Krejci in the last year of his contract. The ugly truth is the Kase experiment looks like a failure. Not to say he can’t be a great third line wing, but he is not looking like a top-six player on a Stanley Cup contending team in the present. Kase is not the caliber player of Nathan Horton or Marcus Johansson and is not the right-wing the Bruins have been seeking for years.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Boston Bruins Offseason Outlook

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson / AP Photo )

By: Joey Partridge | Follow Me On Twitter @joey_partridge

The Boston Bruins surely have an interesting offseason ahead of them. After losing to the Lightning in five games, you can tell that they were just merely outplayed. But what does this mean for the team going forward?

You have people calling to trade everybody and restart from the ground up, and the overreactions are through the roof. That’s the intensity of this fanbase for you, which is a good thing. Boston is a very passionate fanbase, and they care for this team.

People forget that the Bruins won the President’s Trophy and were the only team to reach the 100-point mark in the shortened regular season. They were firing on all cylinders heading into what would’ve been the normal postseason. The hiatus in the season due to COVID-19 came at a very unfortunate time for the Bruins. Even though we didn’t see the Bruins we are used to in the Toronto bubble, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Bruins are still contenders, and they will be next year too.

( Photo Credit: Chris Christo / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald )

Let’s not kid ourselves either, though. The Bruins should make some offseason moves to bolster their roster and have a great run next year. Others seem to think that Boston will be active. “I think Boston’s going to be really interesting. I think they’ve decided they need more scoring, and I think they’re going to have some big decisions to make about what that’s going to mean for them. I think they’re definitely one of the teams to watch,” Elliotte Friedman said on SN960.

Everybody knows what the Bruins biggest problem has been over the past couple of years, and that’s secondary scoring. The Bruins goaltending duo of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak is one of, if not the, best in the league. The Bruins also have a great defense core mixed with veterans and young studs. Even if Torey Krug does leave this free agency period, their defense will still be great. The first line will give you what they have, but then after that is where the production falls off. I’d go as far as to say that after Jarome Iginla left, the Bruins have been itching to find David Krejci a second-line right-wing, and it hasn’t worked out so far.

The first line is most likely the best line in the whole entire league. The problem is that if other teams can shut them down, the Bruins odds of winning decrease dramatically. Tampa Bay did a great job of neutralizing Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, and the outcome of the series shows what happens when teams are able to do that.

Saying there is a lack of secondary scoring doesn’t mean that the Bruins don’t have talent below the top line. David Krejci is one of the most underrated players in the league. However, he is a playmaker, and his wingers are typically the goal scorers. Look at the 2011 Bruins team that won the cup. Milan Lucic was on Krejci’s left, and Nathan Horton was on his right, and we all know how clutch Horton was.

Now let’s compare that to their current roster. Jake Debrusk is a great player, but even Bruce Cassidy has said it. He can be streaky. That doesn’t diminish his talent, but his goal-scoring was needed. Ondrej Kase is the same way. He was flying around out there, making good plays in the corner and competing, but he wasn’t scoring. You can even say the same for Anders Bjork on the third line. The effort is there, the production was not.

Don Sweeney sure has his hands full this offseason. He has four unrestricted free agents that he’ll have to decide whether to sign or let go. Those are Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Joakim Nordstrom, and Kevan Miller. The three restricted free agents that most likely will return barring any trades or offer sheets are Jake Debrusk, Matt Grzelyck, and Karson Kuhlman. Sweeney has hinted at some moves this offseason. “We’re looking to make some changes in our group,” Sweeney said.

What exactly could these changes be? Who knows? We have seen Sweeney be aggressive like on draft day in 2015, but we have also seen him be more relaxed in the past couple of years. Does he take a run at a top free agent like Taylor Hall? Does he trade some of the young talent for a proven goal scorer? Only time will tell, but it gives the Bruins faithful something to be excited about.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below on 9-13-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!