By: Mark Allred Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Many Bruins writers are publishing their own roster predictions for the upcoming 2017-18 National Hockey League season, so I thought I’d throw my two cents out there with mine and an explanation of why for each line. With today’s news of forward, Drew Stafford signing a one-year deal with the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins roster is seemingly starting to take shape for many skeptics’s as well as I. With a little over $10 million in cap space according to CapFriendly.com and the status of forward David Pastrnak’s contract extension which remains in limbo, the B’s didn’t exactly get aggressive with the free-agent market and remain with the majority of players from last season.
The free-agent additions of veteran defenseman Paul Postma who spent his career in the Winnipeg Jets organization and 25-year-old Kenny Agostino who walked to free agency after leaving a St. Louis Blues organization where he spent a majority of his time in the American Hockey League with the Calgary Flames and most recently the St. Louis Blues. The 2010 fifth round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins won the scoring title last season with the Chicago Wolves but only has five points in 17 career National Hockey League appearances. Postma, on the other hand, has yet to play a full 82 game schedule in his career in the NHL which can be pointed at AHL demotions and injuries but has 34 points in 191 games with the Jets organization. Both depth signings regardless and weren’t additions to get better from last season in any way but having them as an insurance policy if the developing youth that will be at Training Camp challenging for a roster spot and possibly an NHL debut.
Did The B’s Get Better?
In my opinion, no they didn’t as the above additions weren’t exactly explosive enough to show me they can play an 82 games season which starts on October 5th when they open the 2017-18 season with a contest against the Nashville Predators at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. After an up and down 2016-17 season that the B’s finally made the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the past three seasons, the minimal movements during this offseason have me thinking this team has the potential to make a playoff return, but how long they last is another question?
Now, of course, this Boston team could have a complete turnaround year and make a series run after a great regular season, but in the dog days of August to me, that’s not realistic. With a little more salary cap breathing room with current contracts set to expire soon, I can see some serious additions with the free agent class set to be available next summer and the year after that, but for now, lateral movements are not telling me many improvements.
This is a fascinating topic to me because I’m asked this quite often. No doubt with the core of younger players knocking on the door of NHL stardom, the additions are going to be very important, but I can’t expect a few players making the transition this upcoming year. The best player at the moment and most likely one of the highest prospects in Anders Bjork will get the chance to claim an NHL roster spot, but I believe he’s the only one that can crack the lineup.
This brings me back to when the Bruins General Manager has been preaching if you’re the better player than you’re going to play speech but where was the availability with Jimmy Hayes and his roster spot last season? If you didn’t place a player like Hayes and his struggles since coming to Boston on waivers to the AHL Providence, then how are we as fans going to believe if a player like Matt Beleskey, Riley Nash, or recently extended Ryan Spooner will be replaced with a developing player that might have something to prove? To me and the crazy way I think, I believe Bruins Management directed by the Jacobs ownership is adamant on getting full dollar value out of every contracted player and refuse to play an NHL salary to a player that’s been demoted to the minor-pro systems as a way to wake that player up.
Take a prospect like Peter Cehlarik as an example. Even at the AHL level was playing better than Hayes and the kid can play both wings, so to me there’s no excuse when it comes to moves like this and proves once again that the B’s penny pinchers are just that, CHEAP!
2017-18 Projected Bruins Roster
Below is my 2017-18 Boston Bruins projected lineup with heavy consideration to contractual obligations with my frustration with ownership that’s clearly stated above but an idea of what I see the roster looking like for the upcoming season.
Marchand Bergeron Backes
Bjork Krejci Pastrnak
Vatrano Spooner Nash
Beleskey Acciari Schaller
Offense Line #1 – You honestly can’t separate Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and won’t probably see that happen for a few years, but for now they operate as one of the best 2/3’s of a line in the NHL. Placing a player like David Backes on the right side has him being the net front presence for skilled players like Bergy and Marchy. Also, adds a little grit and policing aspect to that line as well.
( Above Photo Credit: Locker Dome )
Offense Line #2 – The Chemistry I saw in the past with Czech Republic natives David Krejci and David Pastrnak was something special in my opinion and could continue to work well for the foreseeable future. The addition of prospect Anders Bjork who recently signed an entry-level contract with this line makes sense to me is because of Krejci’s creativity and the skill set of his two potential linemates in the rookie Bjork and superstar in the making Pastrnak. This line could also be an explosive second power-play unit when it comes to special teams.
( Above Photo Credit: Boston Herald )
Offense Line #3 – With the return of Ryan Spooner via a contract extension, paired with the young, fast but sometimes inconsistent Frank Vatrano seems to be a work in progress since the departure of Carl Soderberg a few years back. Veteran Riley Nash on the right side is a decent skater and believe he can keep up with the acceleration of players like the Tank and Spoons but also plays that policing role with help from the defensive core at that time when liberties are being taken to fellow linemates.
OffenseLine #4 – Although Matt Beleskey has yet to show exactly what he’s capable, a fourth line role along with center Noel Acciari and New Hampshire native Tim Schaller on the right side provide not only a fast gritty line but one that can produce some offensive production for a line often used as a trio of disturbance to the opposing team but one that could turn some heads the longer they stick together. It’s tough to see Beleskey and his salary on the bottom twelve of the offense, but a demotion to the AHL is highly unlikely which has me seeing him play on this line until he’s able to be moved or actually finds his game.
Defense Line #1 – Zdeno Chara is going to play the last season under contract with the Bruins this upcoming year and the way he took last year’s rookie defenseman Brandon Carlo under his wing should be the same way he does with a player like 2016 first-round selection Charlie McAvoy. I honestly can’t see the B’s retaining the 40-year-old Chara any longer after next season, so a mentorship in his last year with an up and coming star in McAvoy is going to be beneficial.
( Above Photo Credit: MyTradeRumors. com)
Defense Line # 2 – I believe a Torey Krug, and second-year Brandon Carlo could be a very good idea moving into next season and possibly the next few. Nice mix of stay at home attributes with some offensive capabilities. While Krug has the speed factor to be a better transitioning defensive team with minimal turnovers, I believe this pairing could create some nice chemistry and support on the back end.
( Above Photo Credit: NESN .com )
Defense Line #3 – I like the Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid pairing because both players have different speed levels and could match up well as a bottom six defensive unit. Both are tough as nails and always available to stick up for a teammate in need when it comes to the opposition and their willingness to try to get under the skin of the Bruins offensively gifted top forwards, and defensive compare’s alike. McQuaid has good attributes to his game but is a little slow on the speed, but a player and potential defensive partner Miller has shown in the past that he can turn it up a notch and get involved when the team needs another threat pinching in.
Goaltending Tandem – Whether you like it or not, the starting job belongs to Tuukka Rask for the foreseeable future, and at least for one more season, Anton Khdobin is sticking around to be the backup considering his contract status. With Bruins training camp coming up in the middle of September, the battle at camp from the Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts is most likely going to be the highlights of the festivities when it comes to challenging for a job.
Both Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban were signed to two-year two-way contracts earlier this summer and will be in the mix to knock NHL veteran Khdobin out of the job if they both show up to impress the Bruins Brass. Even if Khudobin sticks around for a complete final season, it gives McIntyre a perfect opportunity to show he can have another outstanding season like he did last year with the Providence Bruins again and walk into the NHL Backup role under contract in 2017-18.
I know this is a long read and if you made it here I’d like to say thanks for your time. Like I said about the dog days of summer above, I’m always thinking about my favorite NHL Franchise and how things could be better or more consistency when it comes to winning percentage but I’ve been around for a bit and see certain trends that point to a rebuild or retool every six to eight years with the way things have been going lately. I know a deal for Pasta is going to get done but how likely is something like this going to happen again in the next few seasons while managing an uncertain league mandated salary cap and prospects under entry-level contracts such as McAvoy, Bjork, Carlo, forward Zach Senyshyn, or defenseman Jakub Zboril wanting to get paid? Of course, that’s an article for another day………..