67°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Boston Bruins Are Worth Getting Excited About Again

Boston+Bruins+player+Brad+Marchand.

Boston Bruins player Brad Marchand.

If nothing else, the 2016-17 Boston Bruins season provided hope. After missing the previous two playoffs, it appeared as though there was no end to the disappointment in sight. At the time, General Manager Peter Chiarelli had put one of hockey’s proudest organizations into salary cap jail, caused by ill-advised contracts given to under-performing players and an inability to maintain the services of talented young players.

The biggest moment of Chiarelli’s tenure, aside from the 2011 Stanley Cup win, was the 2009 trade of Phil Kessel. Kessel was viewed as a future star, but he decided that he wanted out of Boston. He was eventually traded to Toronto in exchange for two first-round picks and one second-round pick. The 2010 second round pick became Jared Knight, who never amounted to anything. The 2010 first round pick became the second overall pick, and Tyler Seguin was taken. Seguin was viewed as a future NHL star, but was still traded less than a month after a Stanley Cup appearance. The 2011 first-round pick became Dougie Hamilton, a consensus cornerstone defensemen that would be the anchor on Boston’s blue line for years to come. Hamilton actually made it past the Chiarelli era, but was traded by Chiarelli’s replacement, Don Sweeney. It is this lack of a growth-mindset that put Boston’s future in doubt.

Entering 2016, the big question was defense. Obviously the scoring would be a problem, but before a team worries about their ability to score, they have to think about how they will stop other teams from scoring. The common belief in the NHL is that if a team can at least keep games close, they could get lucky and score a goal. So entering the season, Boston planned to rely heavily on Zdeno Chara, the aging veteran who was one of the league’s best defensemen a few years prior.

However, Brandon Carlo’s emergence as a reliable defenseman, and one who could play for a long time, gave Boston added depth and clarity for the future of their blue line. The outlook became even more clear when Charlie McAvoy made his Boston debut in the playoff series against Ottawa, when he racked up three assists in an average of over twenty-six minutes of ice time per game. The Bruins expect even more growth in their defensive corps for the coming year.

Now that clarity has been established in the Bruins’ defense, the top six forwards need to be addressed. Although the team saw major bursts in scoring from Brad Marchand and the now resigned David Pastrnak, the team lacks scoring depth. Now this, much like their defense, could be repaired from within.

The team has a bevy of young prospects who could be ready to make the jump to the NHL at any time. Among them are Notre Dame forward Anders Bjork and Boston University alumni Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson. It is impossible to say if or when these prospects will be impact players at the pro level, but Boston has shown an ability to develop young players in the last few years. Pastrnak’s NHL debut came far ahead of schedule, as did Brandon Carlo’s and Charlie McAvoy’s. The team definitely has some potential for a high-scoring offense, but they lack the concrete offensive vision that the defense has for the present.

The only question mark for this team sits in the net. Tuukka Rask has had to struggle through a heavy workload the last few seasons. The longtime Bruin goaltender has seen a drop in productivity since his Vezina Trophy win. After posting a .930 save percentage in his 2013-14 award-winning season, he has put up percentages of .922, .915, and .915 in his last three seasons. However, in his Vezina trophy winning year, he made only 58 appearances, and never had to come in to relieve the back up goalie on his days off. In the 2014-15 season, he made 67 starts and three relief appearances; in 2015-16, he made 62 starts with two relief appearances, and just last year he made 63 starts with two relief appearances. It would appear that the Bruins need some better consistency in the backup goaltender department. If they could have some confidence there, Rask may be able to rest both physically and mentally so he is not worn down for the big games Boston is sure to play throughout the season.

Overall, the Bruins will be an exciting team this season with a lot of potential. They should make the playoffs, and given the nature of the league, anything can happen once they get there. The Bruins definitely have a bright future, but are probably a few years away from legitimately contending for the Stanley Cup. Again, anything could happen in the NHL, but I would chalk this year up as cause to get excited for the years to come.