We are six weeks away from the start of the 2014-2015 season and after what has been a very stale offseason, the Boston Bruins are in a position they haven’t been in over the last couple of years and in my opinion, it’s not as the overwhelming favorite to win the Atlantic Division. Instead of hearing about additions or re-signings, fans have had to watch other teams within the division close the gap.
Regardless of the bad contracts, the bottom line is the Bruins have been able to accomplish nothing during this offseason aside from a few minor moves such as bringing back Jordan Caron and Justin Florek. Not only have the Bruins been unable to make any substantial movement; they are still facing an even more daunting task of figuring out how to prepare for the number of free agents they will have next season. Unless a trade comes within the next six weeks, the Bruins will be starting the regular season still with more questions and concerns than viable solutions.
Now listen, even if the Bruins had enough money to dip into the free agency market, I’m not saying they should’ve gone spend crazy like other teams. Most acquisitions made during the initial free agent frenzy left plenty of people scratching their heads; perhaps more so in Edmonton(Benoit Pouliot, 5 yrs 20 mil) and Washington(Brooks Orpik, 5 yrs 27.5 mil).
However, if you examine some of the upgrades made by teams within the Atlantic Division, you can definitely see that the Bruins are going to have their hands full. Take the Tampa Bay Lightning for example, a playoff team whose aspirations were derailed by a late season injury to emerging goalie stud Ben Bishop. The Lightning were able to re-sign Ryan Callahan to a six year deal as well as make free agent signings to bolster their defensive corps by acquiring Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison.
Callahan will continue to bring tremendous leadership and serve as a solid two way player. In bringing Stralman and Garrison, the Lightning have taken a page out of the Bruins playbook by creating some depth on defense. Stralman wasn’t a household name prior to the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however after the Rangers changed coaches to Alain Vigneault, Stralman was able to have his best year as a pro.
Tampa was also able to ensure some of their younger talent would be sticking around for a while longer. Calder trophy finalist Ondrej Palat was rewarded with a three year extension and Vezina trophy finalist Ben Bishop signed a two year extension at the beginning of the month of August. The Lightning have certainly taken a page out of the Bruins handbook in trying to establish balance across their team. However, with the Bruins not having a top end player matching the firepower of Steven Stamkos, the gap between these two teams is much closer than people realize.
There are so many unknowns as we approach the start of training camp regarding the Bruins. Will Loui Eriksson be able to handle a top line promotion? What are the third and fourth lines going to look like and what role will they serve? The bottom line is the Bruins might be prepared for a much closer battle atop the Atlantic Division that could last the duration of the season.