Causeway Crowd’s Boston Bruins 2017 year in review

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23: Fans pass a Bruins banner around the ice before Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round between the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23: Fans pass a Bruins banner around the ice before Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round between the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 23, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

2017 brought its ups-and-downs for the Boston Bruins organization.  Let’s take a look back at some of the highs and the lows for the Black and Gold in the year that just ended.

The year 2017 was a pretty good one for the Boston Bruins, and the NHL in general.  The league expanded for the first time since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild opened up shop in 2000.   People were concerned about what putting a team in the middle of the Mojave Desert would do, but right now, it’s coming up roses.

LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 31: William Karlsson
LAS VEGAS, NV – DECEMBER 31: William Karlsson /

Against all odds, the expansion Vegas Golden Knights are currently setting the NHL on fire.  The team, featuring former Bruins defenseman Colin Miller and players like James Neal, Jonathan Marchessault, and David Perron are leading the entire Western Conference nearly halfway through the season, and have gone from 200-1 odds to win the Cup to 9-1.

There stands a pretty decent chance that NHL expansion could continue in the near future, this time, in Seattle.  The process to put a team there is still in its infancy, but the league, the city, and the financiers have gotten the ball rolling.  That could put the league at 32 teams, and finally balance out the divisions.

But onto the Bruins.  2017 definitely had its challenges for the team, and there were some changes that nobody expected at the start of the 2016-2017 season.  Even with the struggles, there is still a lot for fans to look at during the year and be pleased overall.  Let’s examine the big story lines for the Bruins last year.

Bruins struggle to win, fire Claude Julien

When the calendar flipped from 2016 to 2017, the Bruins were 20-15-4, 44 points, and were 3rd in the Atlantic Division.  Brad Marchand (31 points) and David Pastrnak (26 points) were having career years.  Things were looking good for a Bruins postseason berth, and a playoff run.

That’s when the wheels started to fall off.  The Bruins went 6-8-2 over the month of January and the first two games of February.  The team dropped from 3rd in the Atlantic to 4th, and out of the playoff picture.  The team needed a major shake-up, and that’s exactly what happened.

Boston Bruins
BOSTON, MA – JANUARY 26: Head coach Claude Julien of the Boston Bruins watches the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the TD Garden on January 26, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

On February 7, 2017, the Bruins fired Claude Julien, who had been coaching the Bruins for a decade.  The head coach who helped bring the Bruins back into NHL relevance with veteran lineups and a staunch, defense-first style, wasn’t getting the job done anymore.  It seemed as though the team as comprised just didn’t fit Julien’s coaching system, and he lost the locker room.

Julien was not a coaching free agent for very long.  A week after being relieved of his coaching duties in Boston, he was hired to replace Michel Therrien in Montreal as the bench boss of the rival Canadiens.  The gig was nothing new for Julien, who had previously coached the Habs from January 2003 through January 2006.  Julien and the Canadiens went on to win the Atlantic Division, but lose in the first round of the playoffs.

Bruce Cassidy takes the reins and succeeds

Julien’s replacement in Boston was Bruce Cassidy, who was in his first year as a Bruins assistant coach.  He had been head coach of the Providence Bruins in the AHL since 2011-2012, so he knew the organization well.

Boston Bruins
BOSTON – FEBRUARY 9: Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has a chat with his team during a timeout late in the third period. The Boston Bruins host the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden in Boston on Feb. 9, 2017. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) /

Cassidy and Julien had incredibly different styles of play they wanted from their players.  Julien had a much more defensively-oriented system, whereas Cassidy wanted the team to push the play and work a faster pace.  Cassidy’s style, despite the team not necessarily being built for it, seemed to invigorate a team that was floundering.

After Cassidy took over, the Bruins ended the regular season on a 18-8-1 run, and secured a berth in the playoffs as the 3rd seek in the Atlantic.  The Bruins ran into a red-hot Ottawa Senators team who exceeded everyone’s expectations.  After a hard-fought six-game series, the Bruins were sent packing, and their season was over.

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A quiet offseason, but a crisis averted

With the Bruins coming off a playoff appearance and having a new coach at the helm, hockey operations staff seemed confident in the roster from 2016-2017 and the organizational depth they had built.  Very little was done in free agency.  The outsiders brought in were veteran defenseman Paul Postma and reigning AHL MVP Kenny Agostino.

Ryan Spooner filed for arbitration and ultimately came back to the team on a 1 year, $2.825 million deal.  Patrice Bergon did his usual thing and won his fourth Selke Trophy.  The Bruins lost defenseman Colin Miller to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.  The team also eventually lost goalie Malcolm Subban, also to Vegas, in a waivers claim right before the season started.

But the one story every Bruins fan was watching was the David Pastrnak contract dispute.  Peter Chiarelli, even after he left the Bruins, decided he still wanted to mess with them.  Chiarelli had signed Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl to an 8 year, $68 million deal, setting an incredibly high market for a player like Pastrnak.

Boston Bruins
DETROIT, MI – DECEMBER 13: David Pastrnak /

Pastrnak and his camp wanted a 7 or 8 year deal at Draisaitl numbers.  The Bruins were reportedly offering 6 or 7 years, but at around $6 million per year.  The camps were talking regularly, but it seemed like the Bruins were on the verge of low-balling themselves into a holdout.  In fact, as training camp rolled around, Pastrnak was still in the Czech Republic.

To the absolute delight of all Bruins fans everywhere, the sides eventually were able to come to an agreement.  Pastrnak inked a 6 year, $40 million deal, for a very team friendly $6.66 million AAV.  This deal gave the team flexibility moving forward for years to come.  But it also allows Pastrnak to reach UFA status when he’s really in the prime of his career.  A true win-win deal.

Bruins stumble out of the gate, but catch fire late

Watching the Bruins during the preseason, and looking at a roster filled with tons of young talent, there was hope that the Bruins could be competitive this season.  In fact, one wise, and incredibly good looking writer believed the Bruins would compete for the Atlantic Division title, and rack up 106 points.

As the 2017-2018 season got rolling, however, many were wondering whether the Bruins would be a playoff team at all.  The rookie players who cracked the opening night roster, Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork, were all over the map in quality of play.  The team was decimated with injuries, losing key players such as Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and David Backes, for a number of games.  Starting netminder Tuukka Rask was playing subpar hockey, and was eventually benched for Anton Khudobin.  There were very few bright spots for fans to hold onto.

The Bruins started the season as the epitome of inconsistency.  In fact, the team didn’t win consecutive games until they snapped a four-game losing streak with wins over the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks on November 16th and November 18th.  But those wins were probably the most important of the Bruins season, because they helped spark an epic turnaround.

Boston Bruins
OTTAWA, ON – DECEMBER 30: Boston Bruins Goalie Tuukka Rask (40) prepares for a face-off during second period National Hockey League action between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators on December 30, 2017, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Since November 16th, the Bruins are 15-3-2, and they ended 2017 in the 2nd spot in the Atlantic Division.  Tuukka Rask is 10-0-1 in his last 11 starts.  The Bruins third line of Danton Heinen-Riley Nash-David Backes are providing depth scoring, and playing as good as any line in all of hockey.  There is no doubt that the Bruins are one of, if not the hottest team in the entire NHL since the middle of November.  Entering the new year fully healthy, the team has the 2018 playoffs directly in its sights.

Next: Bruins' Rask returning to Vezina form

Bring on 2018…

As you can clearly see, there was a lot to be thankful for as a Bruins fan in 2017.  The team has locked in its star players for years to come.  The young core of DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, Heinen, Bjork, and Pastrnak can be a powerful force in the NHL for a long time if they stay together.

Is there a Stanley Cup in the Bruins future?  Maybe not in 2018.  But I definitely think a playoff berth and potentially a series win or two could be realistic goal.  Oh, and all the people who doubted me when I said the Bruins would end up with 106 points?  The Bruins are 21-10-6, and have 48 points in 37 games.  That puts them on pace for…106 points.