It is time that we, Bruins Nation, admit — and by that I mean shout it out into the void or the abyss, or whatever — that Boston Bruins‘ fourth-line forwards Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner have long since hit their ceilings (about a year or two ago, in fact).
But, of course, most of us were too distracted by Pastrnak’s goal-scoring exploits and the Perfection Line’s, er, perfection, for lack of a better word, to notice their gradual but clear and present stagnation in real-time.
After watching the B’s 2020-21 NHL campaign come to an abrupt and frustrating end, I came to the conclusion that it is imperative that the Black and Gold must move on from fourth-line forwards Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner this offseason. While I would agree that trading or buying out their contracts isn’t, nor shouldn’t be, Boston’s No. 1 priority, it really needs to be their fourth or fifth one.
Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner were liabilities for the Bruins in 2020-21.
Indeed, as the Bruins’ entire fourth line were complete and utter no-shows during the second round (and most of the first round, for that matter), but Kuraly and Wagner were egregious in their ineffectiveness on the ice.
I know, because I only ever noticed them when they were swimming in their abundance of turnovers or making errant passes directly in front of Rask, which was damn near anytime they had the puck.
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Of course, a lot of that could have been mitigated had Coach Cassidy not played them as much as he did in Games 4 to 6. Yet he did, and now we’ll pay for that mistake all summer. But the fact of the matter is that when Kuraly and Wagner were out there, they did next to nothing to help the Bruins win. Hell, I could even argue their subpar play helped hurt the Bruins as a result, but that would require making this op-ed a longer read than originally intended, and I don’t have that kind of time.
As an aside, if you think I’m being too harsh on these guys, allow me to give you their playoff stat sheet.
This won’t take long.
So, in 11 games played this postseason, both Kuraly and Wagner went without a single point — zero, zilch, nada — and were a combined -4, and accrued eight penalty minutes between the two of them. And that’s all folks, that’s what they did for the Bruins in the playoffs this year. That’s it.
Who should replace Kuraly and Wagner is anybody’s guess, but that all depends on the likability of free-agent price tags this summer. But still, fourth-line players like Joel Armia, Blake Coleman, Valeri Nichushkin, Barclay Goodrow, and Nick Bjugstad to name a few are available this offseason. And more importantly, all of them are already better than Kuraly and Wagner talent-wise — and greatly so.
Hockey is a brutal sport, for real, you can score 50 goals or more in one season and then be out of the league entirely a few, short seasons later, just ask Jonathan Cheechoo. And so, if an ex-NHL all-star can be dumped to the wayside by his own team, I see no reason why the Bruins can’t do the same to two bottom-six guys a whole hell of lot less productive than a one-time 50-goal scorer. No reason at all.