On The Hot Seat
Cam Neely and Don Sweeney. There’s no question that the team president and general manager are on the hot seat. Sure, the team has done a good job of making the playoffs, but outside of a year in which they took advantage of several favorites being knocked out early, the Bruins have struggled to make it past the second round.
Management was looking for a scapegoat and used the firing of Bruce Cassidy to buy themselves one more chance to keep their jobs. Ownership has come under scrutiny and will be looking to avoid another decline in attendance similar to the seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Behind The Bench
Jim Montgomery is the man that Don Sweeney has chosen to lead this group to the Promised Land. Montgomery won the national championship as the head coach of Denver in 2017. He also led the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL to a Clark Cup championship in 2011 and 2013.
The 53-year-old native of Montreal has put together an impressive resume working with amateur players. Montgomery most recently was on the bench for the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach under Craig Berube. This was after he was fired as the head coach of the Dallas Stars for “unprofessional conduct.”
In my opinion, Montgomery enters the job with more baggage than pressure to succeed. Outside of an unpredictable disaster, “Monty” is the safest person in the organization not wearing a uniform.
Forwards: Patrice Bergeron is delaying his future induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame by at least one more year. Bergeron agreed to a one-year deal to return to the team in the offseason. Boston also added David Krejci after the 36-year-old spent a year playing overseas.
Sprinkle in some Charlie Coyle with a little Tomas Nosek and you’ve got the spine of the Bruins’ forward group. The team is once again hoping to get production out of their veterans despite Jim Montgomery’s prior success with younger players.
Brad Marchand is starting out the season on injured reserve, David Pastrnak is now one year away from hitting unrestricted free agency, and Taylor Hall still has three years and $18 million remaining on his contract.
The Bruins begin the season looking very familiar to the team that ended the last one. The only real addition comes from the acquisition of Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils. The former first-rounder from the 2015 draft will be looking to be a consistent scorer in a top-six role.
This is also the truth with Jake DeBrusk, so the team is clearly showing faith in their ability to properly evaluate the first round of that draft. I do expect to see Fabian Lysell get an extended look in Boston. The 19-year-old is starting out the year in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins, but I’m sure the Bruins will give Lysell some time in the NHL.
John Beecher had an impressive preseason and should also get a decent look playing either center or wing at the next level.
Defenseman: Don Sweeney deserves credit for acquiring Hampus Lindholm. Despite coming at a hefty price (veteran John Moore, Urho Vaakanainen, a first-rounder, and a pair of second-round picks) Sweeney finally added a strong presence on the left side of the blue line that can help Charlie McAvoy reach his maximum potential.
McAvoy is starting the season on injured reserve, and it appears that Jim Montgomery wants to have a veteran defenseman help chip in during the early part of the season. Anton Stralman is currently on a PTO, but the expectation is for the 15-year vet to sign a deal with Boston.
Brandon Carlo has been able to breathe a little easier since the firing of Bruce Cassidy, but I’m not sure that’s going to be what it takes to give the injury-prone defender the confidence to take more chances offensively.
Torey Krug — I mean Matt Grzelcyk — is another player that is a little banged up to begin the season. The team has featured a five-man power play during some practices and games, but they’re going to need Grzelcyk on one of the units to keep sustained pressure during the man advantage.
When fully healthy it seems like Connor Clifton will be the one battling Anton Stralman for the right side on the third pairing. “Cliffy Hockey” can be boom-or-bust, but I think he’s got a higher ceiling than Stralman which is why I prefer him being in the lineup.
Jakub Zboril is coming off a torn ACL but had one of the stronger performances during the preseason. If he can stay healthy this could be the breakout season that Don Sweeney has been looking for with the former 2015 first-rounder. Sound familiar?
Goaltenders: Pretty simple situation going on between the pipes in Boston. The team is dedicating just under $6 million to their last line of defense. It is a little bittersweet that the one who ended last year as the backup is making more than five times the guy that started.
Still, the duo of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman should be one of the top three pairs in the league. Expect them to be in contention for the Jennings Trophy. Swayman is in the final year of his entry-level contract and could be looking at a big payday if he can prove himself as a legitimate number-one in the NHL.
It’s in the team’s best interest that Swayman and Ullmark continue to split time, compete against one another, and give the start to the guy that does a better job of keeping pucks out of the net.
MVP: Brad Marchand. Patrice Bergeron is the captain of the Bruins but Brad Marchand is the heart and soul. He is THE player that drives the bus and plays the best when given some extra motivation. Marchand is expected to miss about the first month of the season but will lead the team upon his return.
7th Player: Fabian Lysell. There’s a lot of projecting here. Lysell isn’t even on the roster to start the season. At some point, the Bruins will be looking for the 2020 first-rounder to fill a role on a nightly basis.
He’ll get some time to grow in the minors, however, anyone hoping to see a repeat of David Pastrnak’s rookie season should temper their expectations. Still, Lysell should end the regular season as the player deemed to exceed expectations.
Atlantic Division Standings:
- Tampa Bay Lighting – they wear the crown until someone knocks the king off the hill.
- Toronto Maple Leafs – shaky in goal, but that won’t stop them from scoring five goals a night.
- Florida Panthers – they’ll take a step back after a disappointing end to a historic season.
- Boston Bruins – same old, same old.
- Ottawa Senators – the addition of Alex DeBrincat and Claude Giroux make for an interesting spark to a team that finished 26th in goals scored.
- Montreal Canadiens – under new management, it will be interesting to see if first overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky can make an immediate impact.
- Detroit Red Wings – Steve Yzerman did wonders with Tampa Bay. Can he do the same in Detroit?
- Buffalo Sabres – I’d put my money on head coach Don Granato NOT lasting the entire season.
Thanks For The Memories: Final Prediction…Bruins get eliminated in the first round, again. Boston will make the playoffs as a Wild Card team but will draw a tough matchup in the opening round.
They’ll probably finish as the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference and end up playing the Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston might put up a fight against the team that’s won two of the last three Stanley Cups but will go down somewhere between five and six games.
This prediction is assuming the roster stays the same (no injuries) despite some minor bumps and bruises. I don’t think management has the assets, or the permission from ownership, to swing a significant trade that shakes up the roster.
Unless they are so far out of contention at the trade deadline that they make the bold decision to get something for Bergeron, Krejci, and Pastrnak in the final year of their deals.