I’ve watched the Bruins for a long time, and I know the difference between a good team and a bad team. This team is starting to lean toward a bad team. Now if you want to say this year’s team is almost the same as last year, well you are wrong.
While guys like Shane Hnidy and Steve Montador are not top four defenseman, they were there to provide depth on the back end, and as bad as sheriff Hnidy was at handling the puck, he did make some good defensive zone plays from time to time and was always sticking up for teammates. This year, Johnny Boychuk is our 7th defenseman, and while he has shown some promise in limited time, he is an unproven commodity.
The Bruins decided to upgrade the mobility on the back end, and traded Aaron Ward to Carolina and signed Derek Morris. Morris has shown to be a great move, and has arguably been our most consistent defender. I think Ward was the wrong guy to jet out. Wardo was a team leader, and really held that locker room together. He blocked a lot of shots and rarely was out of position. Andrew Ference would have been the guy I traded, but Wards salary and injury history was a deciding factor.
Face-off and penalty kill specialist Stephane Yelle was replaced with Steve Begin, and I think we can all agree that was good move, as Begin, along with Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz have proven to be our most consistent line and one of the best 4th lines in all the NHL.
The team’s leading sniper, Phil Kessel, was traded to Toronto and was not replaced.
Long time Swede PJ Axlesson signed on in Sweden, and the penalty kill really suffered in his absence. The Bruins record with and without Axelsson showed how important he was defensively, even if he couldn’t score on a soccer net.
Because of losing Axelsson, gritty winger Chuck Kobasew was traded to Minnesota, and Daniel Paille was then acquired from Buffalo. Paille has been great on the PK and is a very speedy winger.
Tuukka Rask replaced Manny Fernandez as the backup goalie.
Marco Sturm was returning after missing almost all of last season with a torn ACL. Patrice Bergeron was also healthy for the first time in two years.
Now, no one could have predicted the injuries to Savard and Lucic, but that is not an excuse for the lack of goal scoring on this team. Now this isn’t going to be a Kessel article, but the absence of his speed and shot has really hurt the offense. Even with all the changes on the back end, the defense has not been an issue for this season, they have been letting up around 2 goals a game, the offense is killing us. There is no one of this team that poses any sort of threat to score. David Krejci is slumping, but he is a playmaker anyways. Michael Ryder and Marco Sturm are streaky scorers, and will go on tears and then go ice cold. Blake Wheeler is still extremely young, and may emerge as a perennial scorer, but that won’t be for some time. Lucic is a banger, not a scorer. Bergeron, see Krejci. Savard is a playmaker. Recchi is a screener, deflector, really isn’t suited as a top 6 forward. Paille is a grinder. There is no one on this team the defense has to worry about, and with the injuries, the depth isn’t there. Last year, these guys were suited to their roles, now without a sniper, they are forced to do more than they should, which is why we are struggling.
You can see this in the gameplay. The team can’t keep possession, and dumps the puck all the time. Remember last year all those transition goals? This NHL isn’t suited for dump and run, big bodied guys. You need speed and transition.
Now we can sit here and try and take positives from each game, like Pittsburgh we scored 5 goals. To Florida we didn’t allow a goal. It doesn’t matter when you lose. This team is inconsistent, and to sit here and pick a positive out of each game is useless when you can’t score or win. You can take a positive out of any game. We are a quarter way through the season, looking out from a playoff spot, and this team has yet to find their identity. Something needs to happen quickly. I don’t know if a trade is the answer, but I think it may be the only thing to turn this ship around. If this season is a failure, this offseason a move needs to be made to get a franchise offensive guy. What was the last cup team since the lockout to win without a top franchise forward? Carolina had Staal, Anaheim had Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, Selanne, Niedermayer and Pronger. Detroit had Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and others. Pittsburgh had Malkin and Crosby.
So as much as we credit depth, it isn’t necessarily the case. Unless you’re the Penguins, with two of the three top players in the world, then you need a combination of elite players and role players. The Bruins are right now neither.