After returning 17 players from their 2011 championship team to the 2013 finals, the Bruins have abandoned their conservative ways with a whirlwind offseason. Burned by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games, GM Peter Chiarelli’s Bruins will have a brand new look this October.
Since Dave Bolland crushed the city of Boston with his late Cup-winner on June 24, the B’s have undergone a major renovation. The sweeping changes include a total overhaul of the right side of the offense.
The Fourth of July had plenty of fireworks in Beantown with Chiarelli pulling the trigger on the off-season’s biggest trade. Amidst swirling character concerns, 21-year-old Tyler Seguin headed for Dallas along with Rich Peverley. Loui Eriksson and three quality prospects went in the opposite direction.
Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr soon followed in their former-teammates’ footsteps, signing with Columbus and New Jersey respectively. The departures leave enforcer Shawn Thornton as Boston’s only returning right winger.
Despite the changes, the Bruins should be in fine shape to compete once again with a host of new faces. Eriksson will fit superbly with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and his arrival could make the trio the best two-way line in the NHL. Eriksson’s production dipped slightly in the shortened season, but his 70-plus point totals in the previous three campaigns would have each led the Bruins.
Alongside an elite center like Bergeron, Eriksson’s game could reach a new level, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him become the Bruins’ scoring leader this season. Meanwhile, Bruins fans will appreciate his strong defensive game.
Eriksson won’t be the only star plugging into Boston’s new-look top six. Just months after snubbing the Bruins at the trade deadline, Jarome Iginla signed in Boston. Fresh off of a four game sweep at the hands of his new team, Iginla will continue his quest for the Cup as a Bruin.
The 36-year-old Iginla is no longer a superstar, but his slowing production in Calgary could have resulted from a lack of quality teammates. During his short stop in Pittsburgh, he nearly regained a point-per-game pace with 11 in 13 games.
In Boston, Iginla will be afforded the assistance of David Krejci. Krejci is probably the best pure playmaker that Iginla has ever played alongside in the NHL, and the partnership could revive his career. Don’t forget that the long-time Flame is just two seasons removed from a 43 goal, 86 point campaign. It’s not inconceivable that he might even be an improvement over Nathan Horton.
Though the changes could take a while to gel, the Bruins offense now has more firepower than ever. Their long-struggling powerplay should finally come around, especially with an infusion of young talent on the blue line.
Arguably the top defensive prospect in all of hockey, Hamilton impressed in his rookie season, and the 6-foot-5-inch monster is set to see top-4 minutes in year two. Meanwhile, the undrafted Krug will reprise his role as Boston’s secret weapon after bursting onto the scene in the playoffs.
The pint-sized blue liner scored four goals in his first five NHL playoff games after spending the season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins. The gutsy d-man will be one to watch moving forward.
Despite all the new faces, not everything is changing for the Bruins. Big Zdeno Chara will continue to stand guard on defense along with fellow veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk. Andrew Ference signed with Edmonton in June, but his exit raises little concern for the always dependable defensive corps.
Perhaps the Bruins most important, if unsurprising, move of the off-season was to sign netminder Tuukka Rask to a lucrative longterm extension. The 26-year-old stepped out of Tim Thomas‘ shadow in marvelous fashion this past season, producing an all-star caliber campaign.
With his future in Boston sealed, the rising star should continue to dominate in 2013-14. Off the back of a superb postseason in which he posted a league-best .940 save-percentage, Rask has become unquestionably elite. He can make a run at the Vezina Trophy this season.
Though big changes give cause for optimism in Boston, the Bruins find themselves in hockey’s toughest division. Four of the five teams in the old Northeast Division qualified for the playoffs last year, and all of those clubs will now be joined by the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers to form the new Atlantic.
Though the Buffalo Sabres and the pair of Floridian clubs may not be ready to compete this year, the other four Atlantic teams should make things very difficult for the Bruins. The Red Wings arrival should be especially troubling considering the Original Six team’s perennial success. There will be no room for a hangover after a grueling postseason run.
That said, the Bruins should get some energy back from their new faces, and they certainly have all of the necessary elements to compete. In 2013-14, the Boston Bruins are capable of another run at the Cup, but it won’t be easy.