NHL Season Review: Boston Bruins
Welcome to NHL season review: a brand new series that will breakdown every NHL team this offseason. You can expect to see new posts all summer, starting from the 30th place team, and finishing with the Stanley Cup champions. With so many changes coming in the offseason, some teams will be improving dramatically, while others will be forced to make some tough decisions for the future. It’s going to be a fun summer of hockey talk, so sit down, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Year in Review
- Record: 41-27-14 (96 points)
- Goals per game: 2.55 (22nd)
- Goals against per game: 2.45 (8th)
- Power play: 17,8% (18th)
- Penalty kill: 82% (12th)
- Shots per game: 31(8th)
- Shots against per game: 29.9(18st)
The Boston Bruins failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. It’s quite remarkable to see this team go from losing in the Stanley Cup in 2012-13, to not making the post season in the span of two years. The Bruins last season looked like a team that had no identity—a team that lost its ability to intimidate opponents. Boston has always been a tough team to play against, but with so many changes over the last few season and key players moving to other teams, we could be seeing the start of a rebuild in beantown.
The Bruins proceeded to move some big names over the summer to acquire multiple draft picks. The first move was sending stud defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames in exchange for three draft picks. It came as a shock to the hockey world that Boston would trade a young, talented defenseman, considering their lack of depth at the position. The Bruins were definitely up against the cap and Hamilton was entering his first year of restricted free agency, but rumors around the league were that the Bruins and Hamilton’s agent were unable to come up with a long-term deal for the 22-year-old. With captain Zdeno Chara now 37-year-old, fans are now wondering who will be the next one to lead the team on the blueline. Only time will tell the real winner of this trade, but so far it’s not looking good for the Bruins.
General Manager Don Sweeney wasn’t done just yet. Sweeney proceeded to trade Milan Lucic to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for goalie Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick in the draft. Lucic was coming off a down season—scoring 18 goals and adding 26 assists in 81 games—his lowest total since 2009-10. Fans once again questioned Sweeny’s decision to move a former 30-goal scorer and obtain very little in return. With Tuukka Rask as the team’s starter, adding a backup goalie for Lucic was definitely a head scratcher. Jones would later be traded to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for forward Sean Kuraly and a first-round pick in 2016.
With Boston now in possession of the 13th, 14th and 15th overall pick in the draft, fans expected the Bruins to flip at least one of those picks for a proven NHL player. Instead, the Bruins would use all three picks to select Zachary Senyshyn, Jake DeBrusk and Jakub Zboril.
Of the three, only Zboril and DeBrusk were ranked inside the top 30 (25th & 28th) by hockeyprospect.com. All three players have the potential to become good NHL players, but Zboril is considered to be the only player ready to play in he NHL next season. With so many highly ranked players still available at the time, many fans have called the Bruins draft strategy a “bust”. Only time will tell if this draft was a success for the Bruins’ organization, but so far the consensus is the Bruins did a decent job of adding depth where they needed it the most.
Offseason Game Plan
Let’s start with the goaltending positon—the one position that looks to be the most stable moving forward. After winning the Vezina Trophy in 2014, Rask didn’t quite have as strong of a season as last year.
Here are Rask’s numbers over the last two seasons:
(Courtesy of NHL.com)
His 34 wins were only two short of his total from the previous year, but his 34 combined regulation and overtime/shootout losses tell the real story. His winning percentage (W%) drastically dropped from .620% in 2013-14 to .485% last season. Despite the huge drop, Rask isn’t entirely to blame for Boston’s lack of success in the regular season. His .922 SV% was top-10 in the league and his 2,011 saves was second to only Devils’ starter Corey Schneider. In short: Rask was just as good a goalie last year as he was the previous year, but the same can’t be said for his team in front of him.
On defense, the Bruins have a ton of question marks heading into next season. With Chara and Dennis Seidenberg not getting any younger, Boston may be in trouble next season if they fail to beef up their blueline. Torey Krug will be entering his third full season in the NHL and is most likely to take Hamilton’s spot next to Chara. The rest of the Boston defense remains relatively inexperienced—having played just over 553 NHL games combined. Boston finished in the top ten in goals against per game last season, but the likelihood that they’ll be able to repeat that feat again next season is almost impossible, at least not with this group. With just under five million dollars left to spend on the cap, the Bruins have just enough space to add another quality defenseman to help round out their top four.
The reason the Bruins missed the playoffs comes down to one thing: their inability to score goals. Despite finishing in the top ten in shots per game (8th), Boston finished outside the top-20 in goals per game (22nd). They were able to generate offence in the opponent’s end, but just weren’t able to capitalize on their chances.
To help improve their scoring, the team signed former Ducks forward Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal and acquired forward Jimmy Hayes from the Florida Panthers. Both Hayes and Beleskey will be counted on to help shoulder the loss of Lucic and Hamilton, while forwards Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak look to take on bigger roles with the team next season. As far as Sweeney is concerned, the math is really simple (Hamilton+Lucic+Smith= 41 goals, Beleskey+Hayes=41 goals), but they may need more than just simple math to get them back to the playoffs and compete for a Stanley Cup.
I’ll be the first to say it; Boston will not make the playoffs next season. I’ll even go one step further and say the Boston Bruins will finish will less points than the Buffalo Sabres. Am I crazy? Maybe, but the Bruins have made zero progress in bettering their team this offseason and have traded away key players to save money. The reality is—the Bruins are building for the future—whether the fans like it or not. It’s almost impossible to build for the future and be a completive hockey team at the same time (unless you’re Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings), and as of right now, Boston is closer to a rebuilding team than a Stanley Cup playoff team. It may be a hard reality to swallow, but the Bruins may probably miss the playoffs more often than just next season.