It was mostly a forgetful season for us Bruins' fans with so many ups and downs. At first it seemed like a purely down year, one full of injuries and one of the most under-achieving offenses in the game. The Bruins netted an average of only 2.39 goals per game after finishing second in the NHL the year prior with 3.29 goals per contest.
But then there was hope—The Bruins finished off the heavily favored Sabres in six and sent Olympic phenom Ryan Miller to the golf course much earlier than I’m sure anyone had anticipated.
They weren’t done yet. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the Philly series and a 3-0 lead in Game Seven, they seemed to have had it all but won…cue one of the most epic collapses in NHL history.
So here we are a few months later just picking up the last of the pieces that were brutally thrown all over the floor. In order to avoid any similar heartbreak in the coming year, the Bruins and Peter Chiarelli have three necessary tasks to take care of to avoid a third consecutive second-round playoff exit.
1. Scoring Depth on the Wing
The Bruins have unparalleled depth at the center position with Marc Savard, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and the newly drafted Tyler Seguin.
However, without wingers who can put the puck in the net, having such effective centers doesn’t matter as much.
This year they had some of the most ineffective wingers in the game. With Milan Lucic nursing a high ankle sprain for most of the year and playing at only about 85 percent upon return, finesse players like Marc Savard really missed the space that Lucic’s physical play opened up for him.
Marco Sturm struggled to find the back of the net despite being one of the most consistent wingers they had.
Blake Wheeler found himself in a sophomore slump, but he wasn’t alone in his below average play. With a 200+ lbs frame Wheeler has the ability to become an elite power forward in the game but refuses to use his size to his advantage.
At the bottom of the barrel is Michael Ryder, who failed to even break the 20-goal plateau this year. Now, we wouldn’t say much about his point production if it appeared he was playing with any heart at all or if he wasn't making $4 million a year. So not only is he really tying up the Bruins on the ice, he is also severely handcuffing them on the books as well.
The Solution: Peter Chiarelli has already begun addressing the team's scoring woes. Shipping out Dennis Wideman and the 15th overall pick for Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton was a great move in the eyes of Bruins fans.
First, we got rid of Dennis Wideman, who seemed to be a liability every time he touched the ice with costly giveaways in the defensive zone.
Second, Nathan Horton is that goal-scoring winger who put up subpar numbers in Florida not because he didn’t have the skill, but because he was unhappy in that market and didn’t have the centers to benefit from like he will on the B’s. Nathan is the kind of player who will thrive in a place like Boston with such a deep hockey culture, and he will finally get to live up to his full potential.
Third, the trade was so beneficial was because in addition to Horton, we acquired Gregory Campbell. Look at his numbers and you’ll probably think I’m crazy for saying that having him is a good thing, but stick with me for a second. Look at his last name. Campbell—ring any bells?
Yeah, you guessed it—he’s the son of the current NHL Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell, which means next time our best player gets a blow to the head, the offender will most likely receive a well-deserved suspension for it.
PC also drafted Tyler Seguin, and even though he is a natural center, playing as a wing should be an easy transition for the skilled teenager. Seguin put up more goals than Taylor Hall did, so having him on the wing will be a nice addition to a team that has shown a chink in its armor.
2. A Puck-Moving Defenseman (NOT Kaberle)
The Wideman trade leaves a huge void on the back end of the Bruins' defensive corps for someone who can move his feet and skate the puck up on the power play. And for some reason whenever the words “puck-moving defenseman” are brought up in conversation, the next thing you hear out of someone’s mouth is the name “Tomas Kaberle.”
However, I don’t think he is necessarily the best choice for the team at this point in time, especially since you'd have to trade with Brian Burke. He feels that every player he has is worth about double their actual value, so in return for Kaberle he’d be looking for a handful of picks along with a roster player or a top prospect.
Even though every time the Bruins deal with the Leafs the former are humiliated (see Rask, Kessel trades). I don’t feel Kaberle is the right fit for the Bruins.
The Solution: A newly re-signed Johnny Manchuk, I mean Boychuk, could be the affordable option here. Already showing considerable improvement in his skating ability and consistently showing off his cannon-of-a-shot that earned him the name "Johnny Rocket", he showed the potential to be the complete package in his rookie campaign.
If he doesn't pan out, look for them to turn to an undersized Matt Hunwick. His small size allows him to be agile with a skating ability that is tough to match. Pair that with the ability to score and create offense, and the fact that he isn't too much of a defensive liability, and you got yourself that coveted puck-moving defenseman.
Just a side note: I do feel like they will eventually acquire someone via trade or free agency to fill this void, and these are just two options who could help man the fort in the meantime.
3. Salary Dump
Whenever you’re looking to upgrade, you need to have the money to do so, and right now the Bruins don’t have the money for suitable upgrades.
They have too much dead weight.
Don’t get me wrong—I love Tim Thomas, but paying a backup goalie $5 million a year is ludicrous, and the idea of Andy Ference making anything close to $2 million is awful, especially for an undersized defender who spends a fourth of the season in the doctors office.
Finally, giving $4 million to Michael Ryder is another nagging problem the Bruins have, and he is one of just a handful of bad signings from PC’s short tenure.
The Solution: Tim Thomas needs to be traded. We can’t continue to carry that weight for another three years, and he ties up valuable money that could be used to attain a suitable backup for Rask and another high-caliber player(possibly that puck-moving defenseman).
Ference also needs to go. I’ve never been a fan, and I don’t think I ever will be. That's not grounds for calling for a trade, but the fact remains that he's missed such a significant amount of time on top of being grossly overpaid.
Ryder is in a contract year, so maybe it will light a fire under his butt, but if not I think he needs to be buried in Providence. But who knows? I've been pleasantly surprised many times with this Bruins' team, though not as much as I've been crushed.
The Bruins have all the makings of a championship team and are just a few small steps away from fulfilling all of our dreams instead of stomping on our hearts over and over again. Peter Chiarelli is the right man for the job and will eventually take us to the promised land—Lord Stanley’s Cup.
But in the mean time hold your heads high, because now is the time to be a Bruins' fan. So grab your shades because the future is bright.
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