Now that the Boston Bruins have managed to collapse under the pressure of a playoff race for the second consecutive year, it is time to look forward to the offseason and how this team can improve for the 2016-17 season. The first order of business will be to find a new coach. Claude has led this team for the last nine season, but it is clear that his message is not being heard anymore in the locker room and his defense first style of coaching does not help young players like Pasta and Colin Miller grow, because they do not get to play. WAIT WHAT! THEY ALREADY BROUGHT HIM BACK. Well now, this changes everything. Unless there is some sort of agreement to allow the young kids to play, then they will continue to want out of town as soon as possible. Bringing Claude back only serves one purpose, if Sweeney is not able to bring in quality talent and make a key hockey trade then he can use Claude as a scapegoat if the team gets off to a slow start next season.
Julien as the captain of this ship means one thing, the offseason plan just got that much more complicated. This team needs one thing for Claude to be successful, defense, and the free agent market is bare. The biggest named defensemen on the table are Brian Campbell (pass), Alex Goligoski (pass), Nikita Nikitin (eh maybe), Justin Schultz (again maybe), and Keith Yandle (only if they move Krug). So more than likely, a new young blossoming defensemen will come from a big hockey trade.
As it stands the Bruins currently have Chara, Seidenberg, and McQuaid under contract and Morrow, Trotman, and Krug are all restricted free agents. Recently signed out of college Rob O'Gara and Matthew Grzelcyk will have a chance to earn a spot next season but and hopefully Colin Miller is given the chance he deserves, but none of these names stand out as a number one defenseman anymore. Chara is getting older and has clearly lost a step. On top of that, I can count on one hand then number of times he actually stepped into a slap shot this season and instead threw a weak fade away wrist shot hoping for a tip in front. The Bruins can always hope that Brandon Carlo or Jakub Zboril make a huge step and show they can be a top four defenseman but I would not bank on that next season.
In all actuality the Bruins will most likely try to move on from Seidenberg. He holds a $4 million cap hit the next two seasons which could help a young team reach the cap floor while providing some veteran leadership in the locker room, two things Claude will probably try to argue to stop him from being dealt. If someone would take Chara the Bruins would probably make the difficult decision to trade the captain before his play gets really ugly in the next couple seasons. If the Bruins were smart, probably not though, they would look to deal Krug. While some people see him as a young puck moving defenseman that is crucial on the powerplay, he is actually a mediocre offensive catalyst and is about to get paid more than he is worth (sounds like a perfect fit for Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton).
It is time for the Bruins to face facts, the team HAD a great core of players, Bergeron, Marchand, Lucic, Hamilton, Seguin, Rask, Chara, Boychuck, and Krejci, but they have managed to get rid of half of them or hung on too long to some of them and seen the core wilt down to Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Krecji. A tough hockey trade needs to happen for this team to get a shot in the arm and start moving forward again.
GM Don Sweeney recently mentioned that Bergeron is untouchable, however, he failed to say the same about any other player. This is a good thing for a Bruins fan. This means Sweeney knows that the team is stuck in neutral and they are going to have to make a smart move to bring in some talent that they have kicked out the door in recent years.
The offense the Bruins posses was one of the best in the league last season and will see a return from Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Beleskey, Hayes, Connolly, Spooner, Pastrnak, Vatrano, and Acciari, which sets this team up pretty well to have at least three solid lines. While there will be some tweaks to this lineup and a Chris Kelly, but not actually Chris Kelly, type player could be brought in to fortify the third or fourth line, the Bruins need to utilize this depth to cover their weaknesses on defense. Finding out what the league thinks of Krejci could immediately bring in assets that could help on defense.
Some people will be clamoring to trade Rask, but the Bruins have nothing behind him to step up and be a number one goaltender. Rask has lost some luster over the last couple seasons and him sitting out the biggest game of the year surely did him no favors with the fans, but he is still capable of stealing a game and being one of the top ten goalies in the game. Rask gets a pass for this season because the defense in front of him was so brutal, but trading him will only create a bigger hole than there currently is.
The Boston Bruins need to do one thing this offseason, acquire defensive building blocks. They have the cap space, some draft picks, and offensive depth to do so. If the starting defense next year holds the names mentioned above and nobody else, expect another lost hockey season in Boston.
By Dan Cantone