By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Writer
As refreshing it may have been to some to see the Bruins break their first five-game losing streak under head coach Bruce Cassidy in Sunrise on Saturday night against a good Florida Panthers team, the road trip that ended in a barely half-full stadium for a franchise that would obviously better off being relocated was an eyeopener for a B’s team that was sizzling through the first third of their schedule.
No matter if you wear black and gold sunglasses 24/7, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of the game knows that the roster general manager Don Sweeney has assembled is missing two things. Secondary scoring and physical players that can actually compete in the new fast-paced NHL that demands those who can have such a presence can still play the game.
The Bruins – as currently constructed – lack both.
For as much as those who are wearing blinders will point to David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk’s contribution to the offense against the Panthers, the top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were once again called upon to carry Sweeney’s club for a majority of the only victory they recorded on this road trip.
While there may be those in the B’s brass that think that somehow David Backes or Brent Ritchie might find a way to become the physical force that will be needed come the spring when the likes of the Washington Capitals or the Tampa Bay Lightning will almost certainly stand in the way of Cassidy’s crew ability to make it to a second straight Stanley Cup Final, the truth is that Sweeney is likely two players away from solidifying his roster before the NHL’s second season.
Despite the somewhat out of the box – or perhaps off the grid – thoughts of bringing the much-rumored on the move Taylor Hall to Boston in a deal with the New Jersey Devils – in theory, he would bring the scoring and the physical play that they will need next spring – it seems that the first pick in the 2010 NHL Draft is a bit of a diva.
A trusted source with connections throughout the league has told me – on more than one occasion – that Hall is considered to be a somewhat selfish player who – despite never coming close to leading his team into true Cup contention – has a larger opinion of himself than many across the game have of him when it comes to the attitude it takes to become a key contributor on a championship team.
Some have suggested Tyler Toffoli of the LA Kings as an option to upgrade the Bruins second line scoring – even though the 27-year-old forward has only scored more than 20 goals three times in his last seven seasons –yet, he plays below his six-foot, 200 lbs size, which wouldn’t add much to the deficiencies that the B’s obviously have when it comes to some of the more physical teams that they are likely to see in the playoffs.
Hall’s teammate in New Jersey Kyle Palmieri has also been mentioned as a possible player that Sweeney might be interested in, but given his lack of size – 5’11” and 180 lbs – he would only address one of the needs the Bruins have but would likely be a better option to play with Krejci and DeBrusk, as he has averaged over 25 goals in his last four seasons.
The bottom line is the same reasons that the Bruins lost the Stanley Cup to the St. Louis Blues last June at TD Garden in Game 7, still exist. Their lack of consistent secondary scoring and physicality may not show as much during what can oftentimes be a sedentary NHL regular season. Nonetheless, they are easily exposed when the playoffs start in April.
While it may seem like Sweeney has plenty of time to address both his team’s needs, the sooner he acts the lower the price he’ll likely have to pay for what will become increasingly expensive assets.