By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
A quick look at the pre-training camp odds to win the 2018 Stanley Cup next spring, shows that the wise guys see the Bruins as a fringe playoff team with not a great shot at hoisting hockey’s holy grail anytime soon. According to VegasINSIDER.com, the B’s are a middle of the pack, 28/1 shot to win it all; and only a 17/4 underdog to take the Atlantic Division, which ranks fourth behind the Tampa Bay Lightning (3/1), the Toronto Maple Leafs (15/4) and the Montreal Canadiens (4/1).
In other words, the powers that be aren’t expecting the team that calls Causeway Street home, to be much of a power at all this upcoming season, even if they cave in and give David Pastrnak superstar money after one year of production.
And, why should they? Even if Pastrnak lives up to his potential, the Bruins are an extremely top heavy team, headed into year three of the rebuild on the fly spearheaded by a still suspicious general manager in Don Sweeney.
Sure, their top-end talent matches up with the best in the league; even so, once you get by last season’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak; you are left with a group of has-beens and wannabes in their forward group. Their defense is equally questionable. For all the hope that lies in the likes of six-game playoffs sensation Charlie McAvoy and the over-achieving Brandon Carlo, you have a Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid and a fossilizing Zdeno Chara playing over 20 minutes a night, that brings you back to earth.
The jury is pretty much in on David Krejci, and the verdict doesn’t look good for the Black and Gold. He has two bad hips; and his slow it down, puck control game doesn’t translate into the new NHL’s water-bug quick, trending style of play.
David Backes was a massive overreach by Sweeney; his first year in Boston was not very good, and at 33 years of age, his old-style, power-forward game doesn’t play well when you can’t catch anyone to body check. And by sticking pretty much to the status quo – and hoping that the kids who have been drafted are the answer to their lack of depth up front – it is easy to argue that the Bruins biggest addition this summer, was the subtraction of the black hole that was Dorchester’s own Jimmy Hayes.
For those Bruins fans who are hoping for a breakout season from Ryan Spooner, I wouldn’t hold your breath. Even before camp has opened, Backes has hinted that the B’s brass has talked to him about being their third line center – which was Spooner’s role until he was sent to the press box as a healthy scratch in game five and six of the first-round playoff loss to the Sens – and it is very likely if one of the kids pop in the preseason, he could be sent packing to clear room for them.
Don’t get me wrong, this edition of the Black and Gold won’t be bad; they just most likely will be a work in progress. Given the number of rookies and second-year players they will undoubtedly have on their roster, there very likely will be a great deal of peaks and valleys throughout the season, as they gain experience in the NHL.
Regardless of the regular-season outcome, the Bruins need to integrate as many as the kids they can – those who prove they are ready, obviously – to shorten the length of the rebuild they most certainly are in. If two or three of the forward prospects pan out – out of the pool of Sean Kuraly, Austin Czarnik, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork, Jacob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zack Senyshyn, Jack DeBrusk and the newly signed Kenny Agostino – that would be the best-case scenario for this season.
If the Bruins are to capitalize on what is left of the championship window in the careers of the likes of Tuukka Rask, Bergeron and Marchand, they need the much ballyhooed body of talent that Sweeney has seemingly assembled, to make an impact at the NHL level as soon as possible.
While just like in spring training, when hope springs eternal, Bruins’ fans no doubt will have visions of Stanley Cups dancing in their heads. However, a more reasonable expectation would be to see a young, exciting team that will have its fits and starts.
Nevertheless, if Sweeney and his scouts were as wise as many of the talking heads say they were with their draft selections the past three years, this hockey season could have B’s fans witnessing the foundation being poured for the next great Bruins team to be built upon.