Breaking Down the Bruins Roster
For the first time in several years, the Bruins roster experienced some significant changes during the offseason.
After their crushing loss to the Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final in June, the Bruins’ brass got to work. Andrew Ference and Nathan Horton were both lost to free agency, and general manager Peter Chiarelli made the bold move of trading potential superstar Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas. In return, the Bruins received the talented, but unheralded, Loui Eriksson, along with Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Joe Morrow.
To replace Horton, Chiarelli signed future Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla, who was close to landing with Boston at last season’s trade deadline, before ultimately ending up with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins’ talented young defense corps – Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, and Dougie Hamilton – impressed during the postseason and will help fill the void left by Ference.
The only real holes to fill are on the third line. Chris Kelly will remain the center, but coach Claude Julien and the rest of the B’s brain-trust have some decisions to make when it comes to who will be flanking Kelly on the wing.
With Opening Night just about a week away, here’s a look at my projected roster:
Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Jarome Iginla
The line of Lucic, Krejci, and Horton was one of the best in the NHL over the past three seasons, especially when the playoffs rolled around. With Iginla sliding into the right wing spot, the trio will continue to play its skilled, but rough, style of play.
Lucic and Iginla have the size and straight-ahead speed to create room and get open to allow Krejci to work his magic. Iginla also has a better shot than Horton and will provide a bit more spark on the power play. The extra space behind the nets, thanks to the NHL downsizing the goals, will help Krejci’s wizardry in the offensive zone.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Loui Eriksson
This could be the first line for lots of other NHL teams, but in Boston they’re No. 2. Marchand continued to show last season that he is a legitimate scoring threat, and his knack to get under the opponents’ skin makes him one of a kind.
Bergeron is Bergeron. His performance in the Cup Final last year (he played Game 6 with a broken rib, torn rib cartilage, a punctured lung, and a separated shoulder) solidified his place among the best of the best in the NHL. His defensive prowess, penalty-killing ability, and face-off skills are elite, but he also has proven he can score at a high rate.
Eriksson is a Bergeron type. He has scored over 25 goals four times, but his two-way play is what separates him. He will fit right in with the defensively responsible duo of Marchand and Bergeron. He doesn’t have the skill or speed that Seguin had, but he will be a more than capable replacement.
Carl Soderberg – Chris Kelly – Reilly Smith
Here’s where things get interesting. Kelly has been a stalwart on this line since he came to the Bruins from Ottawa via trade in mid-2011. The center, like Bergeron, is more known for his defense and penalty-killing skills. His experience and leadership should help this line in its transition.
We got a sneak peak of Soderberg at the tail end of last season. He finally made the trek over from Sweden, but didn’t get much playing time, seeing the ice in just six regular season games. He also made a cameo in the Cup Final, playing in Games 5 and 6 against Chicago. The hulking Swede can play either wing or center, but he’ll settle in to the left of Kelly and provide some grit and scoring touch.
Smith, who came over from Dallas, is just 22 and has played only 40 NHL games over two seasons. But he has plenty of skill, having been a 30-goal scorer at Miami (Ohio). He should be a nice compliment to Kelly and Soderberg.
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Shawn Thornton
Perhaps the Bruins’ most popular trio, the Merlot line returns intact for yet another season. Paille, Campbell, and Thornton always seem to overachieve and bring the Bruins some energy and a spark just when they need it the most.
The importance of the line was never more evident than in last year’s Cup Final. After Campbell was lost for the season with a broken leg, suffered in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against Pittsburgh, the Bruins weren’t able to roll four lines on a consistent basis, something that separates them from other teams.
They’re not just a line of enforcers; Campbell and Paille, specifically, have shown that they can produce offensively and play up in the lineup if needed.
Jordan Caron, Nick Johnson, and Ryan Spooner are all candidates to be the extra man up front. Spooner, who has impressed during the preseason, could start the season in Providence to continue his development.
Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton
Chara, 36, is getting up there in age, but it doesn’t appear he will be slowing down anytime soon. The perennial Norris Trophy candidate may have his heir apparent by his side this season. Hamilton started off strong during his rookie season, but the strength and speed of the NHL caught up to him by the end. He should take a big step forward playing alongside Chara every night.
Dennis Seidenberg – Johnny Boychuk
This is a pairing of two underrated defensemen. Seidenberg is as dependable defensively as any D-man in the league, and during the playoffs forms a shutdown duo with Chara. Boychuk brings grit, strength, and a deadly shot from the point. He scored six goals during the playoffs by displaying his newfound wrist/snap shot, which is far more accurate than his “Johnny Rocket” slapper.
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Krug and McQuaid made for a great pairing during the playoffs. Krug is the puck-moving defenseman the Bruins have longed for in recent years, and may be the spark for the B’s lowly power play. His four goals against the New York Rangers in the second round have created high expectations.
McQuaid is solid. His large stature (he’s 6′ 4″) makes for quite a site on the ice, with Krug standing at just 5-foot-9, but allows him to be an enforcer on the back end.
Matt Bartkowski could be the odd-man out early on, but he will get his fair share of playing time. He, like Krug, had his coming-out party during the postseason and will be a large part of this year’s team. Don’t be surprised to see him frequently switching in and out of the lineup with Krug and/or Hamilton.
There’s not much to analyze here. Rask is the Bruins’ starting goaltender. His Tim Thomas-like play during the postseason solidified his spot as the Bruins’ goaltender of the future, and Chiarelli rewarded him by locking him up to an eight-year deal over the summer.
Johnson has been shaky during the preseason, but he should sneak away with the backup job. If he stumbles anymore, though, the young Niklas Svedberg could make his way up from Providence.