ESPN New Hampshire Boston Bruins Writer Mike Grinnell Takes an In-depth Look at the 2015-2016 Boston Bruins
With an offseason that saw many departures and arrivals, the 2015-16 Bruins season is finally on our hands. For the first time since the year 2007, Milan Lucic will not be in the Bruins opening night lineup, after the forward was shipped to Los Angeles in a draft-day-trade that landed the Bruins the 13th overall pick, Martin Jones (Later exchanged for a 2016 first round pick from SJS, and defensemen Colin Miller. The Bruins will also be without defenseman Dougie Hamilton for the first time since 2012, leaving a gaping whole on defense. This Bruins team will look much different then in years past, for better, and for worse.
One thing Peter Chiarelli failed to address was giving his first-line center a suitable, goal scoring, winger to play with. Since Jarome Iginla’s departure after the 2013-14 season, David Krejci has been stuck playing with players like an underdeveloped Seth Griffith and a mediocre Daniel Paille. Chiarelli tried addressing Krejci’s need to play with a goal scorer by acquiring former 5th overall pick Brett Connolly from the Tampa Bay Lighting at last season trade deadline only to see Connolly break his finger during his first practice, Connolly only skated in 5 games for the Bruins last season.
Out with the old, and in with the new, It’s Don Sweeney’s turn to address the top-line, goal scorer, problem that has plagued the Bruins for years, and he did just that. After a breakout year and an outstanding playoffs, Don Sweeney signed Matt Beleskey to a 5-year deal worth 3.8 million per year. Beleskey, tallying 22 goals on the season and 8 more in the playoffs, looks to be the physical, goal scoring wing the Bruins have longed for. Sweeney also acquired Dorchester-made Jimmy Hayes, In exchange for the former Boston College Eagle, the Bruins parted ways with forward Reilly Smith and the former 20-goal-scorer was shipped to Florida. With the additions of Hayes, Beleskey and even Connolly, I expect the lines for this upcoming season to look a little something like this:
Beleskey – Krejci – Pastrnak
Marchand – Bergeron – Eriksson
Hayes – Spooner – Connolly
Kelly – Kemppainen – Rinaldo/Randell
First line- After playing on the Anaheim Ducks top-line along side Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, it seems only fit Matt Beleskey plays along side Bruins playmaker David Krejci. Beleskey will add a physical touch that Milan Lucic provided, but will also be able to keep up with the fast pace of the game and provide you with some scoring. David Pastrnak will fit into the top-line RW slot perfectly. After a breakout year last season in which no one really saw coming, Pastrnak is going to make another giant step this year, and going to become a legitimate threat as a top 6 forward.
Second line- Marchand and Bergeron are the most reliable line combination you have on this team, so breaking them up would be foolish. Add another 20 goal scorer, in Loui Eriksson, who can play a good, defensive, style of hockey, that is a tough line to beat.
Third line- Led by Ryan Spooner at center, the third line will have a complete makeover since last season. In 29 games last season with the big club, Spooner added 8 goals with 18 assists and proved to be one of the Bruins biggest offensive threats at the end of last season. Add, Jimmy Hayes, fresh off a 19-goal breakout season in Florida and former 5th overall pick who has something to prove, in Brett Connolly, this could be one of the top third lines in the league.
Fourth line- One of the biggest questions this offseason was addressing the fourth line. After the Bruins announced Greg Campbell and Daniel Paille would not be back this season, it was time to start over. The fourth line needed to be younger, faster, and hit harder. Don Sweeney acquired Zac Rinaldo for a 4th round pick to do just that. I don’t believe Rinaldo cracks the lineup every night, I think splitting time with 24-year-old Tyler Randell, who has been very impressive this preseason, would be a smart option for Boston and also limit the opportunities Rinaldo can embarrass them.
I don’t know if people understand how important Zdeno Chara is to this team and defense. The season revolves around him and if he is healthy or not. Assuming Chara is healthy going into the start of the season, I still believe the defense will struggle tremendously. The Bruins struggled last year on defense and only got worse this offseason. An immediate impact will be seen from the loss of Dougie Hamilton. For the first time in years, the Bruins and Claude Julien don’t know what they will be getting from their defensemen this year, going into the season. Trotman (29 NHL Games), Morrow (15 NHL Games) and Colin Miller (0 NHL Games) are all expected to see some time this year. Miller, has the likes of a top 4 defensemen. One of the AHL’s top defensemen last season, won the hardest shot competition (105.5 mph) and the fastest skater competition at the AHL All-Star Game last season. Miller also led the AHL in goals by a defensemen last season with 19. Trotman will also play a top 4 role on this years defense, just as he did last year, when Dougie Hamilton went down at the end of the year. Expect Trotman to be lining up along side Zdeno Chara to start of the season. I do not think we will see Joe Morrow crack the opening night lineup, but that doesn’t mean I am counting him out. Acquired in the ‘Tyler Seguin Deal’, Morrow still has something to prove in Boston and has only impressed in Providence. I expect the opening night D-pairings to look something like this.
Chara – Trotman
Krug – Mcqauid
Miller – Irwin (K.Miller)
With the injury to Dennis Seidenberg, Torey Krug really needs to emerge as a top-4 defensemen. Krug, a crowd favorite amongst Bruins fans, has been a great offensive defensemen in years past, but needs to make better decisions with the puck and be better in his own end. I think a Miller- Miller combo will compliment each other nicely, but after the way we saw Colin Miller and Matt Irwin play together this preseason, it is going to be tough to break up that combination.
This Bruins season is going to be a long one if they don’t figure out their defense. Whether that means going out and getting someone who can be a viable top-4 defensemen, or getting good play from within, the defense will be the ‘Achilles heal’ of this years Bruins team. The Bruins are going to have a tough year ahead of them, but I still believe that they will make the playoffs, just barely, as the number 8 seed.