3 reasons to be optimistic about the Bruins’ future

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy stands behind his team after a 3-2 loss against the Senators during overtime in game six of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 23, 2017, in Boston.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy stands behind his team after a 3-2 loss against the Senators during overtime in game six of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series, Sunday, April 23, 2017, in Boston. –(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

COMMENTARY

Now that the team’s 2016-17 season has come and gone, Bruins management has begun the process of improving the roster for a return to the postseason and a deeper run in 2017-18. As the front office begins to construct next season’s team, the future looks very bright for the Boston Bruins.

Here are three reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Black and Gold:

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak

Since the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars in the summer of 2013, the Bruins have been searching for a top goal scorer. Now, it appears they have two: Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have developed into two of the better goal scorers in all of the National Hockey League.

Advertisement

Marchand and Pastrnak scored 39 and 34 times, respectively, while combining for 82 assists. The 85 points by Marchand led the Bruins with Pastrnak’s 70 behind him for second on the team. Marchand finished the season fourth in the NHL in goals while Pastrnak tied Patrick Kane and Anders Lee for 10th.

With Marchand under contract through the 2024-25 season and Pastrnak, who is currently a restricted free agent, expected to sign a new contract with the Bruins this offseason, the Black and Gold should have their dynamic duo intact for years to come.

This past season, Marchand set career-highs in goals, assists and points. Had he not missed the final two games of the season after being suspended for his spear of Lightning defenseman Jake Dotchin, Marchand very well may have hit the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career.

Like Marchand, Pastrnak is coming off a season where he too set career-highs in the three major offensive categories. The 2016-17 season also gave Pastrnak his first taste of playoff hockey, where he tallied four points (two goals, two assists) in the six-game series loss to the Ottawa Senators.

Having Marchand and Pastrnak in the fold gives the Bruins some options as they look to build the team around the two talented forwards. They may not be the duo that the Penguins have to offer in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, or even Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews in Chicago, but the Bruins and their fans certainly have no problem with a heavy dose of Marchand and Pastrnak.

Advertisement

Charlie McAvoy and the Bruins’ prospects

If there was one silver lining to be found in the Bruins’ quick playoff exit, it was the emergence of Charlie McAvoy.

Drafted by the Bruins in the first round this past June, and just weeks after finishing his sophomore season at Boston University, McAvoy made his NHL debut in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with the Senators.

In his first game as a Bruin, McAvoy logged 24:11 of time on ice and looked nothing close to a 19-year old making his NHL and Stanley Cup Playoff debut. Through the Bruins’ six playoff games, McAvoy gave everyone a glimpse at just how talented he is and how bright his future with the Bruins will be. Many things in McAvoy’s game stuck out, but it was his calmness and his smarts with the puck that best showed his maturity.

The Bruins’ pool of prospects goes further than McAvoy as they will have many youngsters in camp this summer, looking for jobs: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Rob O’Gara, Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk, and Zach Senyshyn are just some of the names expected to compete for roles. You also can’t forget the likes of Danton Heinen, Austin Czarnik, Anton Blidh and Sean Kuraly who all contributed to the Bruins at some point this past season. Other prospects, like Anders Bjork, could see themselves in a Black and Gold uniform within the next year or two.

Bruce Cassidy

When the Bruins fired head coach Claude Julien and named assistant coach Bruce Cassidy the team’s interim head coach, no one really knew what to expect. Cassidy’s first go as an NHL head coach was one to forget as he was fired after 28 games into his second season behind the Capitals’ bench. At the time, he was one year removed from taking the Caps to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Advertisement

Shortly after his firing from Washington, Cassidy became the head coach of the Providence Bruins where he took the club to the playoffs in four of his five seasons at the helm. His success in Providence earned him a promotion as an assistant coach on Julien’s staff.

Once Julien was fired, Cassidy came in and brought some new blood into the Bruins’ locker room and that’s exactly what a struggling Bruins team needed. The Black and Gold went 18-8-1 under Cassidy and reached the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

In what general manager Don Sweeney called a “very comfortable” move, Cassidy was officially named head coach on April 26th.

With Cassidy behind the bench, small changes were made and they paid immediate dividends as the Bruins won 12 of their first 15 under him. What stuck out the most about Cassidy is that he wasn’t afraid to roll the dice and just let the players play. One perfect example of that was McAvoy’s minutes in Game 1.

Guys like Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner, Brandon Carlo and others that had Cassidy as a coach in Providence seemed to become more comfortable on the ice. From there, the more experienced players bought into Cassidy’s vision and the Bruins went on a run from there.

With young talent already on the roster and even more waiting in the pipelines, Cassidy’s experience and ability to get some of these younger players to play at their best will be a huge benefit to a Bruins team that is only going to get better with each season.