Calling into question the Bruins’ lack of offseason activity would be quite easy. Coming off a disappointing second round loss in the 2014 playoffs, especially at the hands of arch rival and lower-seeded Montreal, there needed to be major changes, right?
Boston’s early playoff exit came after the team breezed through the regular season. Coming within two victories of winning the Cup a year prior, 117 points, and a President’s Trophy made it seem like the Bruins would get right back to hockey’s final two.
But the Canadiens managed to erase a 3-2 series deficit, winning in Boston in a Game 7 that sent the Bruins packing.
No need to panic, though.
Montreal was a worthy adversary, and needed a pretty impressive comeback to eliminate the Bruins. The series also featured about 12 or so posts hit by Boston shooters. Call it puck luck, call it whatever you want, but by no stretch of the imagination did Montreal dominate that series.
The Bruins didn’t just waltz into the league’s best record. They were one of the league’s top possession teams, anchored by a Vezina-winning goalie, a Selke-winning center, and a defenseman who should have garnered his second Norris. Those faces will still be in a Bruins sweater next season, so what exactly is going to change?
There are certainly areas of the Bruins’ game in which they can improve. The fourth line may have the most room for growth, and has already seen some addition through the subtraction of Shawn Thornton. The Bruins’ penalty kill, which struggled to neutralize the Canadiens’ power play, was a top-10 unit during the regular season before fumbling in the seven-game series.
In the face of that letdown, major change would be easy to rationalize, but reactionary at best. With the Bruins toeing the salary cap ceiling, there wasn’t a big-time move to be made to begin with. Add in the young talent Boston has stockpiled organizationally, and the Bruins’ offseason script has been written for some time now.
There will still be other challengers to the East’s throne. Montreal is a young team getting better by the year, and made a heady move trading Daniel Briere for P.A. Parenteau. Tampa Bay should provide another roadblock, with a healthy Steven Stamkos, and a host of other new talent, including rookie Jonathan Drouin, whose name Bruins fans will learn quickly. And the Rangers, last year’s East winners, will have many of the same players.
In spite of all that, the Bruins will more than likely again be the favorite to navigate those teams and make it back to the Cup. Replacing Jarome Iginla’s production will be difficult, but not a season-crippling task. Minor leaguers like Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khoklachev will compete for roster spots, and help re-energize the bottom of the Bruins depth chart. Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara will still be premier players at their respective positions.
And then there’s the element of the unknown. Only within the last month could Dougie Hamilton legally enjoy an alcoholic beverage in the United States. The former No. 9 overall draft pick has shown promise and continued improvement in parts of two NHL seasons. Torey Krug is a developing, offensive weapon from the blue line. Heck, the Bruins youngsters may even get better next year.
And this isn’t all to say there’s a high-level of panic around Boston. In fact, all a Bruins fan would have to do is look at San Jose for the concept of irrational offseason second-guessing. After coughing up a 3-0 series lead to eventual champion Los Angeles, the Sharks discussed sacking head coach Todd McLellan, and trading away top-flight forwards Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.
San Jose hasn’t done any of that (yet), while in Boston, it’s still full speed ahead when it comes to a talented Bruins roster that should have no problem asserting itself as one of the top groups in all of hockey come next season. Sometimes, less is more, and the Bruins’ offseason pacifism may be more of a nod to the franchise’s steadfastness to its overall blueprint than a kneejerk, unnecessary offseason.