Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pool Outlook for Boston

After a slow start to the Boston Bruins' regular season, they finally found their legs midway through the year and they became a very dominant side down the stretch, working their way back up the standings in the Atlantic Division to finish 2nd and earn themselves a 1st round match-up against their rivals from Toronto.  That opening round series went seven games and the Bruins were eventually victorious and they took that momentum into the next round, where they faced off against the Lightning.  The momentum was good for one game, but the Lightning were just too skilled and determined, as they swept the final four games and ended the Bruins' season in five games.

It took a while, but the Bruins' best players needed the time to get their legs underneath them, but once they did, they had one of the more dominant top lines in the game, as Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak took the game by storm and they imposed their will on most nights.  It was too bad, for their sake, that the Lightning had an answer for them or else they could be the ones in the Stanley Cup Finals these days, they were looking that good.

Things were looking quite questionable for the Bruins heading into the summer last year, as there were a number of question marks about the team that needed answering.  When it came down to it though, their best players were their best players and they didn't look out of place in the overall standings.

The trials and tribulations of Brad Marchand in the 2018 season were very well documented.  Injuries in November and another lengthy suspension in January limited his season to only 68 games for the Bruins, but he was a dominant offensive force, finishing with 34 goals and 85 points, finishing with one of the best scoring rates in the league and 18th overall in pool scoring.  His antics may have continued into the playoffs, but so did his scoring, but again, it was the Lightning, capable of shutting him and his line down, made for their eventual downfall.  Marchand has been excellent in the last couple seasons, but he does come with a warning label, take at your own risk.

The Bruins were very active in the scoring department, finishing with 14 players in the hockey pool conversation.  Pastrnak and Bergeron were not very far behind Marchand up front, while Danton Heinen, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Riley Nash, Rick Nash and David Backes were all among the pool worthy forwards.  On defense, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara led the charge, while both goalies, Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin were among the top 50 at their position.  The Bruins offered up some good depth in the year and it is a promising sign moving forward into the 2019 season.

What I Said Last Year, At This Time...

The Bruins were a tough team to read heading into last season and not a lot has changed. The influx of youth has been a big positive for the Bruins, both on the ice with their performances and off the ice with their cap hits. The Bruins are retooling more than they are rebuilding, which could work in their favour, but there have been a number of teams that have tried it and it's a slow burn out of the playoff picture, year after year. If Bruins management can identify some pieces that could move and find some more compatible pieces to play with the current roster, they have a much better chance at making the playoffs again. No guarantees on that, however, as teams may not be keen to trade for some of Boston's cast offs. If none of that happens, then it will be put on the shoulders of Rask and Marchand again and that's a tall task, two seasons in a row.

The Bruins were able to do more from within their organization, like adding young players like Heinen and DeBrusk to their everyday roster and having them excel in their roles and then the Bruins went out and spent a ton on Rick Nash at the deadline, which didn't necessarily help them much, since the power forward spent the better part of the stretch run on the injured list and really couldn't shake off the rust for the opening round of the playoffs.  Still, the best players carried the team, Marchand got some more help from Pastrnak and the Bruins looked great.  It was a tall task in the Atlantic Division, but the Bruins were up to it, much to their own credit.

How did my intriguing or breakout player fare?

I was expecting a little bit more out of Charlie McAvoy in the 2018 season, but the 20-year old was still an effective everyday defender for the Bruins, finishing with 7 goals and 32 points in 63 games this season, hampered by a couple of health issues in the New Year.  He probably could have hit those projected numbers, if he didn't miss those 19 games.  He's going to round out to be a very good offensive defenseman in the coming years and a hockey pool staple, indeed.

2019 Pool Outlook

Forwards Cap Defense Cap Goalies Cap
David Krejci 7.250 Torey Krug 5.250 Tuukka Rask 7.000
Patrice Bergeron 6.875 Zdeno Chara 5.000 Zane McIntyre 0.650
David Pastrnak 6.667 Adam McQuaid 2.750
Brad Marchand 6.125 Kevan Miller 2.500
David Backes 6.000 Charlie McAvoy 0.917
Ryan Donato 0.900 Jakub Zboril 0.863
Danton Heinen 0.873 Brandon Carlo 0.789
Jake DeBrusk 0.863
Joonas Koppanen 0.768
Peter Cehlarik 0.743
Noel Acciari 0.725
Jordan Szwarz 0.650

11 of the team's 14 pool worthy players are already signed on for the 2019 season, which means that the Bruins should be well-versed in team chemistry and depth for the coming year, which should also bode well for their chances at the playoffs and possibly a strong.  More importantly though, they should be a good team to pick from, even in the later rounds, when you're looking for sneaky picks, if there are any of them left.

Free Agency and the Salary Cap

Anton Khudobin leads the unrestricted free agent class for the Bruins, followed by both Nash's, Rick and Riley, and the Bruins will have to pick and choose wisely, if they are going to want to continue with any of these guys moving forward.  They paid quite the ransom to rent Rick at the deadline, but his salary demands may still be out of the team's range.

I currently have the Bruins with a 21-man roster above and with some retained salary and buyouts on the books, this is leaving them with only $6.9 million left under the current cap, which has recently been said to be going up to at least $78 million, a $3 million raise.  That would certainly help this team (and a lot of teams) out this summer, making sure they get all their required talent under contract.

22-year old forward Ryan Donato made quite the impression in his 12 games with the club at the end of the regular season, scoring 5 goals and 9 points and he'll be a top target for those who like to choose from the rookie class at the hockey pool draft.  Donato looked like an everyday pro with the team, in the Bruins' style, which made him a great fit early on.  He played pretty well at the Olympics for the USA and once he finished his NCAA career at Harvard, he was inserted immediately at the NHL level and he looked very good.  I'm expecting big things from him.

Needs at the 2018 Entry Draft

Unfortunately, that huge ransom paid to the New York Rangers for the rental of Rick Nash, included the Bruins' 1st round pick in this year's entry draft and this gives the Rangers another pick, their 2nd of three picks in the opening round, as they have done well to try and expedite their rebuilding process.

I already have the Rangers selecting a defenseman in this draft, so with the Bruins' pick, 26th overall, I am looking for them to add some offensive flair up front, taking Russian forward Grigori Denisenko, who is described to be a highly-skilled player, but needs to tone down some of the on-ice antics that occasionally cost his team.  He sounds like the kind of guy that could be a star on Broadway.

The Bruins have rumbled down some rocky roads in the last few seasons, but they have seemingly managed just fine and now they have a top line that should have a little bit of staying power for another couple seasons, at least.  Their blueline is slowly getting younger, although Zdeno Chara is set to come back for the 2019 season, but his role is decreasing, as the younger players are getting more experience.  Tuukka Rask still showed that he has gas left in the tank for another long ride, so he should still be good at 31 years old.  I think there is still enough in this Boston team to keep themselves very competitive next season, comfortably reaching the playoffs and then pushing to get deep.  If they can keep that youth movement churning out good young prospects, they'll be in good shape for a long time.
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