The good news for the Bruins in 2011-12 was that they were the best team in the Northeast Division by a healthy margin. They took advantage of a weak year from its traditionally strong divisional competition and even got a favourable first-round opponent.
The bad news was that the team's defence of its Stanley Cup title ended after just seven games with a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.
The biggest shift for the Bruins will be in net where 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas has opted to take a year off and Tuukka Rask gets the lions' share of duties.
If the B's can force themselves on their opponents the way they did last season - particularly against the Northeast whom they dominated to the tune of a 19-4-1 record – the transition back to Rask could be seamless.
The Bruins' stable of prospects is still reaping the benefit of the Phil Kessel trade, including hulking defender Dougie Hamilton and budding power forward Jared Knight. Both have a shot at earning NHL jobs this coming season.
But they're not alone. Skilled winger Ryan Spooner was one of the final cuts in 2011-12 and could force the issue and form a long-time pairing with Tyler Seguin for the B's up front.
The team also added an excellent goaltending prospect by selecting Malcolm Subban in the first round in June. However, with Rask ready to re-claim the starter's job, it may be a long wait before the anticipated Subban vs. Subban angle of the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry becomes a reality. Still, Subban showed flashes of brilliance in Canada's fourth-place 2013 World Junior showing, particularly in opening-round wins over Russia and the Americans.
An off-season that was devoid of marquee additions is a by-product of the team being well-stocked with young, controllable talent. David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron have two years left on their current deals and Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic are still at least one more contract away from unrestricted free agency, meaning the team's talented forward corps will stick together for a couple years at the very least.
What is going on with Tim Thomas? Much like last year's off-season soap opera with Marc Savard's concussion woes, the Thomas drama will likely be a footnote throughout the season as the team soldiers on without its outspoken netminder. Luckily the team has an excellent Plan B in Rask, but with Thomas remaining vague about his NHL future, he could continue to be a talking point, even if he's not in the dressing room to keep the media scrums entertained.
A look at where Bruins players went during the lockout:
Patrice Bergeron (HC Lugano, Swiss Elite), Jordan Caron (Providence, AHL), Zdeno Chara (Prague, KHL), Garnet Exelby (Providence, AHL),Andrew Ference (Ceske Budejovice, Czech League), Chris Kelly (Red Ice, Swiss Elite), Anton Khudobin (Atlant Mytishchi, KHL), David Krejci (HC Pardubice, Czech League), Rich Peverley (JYP, Finnish Elite), Tuukka Rask (HC Plzen, Czech League), Tyler Seguin (EHC Biel, Swiss Elite), Dennis Seidenberg (Adler Mannheim, German Elite)