2008-09: 53-19-10 (1st in the East – Eliminated in Conference SF by Hurricanes)
TSN Pre-Season Power Ranking: 2nd
General Manager: Peter Chiarelli (4th Season)
Head Coach: Claude Julien (2nd Season)
What They Did In The Off-season:
While a Game 7 overtime loss to the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference semifinal was devastating, management wisely chose to by-and-large stand pat over the summer.
The team rewarded David Krejci for his breakout campaign by signing the Czech sniper to a new three-year deal just before he underwent hip surgery. June was a particularly successful month for the Bruins as they cleaned up at the NHL awards. Tim Thomas captured the Vezina and shared the Jennings trophy with Manny Fernandez, Claude Julien was named coach of the year while captain Zdeno Chara got his name engraved on his first-ever Norris Trophy.
Forward Peter Schaefer was bought out, while Shane Hnidy, Steve Montador and Stephane Yelle were all allowed to walk away in free agency. Veteran P.J. Axelsson returned to Sweden, signing with Frolunda. The Bruins replaced those pieces with Steve Begin, Derek Morris and Andy Wozniewski in free-agency, while Mark Recchi, Byron Bitz and Matt Hunwick all agreed to re-sign with the club. Both Chiarelli and Julien earned contract extensions as well.
General manager Peter Chiarelli faced the biggest challenge during his tenure when it became clear that 21-year old sniper Phil Kessel was looking for more money than the Bruins were willing to pay him. It appeared that Chiarelli had a deal on the table prior to the NHL draft that would bring Tomas Kaberle to Beantown for Kessel, but a mix-up over draft picks ultimately squashed the deal. The saga dragged on throughout the summer with Kessel later stating he was through dealing with the Bruins. With Chiarelli's hands tied, the Leafs would eventually get their man. Toronto sent a pair of first-round picks and a second-rounder to Boston in exchange for their leading goal scorer from last season.
Biggest Issue facing the team:
Sports fans in Boston have grown accustomed to watching their teams succeed recently. While the Patriots, Red Sox and Celtics have all captured championships over the past five years, the Bruins remain the odd team for the moment. And that could all change this season.
The Bruins are as deep and skilled as any team in the league, with the great mixture of youth and veteran talent ready to carry them to a deep playoff run. They have a good balance of scoring throughout the lineup, with no fewer than six players hitting the 20-goal mark last season.
And if they don't beat you on the scoreboard, they can do it in the alley as Chara and Milan Lucic are amongst the most feared hitters in the league. Fourth line grinders Scott Thornton and Steve Begin add some sandpaper to the lineup.
Their blueline is deep and experienced, with each player not only accepting their specific roles, but thriving in them. On top of that, Thomas established himself as one of the top netminders in the league last season and has proven his detractors wrong.
Boston got unexpected production last season from multiple sources, as players like Lucic, Krejci, Blake Wheeler and Matt Hunwick all established themselves as solid NHL players. The Bruins will need them to continue along this path and not rest on what they have already accomplished, especially with Kessel gone.
While they made out well with a package of draft picks, the Kessel situation left a bad taste in the mouth for many Bruins fans. Kessel may have felt slighted by being mentioned in trade talks after leading the team in goals last year and believed that he should also be compensated properly for his on-ice efforts. With the Bruins right up against the cap, it meant that Kessel would have to find his fortune elsewhere. And the Maple Leafs stepped up with the best offer.
While multiple draft picks is great for the future, Boston wants to win right now and they would have had a better chance with a player like Kessel in the lineup. They got no immediate roster help from the Leafs, but did save some money and have an opportunity for one of their prospects to earn valuable experience at the NHL level.
That being said, it's still not easy to replace 36 goals in your lineup. The Bruins may win this deal in the long run, but in the meantime they lose a huge component of their offense and a promising young player to boot.
Player to watch:
Perhaps no player should feel more slighted by not receiving an invitation to Canadian Olympic orientation camp than Marc Savard. Of the 46 players invited, only Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Jarome Iginla have scored more than the 262 points Savard has over the past three seasons.
There are a few factors working against Savard. First is the fact that he plays at centre, which is already Canada's greatest strength thanks to Crosby, Thornton, Lecavalier, Mike Richards and Ryan Getzlaf. Secondly, Savard is not initially known as a defensive player, which means that guys like Jordan Staal, Shane Doan and Brendan Morrow get the nod ahead of him. Finally he doesn't have a great deal of international experience, allowing players like Derek Roy, Ryan Smyth and even Lucic to be considered by Hockey Canada for being good foot soldiers over the years.
While all these factors are understandable, that does not mean that it's particularly fair. Savard has been as consistent a scorer at the NHL level as anyone in the league. He certainly has a right to feel snubbed.
That being said, the door is not completely closed. Team Canada's Executive director Steve Yzerman has said that he will take into account how players start the upcoming NHL season before announcing the final roster in December. That should be enough motivation for Savard to post some big numbers in the early going. He'll also be centering the first line and playing on the No. 1 power play unit on one of the best teams in the NHL. Pair those factors with the fact that he is set to become an unrestricted free agent come season's end and you have the makings of what could be a monster season for the Ottawa native.
While he may not make the final roster in Vancouver this winter, he will certainly make a lot of noise in his attempt to do so.
Scott Cullen's Fantasy Take:
After going from eighth in the Eastern Conference in 2007-2008 to first in the conference last season, expectations are going to be high for the Boston Bruins and for good reason: they have a deep, tough and talented roster that will be able to provide all kinds of help for your fantasy squad.