The Boston Bruins are set to enter a very important offseason after crashing out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the second round against the New York Islanders. Now a decade after winning their most recent Stanley Cup in 2011, the Bruins have managed to waste the past ten years of a really solid core in Boston, and time is starting to run out. Their veteran core certainly isn’t getting much younger, and if the Bruins don’t act fast, they could be set to face a rebuild after squandering a decade’s worth of playoff contenders.
After every season, fans rush to say the Bruins Stanley Cup window has finally closed, but their play each season just shows that isn’t true. Patrice Bergeron was phenomenal in the opening series against the Washington Capitals, and the Islanders had to everything in their power to limit his production in round two. Brad Marchand had arguably his best playoff series of his career against the Islanders, as he had nine points in the six games, and was generally Boston’s best offensive threat. Tuukka Rask was generally solid until the last couple of games against the Islanders, and probably could have won the Bruins another game or two had he not gotten injured along the way. And although he didn’t have a great postseason, David Krejci looked rejuvenated playing alongside Craig Smith and Taylor Hall, and is still one of the best creators Boston has on offense.
The vets proved they still have it this season. Factor in young stars like David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy, and the Bruins still should be able to field playoff teams for the next couple of seasons. The problem is the guys behind these stars. The constant issue Boston has had over the past ten years is finding depth pieces who can take the pressure off the stars on this team. Teams like the Islanders of the St. Louis Blues in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals don’t have as much talent on paper as the Bruins, but they found ways to neutralize Boston’s stars, and then use their depth to beat them.
It’s frustrating that this is an issue that has plagued Boston for so long, and it needs to be resolved now. This team has been squandering potential Stanley Cup contenders by failing to get their top players any sort of help, and it’s time to go all in one last time before it’s too late. The front office finally made a couple of big moves at the trade deadline, with Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly, and Curtis Lazar all turning into solid pieces in their respective roles. But it’s last second moves like these that have come to represent Boston’s failures. Rather than waiting until the last second to make deals for guys like Ondrej Kase or Rick Nash, it feels like Boston would be better set making a more aggressive push in the offseason the could benefit them for the whole season.
That has to change this offseason, and it starts with bringing back their veteran guys. Rask, Krejci, and Hall have all made it clear that they would like to return to Boston, and the Bruins front office should take each of them up on that. Giving Krejci a full season to work alongside Hall and Smith should be a huge plus for Boston, as they showed some great potential down the stretch of the season. And you can complain about Rask all you want, but the Bruins flaming out of the playoffs isn’t solely on him. Sure he wasn’t great in the Islanders series, but neither was the rest of the team. Rask offers Boston the best option to raise the Stanley Cup again next season, and it would be foolish to move on from him at this point.
From there, it’s time to revamp the depth on this team. Guys like Reilly and Kevan Miller are free agents who could be brought back at the right price, but shouldn’t be the primary focus of the offseason. The Bruins need some legitimate depth defensively, as we saw how ugly things got once Brandon Carlo and Miller were forced out with injuries. That should probably have been expected after the B’s let Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug walk last offseason without getting suitable replacements for them. Their youth movement didn’t really provide anything, and it’s time to finally address that this offseason. Of the Bruins free agents, it makes the most sense to bring back Reilly and then look for some solid veteran pieces to fill out the bottom of the rotation.
Offensively, it’s basically the same story. Both the third and fourth lines were vastly outplayed against the Islanders, and it’s about time to move on from some of these guys. The third line was basically a cast of underachievers in Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, and Nick Ritchie, and they provided next to nothing for most of the playoffs. The fourth line was basically unplayable for most of the Islanders series, as they were constantly picked on by whichever line the Islanders played them against. Part of the reason the Bruins went on a run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2019 was because they had guys like Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari coming off the bench on these lower lines and providing sparks when the top lines weren’t able to do anything. Finding guys like that for next season, whether it be through free agency, trades, the draft, or anything in between, is going to be crucial for next season.
Regardless, the time for timid offseasons are over in Boston. It’s time to finally give Boston’s stars some players who can help them bring the Cup back to Boston, because the current method clearly hasn’t worked over the past couple of years. The Bruins Stanley Cup window hasn’t closed just yet, but it’s getting their, and if the Bruins front office doesn’t put together an aggressive offseason to build a true Stanley Cup contender, it could be over before you know it.