It seems to happen every year. Teams that looked out of it spring back to life. Perennial contenders slide into the “has been” category, and lots of teams simply spin their wheels year after year. So who are the best teams going forward? I am going to spend the next 31 days breaking down each team to sort it all out.
This team by team breakdown separates them into three groups. Contenders, Pretenders, and League Filler Teams. Lets get started
The Bruins are a team that is showing great resiliency as they move further away from their Stanley Cup team towards the future. The questions in Boston are: #1) Are they a true contender or simply play off fodder for the superior teams? and #2) Can their young players keep them in the running going forward?
Currently Boston is a very good mix of young and old. They have veteran forwards in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, David Backes, and Brad Marchand and an incredible young sniper in David Pastrnak as well as a few decent up and comers like Jake Debrusk, and Danton Heinen. On the back end they have the experience of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug with the emergence of Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo providing a huge influx of talent. In goal, Tuuka Rask is still the incumbent with only Zane McIntyre in the system.
The Bruins are a mixed bag when it comes to drafting. In recent history, under Peter Chiarelli, they drafted well but then had a bad habit of trading those players away for terrible returns. A tradition he has continued in Edmonton. The two important exception they have kept are David Pastrnak and Danton Heinen.
Focusing on the new regime under Don Sweeney we can see they have drafted both incredibly well with Charlie McAvoy (14th overall – 2016) and Brandon Carlo (37th overall – 2015) Both would go significantly higher if the drafts were held over and incredibly badly as we will see next.
The Bruins organization gave themselves a huge black eye when they acquired picks 13, 14, 15 in the 2015 entry draft and chose, in order, Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zachary Senyshyn. Jakub Zboril was an expected choice with both Debrusk and Senyshyn being off the board picks. In the final rankings that year of prospects, DeBrusk was 19th and Senyshyn was not even a projected first round pick. This displayed an incredible arrogance on the part of the new management group that the team is still paying for today with the emergence of Matthew Barzal and Kyle Connor. The two players they should have taken based on final rankings.
Again, we find a mixed result when it comes to their trading history. This is a team that completed a Phil Kessel trade that could have set them up for the next 15 years. The picks they acquired turned into Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Knight. While Knight never developed, Seguin and Hamilton could have been the 1st line center and top pairing defenseman on Boston for years to come. Instead they traded these players away for picks and players that are either no longer with the organization or have not developed as hoped.
Under new management, they got off to a rocky start. Trading away Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic for Colin Miller (lost in the Vegas expansion draft), Martin Jones (since traded to San Jose for a pick and Sean Kuraly, their current 4th line center) as well as two first and two second rounds picks in the 2015 entry draft. This could have been a good deal for Boston if they had simply chosen Barzal and Connor with the first round picks but with their choices these deals are an absolute loss for the team.
In the two and a half years since these deals were made, Boston has made a total of 4 deals all of the minor(tweaking) variety.
Overall, they have shown zero ability to make any deals of significance and choose to hope that draft picks develop and they can run on the existing core as it ages.
With the core of this team all aging quickly a drop off can be expected sooner rather than later. You can expect a second half where the struggle to maintain their position and sneak into a wild card spot. This will be followed by a first round exit.
Expect this pattern to repeat for the next 3 or 4 years when Bergeron and Krejci simply decline at which point a play off drought will begin. McAvoy has Norris potential and Carlo is an outstanding young defenseman as well but wasting high draft picks like Boston has done always creates a hole that is incredibly hard to fill. They simply have no high end young forwards coming through their system and even if they draft incredibly well going forward, it takes years for most players to hit their potential.
Good enough to get in but that is about it. Drafting mid pack for the next 3 or 4 years as they try to squeeze out a playoff round or two in that time will have the entirely predictable result of many years of bad hockey in the not too far future. Mix that with a GM who seems unwilling to make a hockey trade of any note and you have a bad mix for Boston fans.