No rebuild yet? Why is the Bruins chasing the Cup in 2022-23 the right move, popping up on NBC Sports Boston?
The Boston Bruins aren’t one of the top Stanley Cup contenders in the NHL, but they’ll be fully intent on competing for that trophy into the 2022-23 season.
Is that the smartest move the Bruins can make? The truth is, they really didn’t have a choice.
Even if you think restructuring is the right path for the Bruins, it just didn’t make sense to go that route in 2022-23. The team is too good to be in the lower ranks in the Eastern Conference next season.
There are a lot of quality players on the roster, and many of them have no move or trade clauses in their contracts. It would take time to knock it down, so why not take it back and chase another deep playoff run?
That’s what the Bruins did, and that vision became clear on Monday morning when the team announced that Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci had signed one-year contracts full of incentives that could push some of their salary caps into 2023-24.
“I’m really confident. I believe in this team,” Bergeron told reporters in a Zoom interview on Monday. I believe in management. We made these decisions this summer because I wanted to play and I wanted to play for the Boston Bruins because I believe in the organization and that will never change.”
The return of Bergeron and Krejci is a big boost for the Bruins to say the least. On paper, Team B has one of the top six forward groups in the league:
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Jake DeBrusk
Taylor Hall-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
This is very good.
Bergeron is arguably having the best season ever. He scored more than 20 goals for the ninth consecutive year and won the Selke Trophy, a record-breaking fifth, for the fifth time. Marchand may be off the field until December as he enters rehab after off-season hip surgery, but the 34-year-old veteran is the league’s best left winger when healthy. DeBrusk finished the 2021-22 regular season strong with 25 goals. Pastrnak has scored the sixth most goals in the league since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, including scoring 40 goals in 72 games last season.
Hall is a 20-goal striker and built great chemistry with Krejci in the 2020-21 season. Krejci and Hall played 193:13 of 5v5 ice time that season, and Boston beat their rivals 14-1 in those minutes.
It’s easy to forget what a good playmaker Krejci has been throughout his career, even in the 2020-21 season. It’s a meaningful upgrade over the recently departed Erik Haula, who was Boston’s #2 center for most of last season.
The blue line isn’t as strong as the forwards but is still pinned by the top five defenders at Charlie McAvoy and another legit first-match d-man at Hampus Lindholm. Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort are quality defenders, while Matt Grzelcyk brings much-needed playmaking and power play. The challenge for the Bruins will be to weather the storm for the first two months, while McAvoy and Grzelcyk will rehabilitate after off-season surgeries.
“There will be some challenges at the beginning of the year, but for me that’s probably a good thing,” Bergeron said. Said. “Obviously, you’d prefer (Marchand) and (McAvoy) and (Grzelcyk) to play on the ice, but that’s said to be a better and bigger opportunity for the other guys to work on their own games, show them what they have and what they can bring and show them off. “To make better players and ultimately make us a better team. When there are challenges, there can always be positive results.”
Goalkeeping is also above average. It took a while for Linus Ullmark to start his first season with the Bruins, but he finished with .917 saves (the best T-9 in the league). Jeremy Swayman has a save percentage of .914 and has won three of his five first-round playoff games against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Remember, the Bruins were an elite defensive team last season. In 5v5, they allowed the fewest shots, the least chances of scoring, the least high chances of danger, and the fourth fewest goals. Almost everyone who played a role in this defensive success is returning for 2022-23.
Pain is on the horizon for the Bruins. Let’s get this clear. The optimism detailed above is of shorter duration.
Bergeron and Krejci are 37 and 36 years old, respectively, and the team doesn’t have any center in the system that can fill the top six roles anytime soon. Marchand’s prime is probably nearing its end. Boston’s potential pool is among the worst in the league. The Athletic recently released the 50 most recent lead rankings, with zero players listed in the B’s. Top talents are not coming from within. The Bruins’ roster is mostly old. They only have two players: Pastrnak and McAvoy, legitimate stars and under 30.
The Eastern Conference is packed and the Bruins’ own division, the Atlantic, is the best in the league. Getting back to the Stanley Cup Final will be a grueling road. But the Bruins have enough talent on their roster to surprise them if things go right and be a real competitor in the East, including taking Swayman one more step in his development.
The Bruins won 51 games last season despite a gruesome first three months derailed by injuries and more than 10 players wasting time due to COVID-19. They haven’t lost any of their key players this season, have added Krejci and could get a boost from potential Fabian Lysell.
A rebuild will be required soon, but we’re not there with the Bruins yet. Bergeron and Krejci turned back and slammed the door shut, for now at least.