|Bruins preview: Players to watch, guys who could be traded and dumb takes to avoid||10.12.16 at 2:00 pm ET|
The NHL season is upon us, leaving Bruins fans wondering whether they’re in for a return to the playoffs or just another frustrating regular season.
Heading into Thursday night’s season opener against the Blue Jackets, B’s fans are probably leaning toward the latter, but an influx of youth into the lineup makes this a potentially exciting team to watch this season, even if expectations aren’t set particularly high.
We’ve done basically every type of season preview imaginable over the years, but Ben Rohrbach did one like this a while back and I want to copy that style, so here’s a bunch of lists to get you ready for the Bruins’ season:
Three questions you probably have:
Will they make the playoffs?
Maybe. Detroit is the only Eastern Conference playoff team from last season that looks like a safe bet to fall out of the playoff picture, and the Canadiens will fare better than they did a season ago. The third Atlantic spot would be a good goal for the Bruins, but their roster isn’t any better than it was when they missed the postseason a year ago.
Will Claude Julien get fired?
I’m not gaga about this team, but the schedule is pretty light early on (see below), so it’s hard to envision them stumbling so much out of the gate that they’d have to pull the plug. If they do struggle, however, he’s an easy scapegoat.
How will the defense be?
You know the answer to that.
Four rookies who are getting a shot:
Austin Czarnik: Of the Bruins’ four rookies, he’s the only who isn’t a first-year pro. Czarnik recently suffered a concussion, but returned to practice Wednesday. The speedy center was all but penciled in to be the team’s third-line center leading up to his injury, and should still get that spot.
Brandon Carlo: The 6-foot-5 righty is eligible for Providence, and while he’ll start the season in Boston, the team is high enough on him that he might have made the team otherwise. Still, he’s just 19, so if he gets squeezed out of the lineup he’ll be better off in the AHL.
Danton Heinen: After two years at the University of Denver, Heinen went pro with an outside shot of making the B’s. That became a reality when Frank Vatrano needed foot surgery and Heinen tied for the team lead with three preseason goals.
Rob O’Gara: Carlo isn’t the only tall rookie defenseman on the roster. The 6-foot-4 Yale grad’s best bet at getting into games early on would be if the team opted to sit Joe Morrow despite the injuries on the blue line.
Three new guys and one kind of new guy:
David Backes: He’s 32 and he’s on a five-year deal. The best-case scenario is that he’s the guy he was last postseason (seven goals and seven assists for 14 points) and sustains that for a few years.
Dominic Moore: Tied with old friend Lee Stempniak for most teams, the journeyman center is a logical fit centering the fourth line.
Riley Nash: When guys are healthy he’s a fourth-line wing. He can also play center if needed.
Anton Khudobin: If Tuukka Rask’s numbers aren’t the same with a lesser defense, banking on Khudobin to experience smooth sailing his second time in Boston might be an overestimation.
Two guys they’ll miss:
Loui Eriksson: The B’s chose David Backes’ mid-30s over Eriksson’s. We’ll see if that was the right decision, but the guess here is that it wasn’t.
Frank Vatrano: Well at least he’ll be back. After scoring 36 goals in 36 AHL games last season, Vatrano might end up scoring no goals in the first 36 NHL games this season due to foot surgery. He’s expected back sometime around late December.
Two guys who could be traded:
Adam McQuaid: The 30-year-old is a good third-pairing right defenseman, but the B’s already have one of those in the younger and cheaper Kevan Miller. McQuaid has three years left on his deal with an annual cap hit of $2.75 million. Moving him would allow the B’s to give a full-time job to Carlo should they feel he’s ready.
Ryan Spooner: This goes against the whole “developing young talent” thing, but the fact is they need a sure thing on defense and Spooner is rightfully one of their best chips because he’s a good young player. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
One guy they’ll have to bury in the AHL:
Zac Rinaldo: I’ll be maybe the first person to ever say “the poor guy” when referring to Rinaldo, but it’s true. He didn’t trade a third-round pick for himself.
One smart re-signing:
John-Michael Liles: They’ve got too many bodies on D (seven defenders are on one-way deals), but if the B’s do make moves, Liles has the flexibility to serve as a left or right defenseman on the second or third pairing. He also provides time for guys like Carlo to develop in the AHL if need be.
One happy stat:
– The Bruins are going to score because they pretty much always do. They finished fifth in goals last season and have finished in the top five in four of the last five 82-game seasons.
One sad stat:
– The Bruins had three 30-goal-scorers last year. They replaced one of them (Eriksson) with a guy (Backes) who has seen his goal total decline in each of the past two seasons, from 27 in 2013-14 to 21 last season.
One guy who will have better luck than last year:
Torey Krug: His four goals last season were surprising, but he had a career-high 244 shots on goal with an unbelievably unfortunate 1.6 shooting percentage. If that percentage bumps up to even 5 (it was 7.7 and 5.9 his other two seasons), he would have had 12 goals. Krug still managed to rack up 40 assists and a career-high 44 points. Between his performance and his health throughout his career (he’s missed a total of eight regular-season games in his three full seasons), there isn’t much to worry about with Krug.
Speaking of Krug, three guys who could get Chris Kelly’s ‘A’:
Torey Krug: The top choice here. Young guy who’s got his act together and, most importantly, hasn’t won. You won’t find complacency there.
David Backes: The longtime captain of the Blues has made himself comfortable in Boston.
Brad Marchand: Often times, you just give the letter to the best player. Marchand cares more than anybody, but it’s safe to assume he’s got at least three or four more suspensions ahead of him in his career.
Three dumb takes you might hear during the season:
Brad Marchand’s on pace for fewer than 37 goals. Did they sign him too early?
– No. He took a team-friendly deal. Even with something of a statistical regression, he still could have gotten that deal at the end of the season. It just wouldn’t be as team-friendly.
(After month) They’re in first place. Are they Cup contenders?
– Seriously, watch out for mid-November, because the B’s might be sitting pretty standings-wise at that point. Only six of their first 16 games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, including five straight against non-playoff teams to begin the season. By Nov. 13 (the end of another such five-game stretch), high standing would be encouraging, but not a sign that their problems are fixed.
(Probably at a lot of points when they lose) Julien’s the problem.
– He probably won’t be the problem that often.
|David Krejci doesn’t really care about Jimmy Vesey, but he misses Loui Eriksson||08.29.16 at 1:28 pm ET|
BRIGHTON — Don Sweeney’s sales pitch to Jimmy Vesey was built around being David Krejci’s left wing. Vesey passed, but it doesn’t seem Krejci’s losing sleep over it.
“I’m not really disappointed with that guy,” Krejci said Monday of the Rangers rookie. “Obviously I heard he’s a good player, but he has to prove himself on the NHL level. I was more disappointed we weren’t able to keep Loui.”
Loui is, of course, Loui Eriksson, and Krejci had thoughts on that, too. The Bruins declined to give the 31-year-old Eriksson the $6 million cap hit over six years he got from the Canucks, but they signed 32-year-old David Backes to a five-year deal worth the same annually.
Though the Bruins prefer Backes’ character and toughness, Eriksson is the better player at this point and figures to age better. Furthermore, saying goodbye to Eriksson meant once again taking away one of Krejci’s trusted wings in what’s become an annual occurrence; Krejci has also seen the departures of linemates Nathan Horton (2013), Jerome Iginla (2014) and Milan Lucic (2015) in recent seasons.
“I felt like we had some good chemistry going, so that was kind of a tough time to see [Eriksson] go, but I’ve gotten kind of used to seeing my favorite guys going away — Milan, Nathan, Iggy,” Krejci said. “I’m going to have to just play my game and try to find chemistry with whoever’s going to be on my line.”
Regardless of how Krejci’s dealing with Vesey’s decision, the truth is that the former Harvard captain would have been a good get for both the Bruins and Krejci, something Krejci himself admitted. With Brad Marchand a good bet to stay in Boston long-term, Vesey could have held down Boston’s second-line left wing job for years alongside Krejci if the two were to click. With David Pastrnak still emerging, the Bruins would have had the makings of a very strong line going forward.
Asked for clarification on his words about Vesey, Krejci said that he understood the hullabaloo that surrounded the player, especially considering the timing of his sweepstakes.
“Mostly in the summer there isn’t much that people talk about; this was kind of on top of the list for people to talk about,” Krejci said. “Obviously there was a little pressure on him, but he brought it on himself, I guess.”
|Source: Bruins final offer to Loui Eriksson was 5 years, low $5 million range||07.01.16 at 5:11 pm ET|
As of Thursday, the Bruins seemed all but out of the running for Loui Eriksson, with their final offer not suiting what the 30-year-old wing was confident he would get on the open market.
As it turned out, Eriksson was right.
During negotiations, Eriksson’s camp made it clear that they felt worthy of a six-year, $36-million deal. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Bruins’ final offer to Eriksson was for five years with a cap hit in the low $5-million range. Eriksson ended up getting six and $6 million annually from the Canucks, with the Bruins finalizing a five-year deal with the same average annual value for 32-year-old David Backes shortly after. Eriksson got nearly $30 million of his deal in signing bonus money.
Eriksson’s deal with the Canucks carries a full no-move clause in its first two years, a full no-trade clause in the next two years and a limited no-trade in the final two years. Negotiations with the Bruins never reached the point of no-trade rights because of the gap in term and dollars.
|Loui Eriksson vs. David Backes: Looking at where the Bruins did (and didn’t) spend their money||at 1:24 pm ET|
The Bruins opted against signing a soon-to-be 31-year-old Loui Eriksson to the six-year, $36 million contract he got with Vancouver and instead gave the same average annual value to 32-year-old David Backes.
So essentially, the Bruins decided they would rather $6 million a year to Backes at age 37 than Eriksson at 37. At face value given their styles of play, Eriksson would seem the better bet to be more productive at that age, though the Bruins shouldn’t be besmirched for opting against Eriksson’s deal. With the caveat that they’re likely not done making moves, the initial reaction here is that, if anything, they perhaps shouldn’t have done either contract.
There is no question that Eriksson is a better possession player and more of a scorer than Backes, but the Bruins, to a fault, value grit. Here’s a comparison of Backes and Eriksson, per Own the Puck:
|Loui Eriksson could be done with Bruins; Canadiens among 8 teams interested||06.30.16 at 1:25 pm ET|
Dennis Seidenberg is done as a Bruin. It appears the same may soon be said for Loui Eriksson.
Though Eriksson’s camp won’t officially rule out the Bruins, the the team has not budged in negotiations regarding the versatile winger’s next contract this week. As such, Eriksson’s camp feels that a deal will not be struck unless things change drastically between Thursday afternoon and the open of free agency Friday. Furthermore, they do not feel that the Bruins’ buyout of Dennis Seidenberg had anything to do with a deal for Eriksson.
In the meantime, eight teams (including the Canadiens) have expressed interest in the player.
“I spoke with Don [Sweeney] today and they are holding firm on their previous offers,” agent J.P. Barry told WEEI.com Thursday. “We will continue to speak with the teams that have show interest.”
Eriksson, who will turn 31 in July, is coming off a 30-goal, 36-assist season in his third campaign in Boston. Assuming Milan Lucic signs in Edmonton, Eriksson will be the most in-demand left-shot wing on the open market.
|Loui Eriksson in talks with six teams, Bruins willing to go past 4 years||06.26.16 at 10:28 pm ET|
As expected, teams have used the NHL’s free agency interview window to approach winger Loui Eriksson, who spent the last three seasons with the Bruins. As of Sunday evening, six teams had contacted Eriksson’s agent about the player.
The Bruins are interested in retaining Eriksson, but have been reluctant to sign Eriksson for anything longer than four years. That said, a source indicated to WEEI.com Sunday night that the Bruins are indeed willing to go beyond four years on a contract carrying a lesser average annual value. Eriksson’s camp believes the soon-to-be 31-year-old will receive at least five years on the open market.
Though the Bruins could still sign Eriksson prior to free agency, he’ll be free to sign wherever when he reaches unrestricted status on Friday.
“I’m sure they’ll be exploring [the interview period],” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said over the weekend. “We’re in a position where we’re going to sign a couple of players and we’ve [been interested] all along. We just don’t know whether or not we’ve found common ground. We clearly didn’t because we didn’t sign, but the discussions were good. They were positive, but it’s a balancing act and we’ll be now in discussions with other players as well.”
A left-shot wing who plays both sides, Eriksson scored 30 goals and added 33 assists for 63 points last season for the Bruins.
|Free agent interview period open; Bruins set to explore options beyond Loui Eriksson||06.25.16 at 9:46 am ET|
BUFFALO — With Loui Eriksson likely headed to free agency and the period for teams to interview free agents having opened at midnight, the Bruins are set to lay the groundwork for whatever their July 1 plans may be.
Those plans still may include retaining Eriksson, but he figures to get plenty of attention from other clubs willing to go longer than the four-year term from which the Bruins have not budged.
“I had a good conversation with Loui’s group, J.P., [Friday],” general manager Don Sweeney said late Friday night. “We’ll continue to see. Obviously the period to talk to other teams is opening and I’m sure they’ll be exploring that. We’re in a position where we’re going to sign a couple of players and we’ve [been interested] all along. We just don’t know whether or not we’ve found common ground. We clearly didn’t because we didn’t sign, but the discussions were good. They were positive, but it’s a balancing act and we’ll be now in discussions with other players as well.”