The National Hockey League is always evolving and changing as the years go on. For the Boston Bruins, they have continually found themselves with older, slower players then the rest of the league. This unfortunate statistic has made it difficult to see success during the regular season and ultimately the postseason, especially in the past three years or so.
However, the future is finally looking promising and it’s long overdue. After firing former Head Coach Claude Julien, and hiring new Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, it could very well mean that the Bruins organization is ready to become a younger team.
HC Cassidy was the main bench boss for the Bruins’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Providence Bruins for five consecutive seasons, leading them to the playoffs four out of the five times. The experience in the AHL for Cassidy meant he was able to get to know some of the young prospects in the system. Giving him the opportunity to learn their style, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Mike Babcock was fully willing to play the rookies of the Toronto Maple Leafs, knowing they had a deep prospect pool. Even though the first year, he missed the playoffs with a dismal 29-42-11 record. This season, he rebounded with the key addition of Auston Matthews and the emergence of Mitch Marner, William Nylander, and company, Mike Babcock lead the Maple Leafs to a 40-27-15 record and good enough for the second wild card spot and a berth in the 2017 playoffs. Although they were eliminated in six games to the Presidents trophy winning Washington Capitals, they gained experience that will be so valuable in the years to come. The fact that the team that everyone counted out brought the Capitals to five overtimes, is a feat in itself.
So, that point was brought up to prove that young players can bring you places and strive in these high-pressure situations. Boston had an example of a rookie coming up clutch in this year’s postseason as well. Sean Kuraly replaced David Krejci in Game 5 of the first round against the Ottawa Senators. Kuraly tied the game up at two a piece in the second period and eventually scored the game-winner in double overtime to extend the series going back to Boston.
Even a player like Charlie McAvoy, the fourteenth pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, who made his National Hockey League debut in Game One of the playoffs to replace injured blueliners. McAvoy quickly became one of the best players on the team during the series and proved that he is the real deal. Putting up three points in the six games including one of the game-winning assists on the Sean Kuraly double OT winner back in Game 5. Charlie also showed precision passing and excellent skating along with the pressure of Boston fans, media, and management to succeed. He overcame the pressure with ease and gave excitement and promise to the struggling defensive lineup.
Heading into another off-season, the Bruins need to stay away from signing veteran players in free agency like they have had a tendency to do so. This year, the Bruins should look to sign more of their prospects deep in the system already. However, issues could arise with the already-signed veteran players with high salaries such as David Krejci and David Backes taking up room for the young players to enter the lineup in Boston.
If the management staff can somehow free up some roster spots including buying out Jimmy Hayes, trading Matt Beleskey, or even Kevan Miller and/or Adam McQuaid either to Vegas or to the trading block at sometime. I’m a big fan of having the tough grit and attitude that McQuaid and Kevan Miller bring to the team, but they can sometimes become a defensive liability and in a new era where speed and skill often overtakes the toughness that used to rule the National Hockey League.
Nonetheless, the Boston Bruins are in a reasonable situation regarding their future and this season. Even though they didn’t make it far in the playoffs, it gave a great experience to many players including Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Sean Kuraly, and many other players. Let’s look forward to the 2017-18 season Bruins fans.