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Will a quiet offseason in Boston translate to another deep playoff run for the Bruins?

Aug 3, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

Boston Bruins v Vancouver Canucks - Game Five Getty Images

When a team wins a Stanley Cup, the general manager has a different job than his 29 counterparts. While everyone else is trying to improve their team to reach the promised land, the defending Stanley Cup champs are looking for ways to maintain the talent and chemistry that helped them win sports’ most hallowed trophy. Everyone from Dale Tallon to Dean Lombardi to Mike Gillis has an offseason mandate to improve their respective teams—Peter Chiarelli’s mandate is to put a team together that is only as successful as last year’s team.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

There’s a reason that it’s been thirteen years since a team was able to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. It’s difficult to find the same motivation for a second consecutive year—but it’s also increasingly difficult to keep the same team together for multiple years. In the 1980s, the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers were able to rattle off multiple Cup runs because it was easier to keep the majority of their core players in town. Likewise, the Canadiens were able to keep Hall of Famer after Hall of Famer in Montreal as they won 4 straight Stanley Cups in the late 1970s. It’s a different era.

One of the most impressive feats for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been that he’s been able to put together a competitive team with an eye to the future. Guys like Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas are veterans who are two of the best players at their respective positions. On the flip side, the Bruins have youngsters like Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Milan Lucic who all have their best hockey ahead of them. Don’t look now, but the Bruins could very well be a better team next year than they were in 2010-11.

With all due respect to Boris Valabik, the major parts the Bruins lost in free agency were Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle. Even though fans had been calling for his head for years, Ryder provided some timely goal scoring during the Bruins Stanley Cup championship run. His 8 goals and 9 assists even put him in the top 10 for playoff scoring last season. With his departure to Dallas, the Bruins will expect to fill the void with a combination of newcomer Benoit Pouliot and an increased role for former #2 overall pick Tyler Seguin. Some people forget that Seguin was a healthy scratch periodically throughout his rookie season and only averaged about 12 minutes of ice-time per game. Towards the end of the season and during the playoffs, it looked like Seguin started to turn the corner. The Bruins will look for Seguin to breakout with an increased role next season. In fact, they expect it.

On defense, Tomas Kaberle was supposed to be the missing piece—and since the B’s won the Cup, there’s a little something to the argument. However, most people in Boston will tell you that Kaberle was one of the biggest liabilities on the Bruins roster throughout the playoffs. The only thing that helps fans forget the horrible Kaberle trade with the Maple Leafs is that big shiny chalice that the Bruins are touring the globe with this offseason. By all accounts, Kaberle was a disappointment on the ice in just about every facet of the game. He was brought in to specifically help the Boston power play, which, by the middle of the playoffs, was the biggest joke this side of Philadelphia’s goaltending.

With Kaberle signing with the Carolina Hurricanes as a free agent, the Bruins were given another chance to fill the void at the point on their power play. This time, they went the trade route by trading a 4th round pick to the same Hurricanes for Joe Corvo and his booming slap shot. He may not be the best defender in the league, but he’s proven that he can run an NHL power play. He scores with his howitzer from the blueline and also knows how to get his shot through the defense to create rebound opportunities for his teammates. On a team with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg eating up the major minutes, Corvo should be a nice depth player to help the Bruins improve their most glaring weakness.

Perhaps the biggest loss off of last year’s roster has nothing to do with free agency and everything to do with retirement. Mark Recchi provided invaluable leadership for the younger players on the team throughout the regular season and in the playoffs. Of course, it will be important to replace his 48 points from a season ago—but it will be just as important for the newly crowned champions to find someone to step into his leadership role. On the ice, prospect Jordan Caron has been knocking on the door for over a year and could finally get a chance at a permanent spot on the team this year. Caron is a different kind of player than Recchi: he’s more of a third-line guy who plays with energy and can get under the opponents skin. If he develops like the Bruins project, he’ll be able to chip in some points as well.

The Bruins are in a much different position than the Blackhawks faced last season. There was no post-season salary cap purge; there was no feeling of finality during the parade. This team has been put together for the long-term (as long as possible in today’s cap era) and should be just as competitive as they were a season ago. Now, the only question is if their Eastern Conference rivals have done enough to overtake them and win the Prince of Wales trophy next season.

Of course, there’s that other trophy they won as well last season.

  1. hystoracle - Aug 3, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    The Bruins will still be a good team and one of the favorites heading into the season. The X factor will be injuries. They were relatively unscathed last year. No real major injuries to key players. If Thomas, Chara, or a guy like that were to have a problem the task could become more daunting. Ask the Penguins how injuries to key players can influence your season. Injuries are the X factor in every team;s season that can’t be foreseen.

    • tlp5002 - Aug 3, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      I still find it amazing the Penguins were without Staal the first half of the year, and Malkin and Crosby the second half of the year. Yet they still found a way to tie for third most points in the league and nearly second in the Eastern Conference. That certainly speaks to depth.

  2. nickr214 - Aug 3, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    True injuries are the x factor in a season, but that’s why teams need depth. I say bruins will have a good playoff run but we will just have to see what others bring to the table

  3. mgp1219 - Aug 3, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    The Bruins are young, but have key veterans. They are tough and play a great defensive game with the best defensive defenseman and best goaltender in the NHL. Their power play can only improve. They stand a great chance at a deep playoff run. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are in the Stanley Cup finals again next year.

    • nhlbruins90 - Aug 3, 2011 at 1:26 PM

      You are a wise and insightful person, mgp.

  4. nhlbruins90 - Aug 3, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    The Bruins will dominate the rest of the decade. We will run roughshod over the East, rampage our way through the West. Our defensive corp will keep hospitals busy throughout North America. Hide your weaklings, cower in fear, submit to us and we may occasionally show mercy. We’re still hungry, and now even bolder. Watch us swagger into your little towns, and fear us. We don’t care if you respect us, just fear us. We are the new NHL dynasty, proudly taking our place among our dynastic brethren in this greatest of all cities, Boston. I can’t wait for October!

  5. dcent87 - Aug 3, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    No

  6. mattlion - Aug 3, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    “They were relatively unscathed last year.”

    Um, Marc Savard missed 3/4 of the year and he was supposed to be the top line center. The rest of the team did stay very healthy, as opposed to 2009.

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