By Mike Miccoli
The ‘core’ that the Boston Bruins spoke so much about has lost some parts and it’s the hope of the team that the new pieces will serve as an upgrade. But the one key element that Boston has going into the season is uncertainty. Nobody really knows how good this team can be. Sure, on paper they may look solid but until the Bruins hit the ice to start the 2013-14 NHL season, it’s anyone’s guess.
So to prepare for the 2013-14 NHL season, here’s a five-part series laying out some predictions about what this year could look like for the Bruins. Some are logical, some are a stretch and some are…well…you’ll see.
Part 5: The Boston Bruins will repeat as Eastern Conference Champions
Here’s what I won’t do–predict a Stanley Cup championship. There are a few reasons for this. For one, I think that the Chicago Blackhawks are still the team to beat in the NHL and if they’re not, the Los Angeles Kings are second in line.
This isn’t to take anything away from the Bruins, who are a pretty sound team to begin with, but rather it’s based on unfamiliarity. The last time that an Eastern Conference team played a Western Conference team, realignment with Detroit, Columbus, and Winnipeg not pending, was in the 2011-12 season. Plenty has changed since then but the familiarity between inter-conference teams, again, realignment not pending, hasn’t.
But with that said, the Bruins are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Even with the shakeups from the offseason, the Boston Bruins remain a good team. A very good team, if we’re being honest. One that has the ability to play sound defensive hockey within Claude Julien’s system, score goals, and house one of the best goaltenders in the league to anchor the team. The team’s biggest weakness last season was their rabid inconsistencies throughout the regular season. After adding Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson in the offseason, two players valued for their durability and steadfast game, the Bruins automatically address a flaw that hurt them so much in the regular season.
So with younger players who are beginning to reach their prime, established players who give consistent effort every game, and a team-first mentality that starts from the leadership and is ingrained into everyone’s head, there’s really a good chance that the Bruins repeat as Eastern Conference Champions.
With this Bruins team intact as it is, it’s that they’re the best overall club in the Eastern Conference. But here’s the thing–in the regular season, they might not finish first. They might not even finish second or third but when it comes time for the postseason, this Boston team is built for success. The chemistry that may have been lost with the departures of guys like Andrew Ference, Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, and Rich Peverley may take awhile to develop but when it does, the Bruins have an opportunity to become as good of a team, if not better, than they have been in the last few years.
The Bruins continue to be rich with depth, too. The fact that some of the best players in training camp will be starting in the AHL proves that. Not only will the Bruins have a good team this year, they’ll have a good team for years to come with a prospect pool that’s pretty deep with talent.
Really, it all comes down to familiarity. Familiarity of the teams they play against and familiarity of the guys that line up next to you. To get to the 2013 Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins beat two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, both of which have kept their rosters intact with a few small exceptions and a coaching change mixed in. The Bruins have not. The Bruins may have to prove that they got better by shedding the subtractions from over the offseason but once they get going, this is a team that will be difficult to stop.
What happens next is up to them.