It’s that time of year when Santa is making a list and checking it twice to see who’s been naughty or nice. For the Boston Bruins, 2022 has been filled with a roller coaster of emotions from the end of the 2021-22 season in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, to the quiet offseason, and to the historic start of the 2022-23 season. There are plenty of people on the nice list, as well as on the naughty list. Let’s take a look at who made the list for the Bruins and we’ll start out with the nice list and save the naughty for last.
The Nice List
Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman took over as the goaltending tandem last season and each combined to help the Bruins get 107 points in the regular season and a wild card berth in the playoffs. This season, the duo once again is off to another strong start and has the Black and Gold on top of the NHL standings.
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After winning 26 games in 2021-22, Ullmark is playing at a Vezina Trophy level this season. He is 18-1-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average (GAA) and a .937 save percentage (SV%). He has two shutouts, but in a number of games, he has made several key stops to keep his team in the lead. Nobody saw this start coming after his struggles earlier in his career with the Buffalo Sabres.
Swayman missed a month after an injury in November, but after going 23-14-3, which did not include a 3-2 postseason last season, he is playing in the shadows of Ullmark with a 6-3-1 record and a 2.72 GAA and a .895 SV%. Goaltending is the least of the few problems the Bruins have this season.
When the Bruins fired Bruce Cassidy in June, they hired Jim Montgomery in July and the move has paid off big time. The Bruins are 25-4-2, which is good enough for 52 out of a possible 62 points to begin the season. A big reason for the turnaround with basically the same roster as last season is the system, which plays into the hands of the entire roster.
Cassidy was not known as a player’s coach, but Montgomery is that. The Bruins’ younger players have thrived under Montgomery’s watch, the defensemen are succeeding in the system that gives them more freedom offensively and everyone is buying in from veterans on down. The results speak for themselves.
Patrice Bergeron & David Krejci
When the Bruins were eliminated by the Hurricanes last season in seven games in the first round, it appeared that Patrice Bergeron’s career was going to come to an end. Over the summer, however, it was rumored that he was going to come back for at least another year and he did on a very team-friendly contract. He signed a one-year deal for $5 million, a $2.5 million base salary, and $2.5 million in incentives, which he reached when he played in 10 games. At 37 years old, he’s still playing at a Selke Trophy level and doing it on an extremely generous deal.
David Krejci left after becoming a free agent following the 2020-21 season to play a season over in Czechia, but in August, he returned to the Bruins on another team-friendly deal. He signed a one-year, $1 million contract, that also includes incentives. There were questions as to whether or not he could adjust back to the NHL game, but he has 12 goals and 14 assists in 26 games. He also solidifies the gaping hole at center Boston had last season behind Bergeron.
Two very team-friendly deals for two players that could have got a lot more on another team have played a big part in the success this season.
Bruins Medical Team
When news hit in June that Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk were going to miss the beginning of the season recovering from off-season surgeries, it was a big blow. However, all three players came back earlier than their estimated time tables and all three have not skipped a beat.
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Grzelcyk was the first to return in October after missing just four games, while Marchand, who originally thought he was going to return around American Thanksgiving, returned in late October. McAvoy was in the same boat as Marchand with a return around Thanksgiving, but he returned early to add another boost to the defense unit. The medical team also had Derek Forbort out for a month with a broken finger and Swayman with a lower-body injury. The Bruins’ medical staff has earned their due this season.
The Naughty List
Don Sweeney & Cam Neely
File this under, ‘What were you thinking’? There has been nothing but positive vibes surrounding the Bruins since training camp started and yet, for some reason, the front office duo decided to create a media mess that they both clearly misread what the reaction would be.
On Nov. 4, Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney announced that they signed Mitchell Miller, who bullied a classmate with disabilities when he was younger. Miller was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020, but they renounced his rights days later when classmate Isaiah Myers-Crothers spoke about the years of abuse he suffered at the hands of Miller. Still, the Bruins, who claimed to have done their due diligence before the signing, still signed him and created a firestorm.
Three days after announcing the signing and after three days of facing criticism, the Bruins walked back on their decision and parted ways with Miller. It was too late as the damage had been done. Team president Cam Neely met with the media and sounded like someone who was surprised by a lot of things, mainly how the process was handled. That was a bit surprising as you would think that the decision and the whole process of signing Miller would have gone through him. Guess not. Sweeney and Neely will always have this bad look hanging over them. For Sweeney, it overshadows a good offseason he had with limited money to make moves.
When the Bruins hosted the Tampa Bay Lightning on Nov. 29, NESN play-by-play announcer Jack Edwards made a comment about Pat Maroon and some considered it a fat-shaming comment. By now, it is well known what Edwards said, but it’s just another example of Edwards crossing the line with a comment during a broadcast.
Related: Bruins Play-by-Play Guy Jack Edwards Steps Over the Line…Again
Edwards, who works all Bruins games on all NESN contests with color analyst and former Bruin Andy Brickley, reached out to Tampa Bay to be able to talk with Maroon, but it is not known whether that has happened. Regardless, Edwards has come close to crossing the line before and finally went over it with Maroon.
Overall, there are more people on the nice list than the naughty list for the Bruins this Christmas. When a team is off to the start they’re on, there are going to be people behind the scenes who deserve credit and on the ice. That is certainly true with the Bruins this season.