The Boston Bruins were one of 10 teams provided additional rest, via the National Hockey League’s mandated five-day break, beginning on the Sunday prior to NHL All-Star Weekend in San Jose. This, for better or for worse, meant that the Black & Gold were idle for 10 days (and nine nights), leaving me with far too much time for reflection.
After checking in on the league’s Top-50 point scorers, including the painfully familiar names of Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin, here’s what I came up with: if four lines of former Bruins forwards (spanning the past 10 years and active in the NHL this season) were constructed, how might they shape up?
Mike Commito, the author of Hockey365, had a similar, yet extended vision, at the expense of recently fired Edmonton Oilers general manager, Peter Chiarelli, who served in the same role for the Bruins from 2006-15.
Time for an updated Peter Chiarelli castoff All-Star team pic.twitter.com/0KEimvez3a
— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) January 22, 2019
After some amateur GM-like insight and tinkering of the depth chart and line combinations, here is my full breakdown of this fantasy team, better known as the Used-To-B’s.
Seguin, Wheeler Lead Lucic on Formidable First Line
A top trio that offers every element one could hope for: scoring prowess, playmaking ability, speed, toughness, and leadership. In Seguin (with the Bruins from 2010-13 with 245 regular season and playoff games – 62 goals – 77 assists), the team has an elite goal scorer and face of the franchise, just as the Dallas Stars do these days.
The 26-year-old center, whose once-promising tenure ended after a trade in the summer of 2013 (for four players, two of which are featured below), would likely see an increase in goal scoring as the 32-year-old Wheeler (2008-11; 246 – 52 – 65) has ranked among the league’s top playmakers over the past four seasons with the Winnipeg Jets. During the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, Wheeler was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers, before the franchise relocated a season later. He was named the Jets’ captain prior to the 2016-17 season.
While Milan Lucic (2007-15; 662 – 165 – 238) has likely seen the prime of his career come and go, the star power around him would, at the very least, create a chance at inflated offensive production. After being dealt at the 2015 Draft, he tallied 20 goals for the Los Angeles Kings. A season later, Lucic potted 23 goals for the Oilers before a heavy regression to 10 last season. Offensive production aside, Lucic would be there to answer the bell as an enforcer, just as he always has, a trait that turned him into a cult hero in Boston.
Kessel Spearheads Second Line with Swedes
Keeping Kessel (2006-09; 237 – 75 – 66) off of Seguin’s right side proved the toughest decision of this experiment, given their intertwined histories. For the sake of scoring balance, the 31-year-old’s consistent ability to fill the back of the net (20 goals this season with the Pittsburgh Penguins) seemed better off further down the depth chart.
Much of this trio’s sustained success would boil down to the production of its pivot, Carl Soderberg (2012-14; 175 – 30 – 70), who has already set a career high in goals scored (17) this season with the Colorado Avalanche, whom he was dealt to at the 2016 Draft.
In Loui Eriksson (2013-16; 236 – 64 – 88), the second unit features a responsible three-zone player, who has made a career out of scoring from in close to the net. Much like Lucic, the 33-year-old’s best days are behind him, plainly evident by a combined 30 goals in two and a half seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, whom he signed with in the summer of 2016.
Nash, Smith, Vatrano Virtues of Versatility on Third Line
With each member fully capable of playing up and down the lineup, the hope here is that this trio, who combined to play only 461 games in Boston, would mesh together nicely. After a career-high 15 goals and 26 assists last season, the 29-year-old Riley Nash (2016-18; 172 – 22 – 39) has not met expectations in his first go-round with the Columbus Blue Jackets, after signing this summer.
His namesake, Reilly Smith (2013-15; 175 – 37 – 59) also enjoyed a career-year with 60 points (and 22 more in the playoffs) in 2017-18 for the Vegas Golden Knights, who lost in the Stanley Cup Final.
The 27-year-old right wing was traded in the summer of 2013, along with the weighty contract of Marc Savard, to the Florida Panthers for Jimmy Hayes. On Nash’s opposite side, Frank Vatrano (2015-18; 114 – 21 – 11) would bring an elite shot to the fray. The 24-year-old is in the midst of his best season with 16 goals and 10 assists in 487 games with the Panthers.
Connolly a Mainstay on Mix-and-Match Fourth Line
Since the days of the famed Merlot Line, the Bruins have consistently succeeded in finding a suitable fourth line. With three spots left in the lineup and four forwards on the roster, I’d envision a rotational approach. 26-year-old Brett Connolly (2014-16; 76 – 9 – 18) won a Stanley Cup in his second season with the Washington Capitals and would likely be a good fit, along with 28-year-old left wing Tim Schaller (2016-18; 158 – 20 – 19), who signed with the Vancouver Canucks this past summer.
Vladimir Sobotka (2007-10; 153 – 8 – 18), a natural center, would likely get the first crack at the final spot, despite little production with the Buffalo Sabres this season. The 31-year-old center was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the summer of 2010 before deciding to play in Russia in 2014-15. He would return to St. Louis in 2016-17.
Kenny Agostino (2017-18; 5 – 0 – 1), the shortest tenured ex-Bruin, would see ample opportunity. The 26-year-old left wing signed with the Montreal Canadiens this summer and has outgrown the American Hockey League, after winning its 2016-17 MVP award. 27-year-old center Ryan Spooner (2012-18; 257 – 41 – 103), who was traded to the New York Rangers last February before being dealt to Edmonton in November, would factor into the equation as well. Missing the final cut were Matt Beleskey, Austin Czarnik, Zac Rinaldo and Drew Stafford.
Now, if the allotted time frame were to be pushed back by just three seasons, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer named Joe Thornton would be added to the mix. One would think that might help what already looks like a line-up capable of offensive outbursts.
With top-tier players, capable of 80-90 point seasons in Seguin, Wheeler and Kessel along with solid depth scoring, spread between all four lines, the Used-To-B’s would stand a good chance of finishing among the league’s elite offenses.