The Boston Bruins 2021-22 Stanley Cup playoffs run came to an end on May 14 with a 3-2 loss in Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. As the Bruins embark on an offseason that has a lot of “what if’s” surrounding them, it’s time to fire up one more Bruins Mailbag for The Hockey Writers and answer some of your questions.
Why Didn’t the Bruins Add More Toughness to the Roster for the Playoffs?
Last season, the New York Islanders wore down the Bruins in their second-round series and the case could easily be made that the Islanders pushed them around, especially on defense. As the series went on, it became clearer and clearer who the more physical team was and which team was built for it. I’m not sure that the Bruins were any better off in that area again this season.
This season, it was a lot of the same against the Hurricanes. A younger, deeper, and more talented team wore them down and it was never more evident than in Game 7. The Bruins lost a lot of puck battles, lost battles along the boards, and never really established a net-front presence. As the series wore on, you could see the Bruins getting tired and failing to do a good job of backchecking, especially in Game 7.
Former San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton would have been a nice trade deadline addition to address some toughness on the backend. The playoffs are a physical grind to win 16 games and four series over a two-month plus span. Aside from not addressing the forward depth at the trade deadline, the Bruins never addressed the toughness side of things either.
Will the Bruins Move on From Sweeney and Get a New GM?
Since his contract is up following the season, by move on, you must mean he does not receive another contract from the Bruins? It doesn’t like that’s happening. He addressed his contract status at his end of the season press conference with the media Wednesday. Team President Cam Neely said Thursday that its ownership’s intention to get a deal done soon with Sweeney. His contract expires at the end of the Stanley Cup Final.
“I’m under contract for right now. I’ve had a discussion earlier in the year in terms of the indication of where my path will be and that will be determined in short order.”
Yes, his offseason signings and drafts have a lot to be desired at times, but he has actually been good at re-signing and locking up players to extended contracts. He said at his end of the season media availability that he’s been in talks with the Bruins and expects it to be resolved soon.
Since the 2016-17 season, the Bruins have been a playoff team and won at least one round each time they have been to the playoffs prior to this season under his watch.
Who Was the Biggest Surprise This Season for the Bruins?
This one could have multiple answers to it, but the biggest surprise was Erik Haula. When he was signed as a bottom-six veteran forward last offseason, it looked like he was going to be the third-line center and given the task of helping DeBrusk to re-establish his game. Instead, when Bruce Cassidy moved around the lines at the first of the year, he solidified the second-line center spot between Hall and Pastrnak.
Who knew when the season started that he would finish with 18 goals and 26 assists? There was a message sent at the trade deadline that the Bruins’ front office and coaching staff had confidence in Haula to keep him there for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. The emergence of Pastrnak offensively since Jan. 1 has to do with finding a connection with Hall, but also the stability that Haula has provided on the line. Jeremy Swayman was the NESN 7th Player Award winner and it could have very easily been Haula. Like most of the bottom-nine forwards, he struggled in the playoffs when it mattered most.
Who Was the Biggest Disappointment for the Bruins This Season?
There are a couple of candidates for this, but to me, the biggest disappointment was Nick Foligno. Not much was expected from the veteran, but he gave the Bruins nearly nothing. He had two goals and 13 points as a bottom-six forward and he was even given minutes on the first power play in the middle of the season, with about the same results as they got 5-on-5.
Foligno is entering the second and final season of a two-year, $7.6 million contract with an annual cap hit of $3.8 million. It’s highly unlikely that anyone would take that contract from the Bruins and you have to wonder if they buy him out this summer and cut their losses and move on.
For what it’s worth, honorable mentions here would be Craig Smith, Tomas Nosek, and Mike Reilly.
Which Players Under Contract Could Be Traded This Offseason?
There needs to be some adjusting to the roster ahead of next season and I’m not sure much will be done until the Bruins get their final answer from Patrice Bergeron. I’m sure he has given Sweeney and the front office some indication of what he’ll ultimately decide and while all signs point toward him retiring, everyone will wait for the official word.
As far as which players could be traded, well if it was me, there would be a list of players that if I’m the Bruins, I will listen on. Anyone not named Jeremy Swayman, David Pastrnak, newly acquired Hampus Lindholm, and Charlie McAvoy would be up for discussion. Brad Marchand will not be moved, but if Bergeron retires and someone comes at you with a ridiculous offer for Marchand, you would have to at least listen.
Craig Smith would be one of those players I would take calls on as he carries a reasonable $3.1 million cap hit. I would also dangle Brandon Carlo out there and Matt Grzelcyk, but with Grzelcyk needing to undergo shoulder surgery this offseason and with the possibility of him missing the beginning of next season, not many teams would bite on him.
There needs to be some movement with the roster, whether that’s through a trade, free agency or reshaping the bottom-six with players from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Do You Think Lysell Makes the Roster Next Season?
I think that Fabian Lysell without a doubt is in the Bruins organization next season, but it just depends if he’s with Providence or in Boston. He had a very impressive season with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL), not only with his stats, but showing off his very impressive skill set all season long.
Without a doubt, he is a top-six future right-wing and if his development continues, what a top-six on the right side the Bruins could potentially have with Pastrnak and Lysell. Pasternak is entering the final year of his contract next season and it would be in the Bruins’ best interest to extend him before the season to avoid the drama all of next season.
That wraps up the 2021-22 season for the Black and Gold. When we get into July with the draft and free agency, we’ll fire up a summer mailbag. Until then, thanks for the questions, and you can always reach me on Twitter (@sroche35) or leave a comment below.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.