With all sights set on the beginning of training camp and time closing in on the Boston Bruins’ first preseason game against the New York Rangers, the historic franchise will begin its centennial season with many questions that need answering. The offseason saw plenty of change for the Bruins, who have become accustomed to being a Stanley Cup contender year after year. General manager Don Sweeney had his work cut out for him during the offseason while dealing with salary cap restraints and the retirement announcements from long-time Bruins Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
The centennial season brings forth the beginning of a new era while celebrating the past. The Bruins will unveil their new jerseys on Sept. 16 at the Centennial Takeoff, and it may be the perfect time for the club to announce who will follow in Bergeron’s footsteps as the next Bruins’ captain. The new era will see Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and David Pastrnak leading many new additions to the Black and Gold. New faces such as James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Shattenkirk, Morgan Geekie, Jesper Boqvist, and Patrick Brown have been brought in to fill many of the voids left by critical departures from last season. With all the roster turnover and uncertainty surrounding their center depth moving forward, the Bruins will enter the season with much less expectations than usual.
Bruins May Benefit From Entering Season With Less Expectations
While it’s a no-brainer, the fanbase and front office hope for a successful transition as the Bruins begin their next chapter. The hope from within is that the club can remain highly competitive and continue to challenge as a Stanley Cup contender. However, from the outside, many expect them to regress as the Atlantic Division has only gotten better over the summer. While they likely won’t have to worry about that Presidents’ Trophy curse again, they may benefit from entering this season with lowered expectations. After all, it is not the first time they’ve faced adversity to begin a season.
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Last October, several questions surrounded the Bruins on how they would respond to first-year head coach Jim Montgomery while dealing with significant injuries to Marchand, McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk. Those questions were answered by the club going on a tear to begin the season, quieting the doubters as they put together a magical regular season run. Fast forward to the present, and they have several questions about their roster and how they will perform this season.
While entering the 2023-24 season, expected by many to slide down the Atlantic standings, the Bruins can come in as an underdog and rise to the occasion. With the lower expectations also comes less pressure, which may help as the new additions find their respective places throughout the lineup. As the league looks towards the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, and Toronto Maple Leafs as Eastern Conference favorites, the Bruins may be slept on in the season’s early goings. Although regression should be expected from their 65-win, 135-point campaign, they will still push for an Atlantic Division title and remain more competitive than many expect.
Bruins Always Seem to Find A Way
The Bruins have blessed their fanbase by becoming a competitive team year after year. Since 2009, the club has played a ton of playoff hockey, and despite several shortcomings and disappointing early exits, they have had their share of playoff success as well. A quick turnaround after Sweeney took the reins and hired Bruce Cassidy saw the Bruins go on a remarkable run in 2019. While being that close to another championship hurts, the fact they’ve remained contenders this long is impressive, so why should that change now?
There is no denying that the departures have left huge holes to fill in their lineup; however, they still boast the best goaltending tandem in the NHL with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. Their blue line has gotten arguably stronger over the summer, depending on who you ask. Shattenkirk steps in place of Connor Clifton, who had a strong 2022-23 season but also made glaring mistakes when given the opportunity against the Florida Panthers in the playoffs. With McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Carlo, Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, and Shattenkirk, the defensive corps is deep and will be pivotal for the club’s success.
Up front, the biggest question that needs answering is if Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha are ready to be the Bruins’ top two centers. As the season approaches, Coyle seems to be up to the task. “We always want to be a bigger part of the team you’re on, but that comes with preparation and getting ready for that. That’s what this summer was. That’s what I’ve been striving for this summer. I want that. I want to play in all situations and be a guy the team can rely on. No one is going to be Bergy or Krejci, though, but we have a lot of good pieces here that we all kind of put our hand in and take a little more responsibility this year,” Coyle told Boston Hockey Now.
The Bruins still have a 60-goal scorer in Pastrnak, the two-way abilities of Marchand, and the emerging game of Jake Debrusk, who was enjoying a career year last season before suffering injuries in the 2023 NHL Winter Classic. They will need to rely on offense throughout the lineup to help replace some of the goal-scoring lost through Bergeron, Krejci, and Taylor Hall.
Bruins Remain Motivated to Win
When reviewing the moves made during the offseason, many quickly conclude that Sweeney’s activities have been underwhelming. Like it or not, it appears this is what Montogomery and his coaching staff have to work with, barring a late trade for another center, which seems more unlikely by the day. You can bet the players remaining from last season’s catastrophic collapse will be highly motivated for redemption this season. Underestimating this Bruins may work in their favor, and with the opening puck drop around the corner, fans should be gearing up for an exciting season. Those counting them out may want to remember that these Bruins have proven their doubters wrong in the past, and there is no reason they can’t do it again in 2023-24.