As the 2022 Stanly Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche hits just past the midway point, it’s been a series that had the Avalanche land the first two blows, but the Lightning responded with one of their own, but an overtime win Wednesday night in Game 4 has Colorado one win away from a championship. Without a doubt, they are the two best teams currently in the NHL with the Lightning looking for their third consecutive championship, while the Avalanche have a core of players that are just kicking down the door.
There are other teams in the NHL that are coming close to joining the conversation as a top team in the league and a championship contender. In the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs are due to burst through the door and make a serious postseason run, if not win it. The Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and Carolina Hurricanes, who eliminated the Boston Bruins in seven games this postseason, are other top teams just in the Eastern Conference. Then there’s the Bruins who are stuck in the middle of trying to compete or begin a rebuild.
If they decide to try and compete next season with the iron of the league, here are two areas of concern that face the Black and Gold and general manager (GM) Don Sweeney and the front office as they sit back and watch the 2022 Stanley Cup Final play out.
Bruins Must Add More Depth
Depth is going to carry you deep into the playoffs and right now, the Bruins have very little, if any. They have been and are currently a top-six heavy team and that’s being somewhat kind. This season the third-line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle, and Craig Smith had their talent take them so far. It was far enough to get the first Eastern Conference wild card spot, but not past the first round.
The depth added last offseason by Sweeney was a letdown. Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek as forwards struggled, while Erik Haula settled in as the No. 2 center behind Patrice Bergeron between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak. Haula, however, is not the long-term answer going forward as a top-six center, an area that needs to be addressed this offseason, regardless of Bergeron’s decision. Thursday night, Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that Bergeron has decided to return on a one-year contract.
Getting the Bruins to a four-line deep roster is nearly impossible, but being wise with some offseason additions can go a long way in adding some depth. Curtis Lazar is a free agent, but will receive a big upgrade from his last contract and it’s something that Boston will have to think long and deep about. Is Fabian Lysell an answer moving forward? Maybe, and the early returns on the 2021 first-round pick are very impressive.
What carried the Lightning to the 2021 Stanley Cup? Their third line was the difference against the Montreal Canadiens during their run. This year, Tampa Bay added depth at the trade deadline and Colorado has been one of, if not the deepest team in the NHL. Somehow, someway, the Bruins need a lot of depth added to the roster this season if they are looking to make a deep playoff run in 2023.
Bruins Must Add More Physicality
One of their many needs at the 2022 trade deadline was addressed with a left-shot defenseman in acquiring Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks, but one of the areas that did not get addressed was a physical presence in the lineup. Jacob Middleton of the San Jose Sharks was an option, but Sweeney missed out on the blueliner who ended up with the Minnesota Wild.
Over the last couple of seasons, the Bruins have been building a roster that is not meant to withstand the physical grind of the regular season and playoffs. Derek Forbort tried to be that type of presence on the backend with Brandon Carlo, but after that, they have been pushed around and worn down by their opponents. Frederic tries to be that type of player as a forward, but he is prone to get caught up in too much of it and take needless or frustrating penalties. Like the New York Islanders did in 2021, the Hurricanes wore down the smaller Bruins, and watching the Lightning and Avalanche battle it out in the series, more physicality is a must going forward.
Bruins’ Need to Add Multiple Areas to Contend
Has the Bruins Stanley Cup championship window closed? It’s looking more and more like it. Sweeney needs to pick a direction this offseason and go with it. If it’s to contend, then there is a lot more work needed than a lot of people think. Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Brad Marchand are out until November after offseason surgeries, and Bergeron’s future is still in doubt. Watching the Lightning and Avalanche go up and down the ice with their speed and skill, it’s clear to see that those two teams are way ahead of the Black and Gold.
Related: Bruins’ Offseason Decisions Dependent on Bergeron’s Decision
If Sweeney goes the rebuild model, then it’s going to be some lean times in Boston, but there are some promising young players to get excited about in Lysell, goaltender Jeremy Swayman and the defensive duo of McAvoy and Lindholm. Then it’s just a matter of time of adding pieces around them.