Entering the 2022 offseason, Boston Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney had some needs to address for his team entering the 2022-23 season if they have visions of being a contender for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, Boston’s GM made very little change to the roster ahead of the upcoming season.
By running back nearly the same roster, the Bruins could very well find themselves spinning their wheels as they begin the season with Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk, who are all recovering from offseason surgeries. With that said, let’s take look at a few areas of weakness that Sweeney had a chance to address, but did not.
Bruins Did Not Get Younger at Center
In the last couple of seasons, center depth has been an issue for the Bruins. An even bigger issue up the middle is that they don’t have the future center in waiting. Yes, Patrice Bergeron is coming back for another season on a very team-friendly contract with incentives, while David Krejci is also returning after spending the 2021-22 season playing in his home country of the Czech Republic. It’s nice having two veteran centers return for the top-six, however, the Black and Gold are still stuck in the same spot for the future with no true center in waiting.
If the Bruins had not brought back one or both of Bergeron and Krejci, they would be in a bigger mess than they currently are. Sweeney is banking on both veterans having good seasons as each had with their teams last season, but what does the future look like as early as next season at center? Jack Studnicka has promise, but by now, you would think that he would be making more of an impact in the NHL. He has impressed during his stints at center in Boston, but his full-time spot on the roster is being blocked by veterans.
Johnny Beecher needs a full American Hockey League (AHL) season with the Providence Bruins. Pavel Zacha was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils in July and he has the flexibility to play wing and center, but is he a future No. 1 center in the NHL? Charlie Coyle still has four years remaining on his current contract, but with a $5.25 million average annual value (AAV), could he be traded at some point? Trent Frederic is another center option in a pinch, but has not shown that he’s capable of being a top-six center, as he has spent most of his time in the wing. Sooner or later, the Bruins will have to develop centers or their rebuild could be longer than it should be.
Bruins Still Lack Right Wing Depth
One position that has gone under the radar in terms of quietly lacking depth is right wing. Last season, Jake DeBrusk was moved to the top line with Marchand and Bergeron and performed well on his off side, but forcing former coach Bruce Cassidy to do that says a lot about the depth on that side.
David Pastrnak was David Pastrnak last season scoring 40 goals, mainly on the second line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. Craig Smith, who is entering the final year of his contract, has struggled in his first two seasons in Boston after being a 20-goal scorer five out of his nine seasons with the Nashville Predators. He has yet to hit the 20-goal mark as he had 16 last season after scoring 13 the previous season. He was dropped to the third line last season in the line shuffling in February when DeBrusk was moved to the top line. Curtis Lazar shined on the fourth line right wing with eight goals and 16 points along with being a key penalty-killer, but he left in free agency this summer for the Vancouver Canucks.
Fabian Lysell, the Bruins’ 2021 first-round pick, appears to be the next goal-scoring gifted right wing in the system and questions are surrounding Pastrnak’s future in Boston. He enters training camp later this month in the final year of his contract and an extension needs to be worked out or Sweeney might be faced with trading his superstar. Like at center, there is not much in the pipeline for right wings for the future. Some more roster moves to clear cap space this summer could have opened the door for an addition like Evan Rodrigues, who still remains on the free agent market.
Getting young at center and adding depth at right wing were two needs that could have been addressed this offseason, but they were not. The thought of Bergeron and Krejci not being in the top-six in the future at center with no real replacements is a scary, but realistic thought. The same could be said for right wing, especially if Pastrnak does not return after this season. With limited cap space by being a cap team is no one’s fault except for Sweeney’s, which tied his hands this summer in terms of adding to a roster that the front office still thinks can be a contender in 2022-23.
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.