As the calendar quickly races towards the start of the 2010-2011 NHL campaign, the Boston Bruins are still feeling the lingering effects of disappointment. A year ago the expectations for this team were so great, that anything less than a Cup would be virtually unacceptable. Now, coming off the heels of a record breaking postseason meltdown, Bruins fans are trying their very best to mask the uncertainty that has quietly crept into the Hub.
But the time for speculation is coming to a close. Soon all the talking will stop, at least momentarily, as the 2010 Boston Bruins try and separate themselves from last season, and turn their focus onto this year.
The team that will take the ice on October 9 is not last year’s team. There are new faces, new roles, and new expectations. Here I’ll try and break down what Bruins fans should expect from this year’s group.
#91 Marc Savard:
Last season: 41 GP, 10 G, 23 A, 33 P
2010 Prediction: 54 GP, 12G, 30A, 42 P
One day after this article’s original run, the Bruins announced that Marc Savard would not be available for the start of training camp. The news only worsened from there, as Savard is now expected to be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve for the start of the season as he battles Post-Concussion Syndrome. This obviously dampers my prediction for Savard’s upcoming season.
#18 Nathan Horton
Last season: 65 GP, 20 G, 37 A, 57 P
2010 Prediction: 77 GP, 32 G, 40 A, 72 P
The league has been waiting for former 3rd overall pick Nathan Horton to finally come out of his shell, and this may be the year for him to do just that. After struggling with the always in-flux Florida franchise, Horton comes to a stable, Cup contending club in Boston. General Manager Peter Chiarelli may have found his replacement for Phil Kessel.
#17 Milan Lucic
Last season: 50 GP, 9 G, 11 A, 20 P
2010 Prediction: 72 GP, 15 G, 23 A, 38 P
A high-ankle sprain kept Lucic from playing his usual brand of hockey last season, but look for the 22 year old to come out strong this season. His physical presence should create a lot of options for Boston’s offense.
#46 David Krejci
Last season: 79 GP, 17 G, 35 A, 52 P
2010 Prediction: 77 GP, 21 G, 51 A, 72 P
After a slow start, Krejci regained the form that brought the spotlight on him in ’08-’09 following the Olympic Break. The young centreman has vocalized his intent to start much stronger this season, and I’m guessing he’ll do everything in his power to keep his word.
#28 Mark Recchi
Last season: 81 GP, 18 G, 25 A, 43 P
2010 Prediction: 78 GP, 15 G, 20 A, 35 P
“The age-less wonder” Mark Recchi decided to stick around one more year for perhaps his last shot at another Stanley Cup, and while his leadership should be instrumental for Boston, his production may finally begin to decline.
#73 Michael Ryder
Last season: 82 GP, 18 G, 15 A, 33 P
2010 Prediction: 80 GP, 16 G, 17 A, 33 P
All eyes will be on under-achieving winger Michael Ryder as Boston will be forced to make a move following Marco Sturm’s return from LTIR. If Ryder’s confidence is shaken, he may not be able to rebound. Look for the Bruins to try and ship the struggling forward by late Fall.
#37 Patrice Bergeron
Last season: 73 GP, 19 G, 33 A, 52 P
2010 Prediction: 76 GP, 24 G, 37 A, 61 P
Entering the final year on his current contract, Bergeron should feel miles away from the concussion injuries that sidelined the franchise forward in 2007 and 2008. Look for Bergeron to impress the Bruins brass enough to lock him into a long-term deal before the season ends.
#26 Blake Wheeler
Last season: 82 GP, 18 G, 20 A, 38 P
2010 Prediction: 80 GP, 25 G, 22 A, 47 P
GM Peter Chiarelli wasn’t about to give up on young power-forward Blake Wheeler after just two inconsistent seasons in the Hub. Under contract for one more year, Wheeler will try and prove his worth in what could prove to be a break out campaign.
#16 Marco Sturm
Last season: 76 GP, 22 G, 15 A, 37 P
2010 Prediction: 55 GP, 11 G, 12 A, 23 P
After shredding his knee in the series opener against Philadelphia, Sturm will be on injured reserve for the start of the season. His $3.5 million contract will not count against the cap in that time. Sadly, that’s about the only thing Bruins fans are concerned about when it comes to the 32 year old winger. He was held point-less in the Buffalo series, and hasn’t scored a playoff goal since Game 6 against Montreal in the 2007-2008 season. And while most are considering Michael Ryder to be the victim of the B’s eventual salary cap dump, I wouldn’t rule out Chiarelli and Co. looking into trying to send Sturm packing as this is his last year under contract.
#11 Gregory Campbell
Last season: 60 GP, 2 G, 15 A, 17 P
2010 Prediction: 80 GP, 4 G, 18 A, 22 P
Many seem to have forgotten about the other former Florida Panther acquired in the Nathan Horton trade this offseason. But Gregory Campbell projects to fill the role Steve Begin served for the team last season. As a 4th line grinder, Campbell’s point production won’t be as important as his physicality and penalty kill skills.
#20 Daniel Paille
Last season: 76 GP, 10 G, 10 A, 20 P
2010 Prediction: 79 GP, 11 G, 12 A, 23 P
Penalty kill extraordinaire Daniel Paille will be returning to Boston this season. After coming to Beantown in Boston’s first ever trade with the Buffalo Sabres, Paille played the role of a defensive forward pretty effectively last season. I would look for coach Claude Julien to use Paille’s skills in a similar way he utilized P.J. Axelsson.
#22 Shawn Thornton
Last season: 74 GP, 1 G, 9 A, 10 P
2010 Prediction: 70 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 P
Resident enforcer Shawn Thornton should be spending most of this season contending for his job, as players like Tyler Seguin, Jordan Caron, and Brad Marchand all fight for roster spots. Toss in Chiarelli’s recent professional try-out invitation to tough guy Brian McGrattan into this mix, and it becomes pretty clear that Thornton won’t be able to coast by on the occasional staged fight this season.
#19 Tyler Seguin
Last season (OHL): 63 GP, 48 G, 58 A, 106 P
2010 Prediction: 78 GP, 17 G, 28 A, 45 P
The weight of expectation is surely weighing down on this year’s #2 overall pick Tyler Seguin. While some say he’s a year away from being NHL-ready, the Bruins brass has said they expect him to make the team. With Boston’s depth in the center position, Seguin will most likely play wing if he does earn a roster spot. And while the future is incredibly bright for the young forward, I would expect there to be a bit of a learning curve as the 18 year old adjusts to the speed of professional hockey.
#33 Zdeno Chara
Last season: 80 GP, 7 G, 37 A, 44 P
2010 Prediction: 78 GP, 13 G, 41 A, 54 P
Last season was one marked with frustration for Captain Zdeno Chara. A severely broken pinkie on his gripping hand limited the towering defenseman from firing off his patented slap shot, and he was held to just 7 goals. While Chara is entering the final year of his contract with Boston, it seems pretty clear that a deal will come together sooner rather than later. What Chara seems more concerned with is the improvement of his game, which should be a scary thought for any opponents.
#44 Dennis Seidenberg
Last season: 79 GP, 4 G, 28 A, 32 P
2010 Prediction: 82 GP, 6 G, 31 A, 37 P
Last offseason Boston management was debating over which defenseman to go after in free agency. They opted for Derek Morris, who turned out to be the wrong choice. But after acquiring Seidenberg at the trade deadline last year, the blueliner performed very well, usually paired with Chara. He was rewarded with a new deal this offseason, and I would expect for #44 to come out swinging in 2010.
#45 Mark Stuart
Last season: 56 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 P
2010 Prediction: 81 GP, 4 G, 10 A, 14 P
Mark Stuart saw something that he was very unfamiliar with last year, the press box. The former “ironman” was shelved with numerous injuries last season for the first time in his career. But after signing a “bridge” deal which is anticipated to lead to a longer contract, Stuart has a reason to try and step up his game.
#55 Johnny Boychuk
Last season: 51 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 P
2010 Prediction: 82 GP, 8 G, 14 A, 22 P
Boychuk was a pleasant surprise for Boston last year, as he started the season in Providence and was only given ice time in the NHL because of the number of injuries the Bruins were plagued with. But he made the most of his opportunity, and eventually became the Bruins’ #2 defenseman in the playoffs. The sky seems to be the limit for this young blueliner.
#21 Andrew Ference
Last season: 51 GP, 0 G, 8 A, 8 P
2010 Prediction: 60 GP, 1 G, 8 A, 9 P
It was somewhat puzzling to see that Ference was rewarded with a new contract after last season’s poor performance. The fragile defenseman must work on his endurance if he wants to win over the Bruins fans, who have become somewhat annoyed by the frequency that the 31 year old’s name shows up on the injury report.
#48 Matt Hunwick
Last season: 76 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 14 P
2010 Prediction: 68 GP, 3 G, 6 A, 9 P
This is a make-or-break season for Matt Hunwick. He signed a two year deal after his standout year in 2008-2009, but failed to live up to expectations last season. With Boston already looking for another solid defender to fill out the depth chart, if Hunwick can’t raise his game, he could be riding the bench by mid-season. That is if he’s not gone by then.
#40 Tuukka Rask
Last season: 45 GP, 1.97 GAA, .931 SV%
2010 Prediction: 60 GP, 2.04 GAA, .927 SV %
No one had a bigger year last season than Tuukka Rask. After capitalizing on Tim Thomas’ missteps, he won the starting job in net on Causeway Street. All eyes are on Tuukk-Nukem as he enters his sophomore year. Will he suffer from the slump that has plagued so many young goaltenders in the past? Only time will tell, however with Tim Thomas anxiously waiting in the wings, Rask has a little extra motivation to perform well.
#30 Tim Thomas
Last season: 43 GP, 2.56 GAA, .915 SV%
2010 Prediction: 25 GP, 2.60 GAA, .903 SV %
If Tim Thomas is frustrated with losing the starting job to Tuukka Rask, he sure isn’t showing it. The former Vezina Trophy winner seems to have embraced the role of backup, at least for the time being. That’s not to say he isn’t going to battle for that starting job when camp starts up tomorrow morning, but Thomas understands the situation Boston finds itself in. The only disappointing part about this for Boston is the $5 million cap hit Thomas is toting along with him.
Most Likely To Succeed: Tuukka Rask
Most Likely To Disappoint: Michael Ryder
Season Surprise: Blake Wheeler
Possible Roster Spot Stealer: Jordan Caron, Adam McQuaid
Trade Bait: Zach Hamill, Matt Hunwick, Marco Sturm, Michael Ryder, Tim Thomas, Boston’s 1st Overall in 2011.
Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins correspondent (TheHockeyWriters.com, TheHubofHockey.net)