The Boston Bruins have had themselves one crazy season.
Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
Four months on from the Opening Night drubbing they took from the Winnipeg Jets at TD Garden, Claude Julien’s troops are in a position that not many envisioned after the first three games. A tie for second place in the Atlantic with the reigning Eastern Conference Champion Tampa By Lightning is a pretty good place to be sitting in with just over two months of the season left.
However, the race for a wild card spot in the East is where the dogfight lies. Just one point separates Detroit, New Jersey and Pittsburgh for the two final playoff spots. With the Bruins sitting just two points ahead of the Red Wings, they can’t get too comfortable.
With the trade deadline just three weeks away, the growing question is whether general manager Don Sweeney should buy or sell parts for his hockey club. However, a quick check of hockey Twitter shows that Bruins Nation appears to have made the decision for him.
If you watch this night after night and still can't be convinced to sell, I don't know what to tell you.
— dafoomie (@dafoomie) February 5, 2016
Calm down, people. It’s still a bit premature to decide things. There’s still many orders of business to settle first.
The Big Fish In Boston’s Pond
There’s no question Loui Eriksson’s future in Boston is in limbo.
Time is running short for Sweeney to construct a new pact with the 30-year-old winger. There’s little doubt Eriksson’s play this year has warranted a long-term, big money deal. However, key pieces of the Bruins’ youth movement such as Torey Krug, Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak are in line for new contracts too within the next 18 months.
Not to mention Brad Marchand, who is Boston’s new goal scoring machine, will want a new contract next summer, too.
With that in mind, three questions arise: Will they resign Eriksson? Will Sweeney trade him? What can the Bruins get for him? All we know is Boston, to make any noise in the postseason (provided they get there of course), needs another top-four defenseman to supplement the aging Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Eriksson is probably their best asset to acquire said piece.
Sweeney knows the objective is to get back into the playoffs and will have to do something to make sure his club gets there.
So, what’s going to unfold over the next few weeks with their big fish?
Speaking of Marchand, he may be radiating more heat than the sun right now.
Dear Bruins, please don't waste Brad Marchand's unbelievable season.
— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) February 5, 2016
The pesky forward is emerging into the Bruins’ bona fide sniper thanks to a run of form that has seen him score eight goals in his last eight games. A highlight-reel tally against Buffalo on Thursday was the latest jaw-dropping, red light special from Marchand’s bag of tricks. His 23 goals this season are tied for 7th in the NHL along with Evgeni Malkin and Matt Duchene, among others.
At his current pace, the Nova Scotia native is flirting with the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Patrice Bergeron is enjoying his best offensive campaign in a few seasons with a team-high 45 points in 51 games. The three-time Selke Trophy winner is doing his part to remind those around the League he is just as good offensively as he is defensively.
Third-line center Ryan Spooner has also done his part to save the Bruins when they needed someone to step up this season. The 23-year-old forward has 38 points in 51 games with 25 of those coming in 27 games across December and January. His spark kept Boston’s season alive in the wake of David Krejci’s 10-game absence with an upper-body injury.
Do the Black and Gold really want to waste a season in which three of their best players are carrying the club? It’s ludicrous to think the answer would be yes. So, why sell?
Two more home games separate the Bruins from a season-long six-game road trip. A rematch with Buffalo and a reunion with Milan Lucic and the LA Kings await Boston before spending the next 13 days away from home.
The B’s have been exceptional on the road this season. At 16-5-3, they hold one of the best records in the League when playing away from the Gahden. Their credentials will be tested with tough games in Winnipeg, Minnesota, Detroit, Columbus, Nashville and Dallas over the course of their travels beginning next week.
With teams looking to wiggle their way into the playoffs (Minnesota, Detroit and Nashville) and one team in the race for a division crown (Dallas), the Bruins will have their hands full playing some of the best in both conferences.
When they return home, the trade deadline will be just over a week away. By then, Sweeney and the brass should have a good grasp on what they need and where they stand.
Until then, don’t jump to conclusions on whether the Bruins are buyers or sellers. There’s still plenty of work left to be done between now and February 29th.