A Bruins team with high expectations for the new season now scatters to various corners of the globe, anxiously awaiting a return to the TD Garden. As of October 4th, nine Bruins players have signed contracts to play overseas in leagues throughout Europe. Several more are expected to pack their bags in the near future.
As hockey fans everywhere begin to fear the potential loss of an entire season, lets consider the Bruins' fate as the lockout drags on:
The Bruins' corps of young stars, vital to the team's regular season success a year ago, will likely be the primary victim of the lockout.
The continued development of Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand is essential to the Bruins' pursuit of another Stanley Cup.
The elusive 30-goal scorer Bruins fans have demanded for years could already be wearing black and gold. In fact, Bruins brass should be happy to have possibly come by two such players.
The only threat to the their continued ascent towards elite status is the drought of NHL game experience due to the lockout. Losing part or all of the 2012-13 campaign could considerably delay the development of these potential superstars.
Brad Marchand made a name for himself with a spectacular playoff run as a rookie, which he capped off with two goals in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The feisty winger followed up with 28 goals last season, good for second on the team.
The sky is the limit for Marchand, especially if he begins to contribute on the power play. Marchand has yet to announce his plans for the lockout.
Tyler Seguin, who recently signed a contract with Swiss club EHC Biel, led the Bruins in both goals (29) and points (67) in just his second season. The former second overall pick is due for a breakout season that could rival some of the NHL's best. Seguin found himself in early consideration for the Hart Trophy after a hot start last season.
Seguin is the Bruins' best shot at having a 100-point player and should be a perennial all-star for years to come, unless his meteoric rise is slowed by the lesser quality of competition in Switzerland.
When Tim Thomas announced his intention to take the season off, the Bruins felt very comfortable passing the torch to Tuukka Rask.
An extended lockout may steal some of their confidence.
Rask dominated as the starter in 2009-10, leading the NHL in goals against average and save percentage. Now that Thomas is out of the picture, the young Finn is expected to pick up right where he left off.
Although Rask was superb in 23 games a year ago, posting a .929 SV%, injuries ended his season early. Rask last played on March 3rd in a loss to the New York Islanders. He returned to the bench in time for a first-round playoff series with the Washington Capitals, but the Bruins' early exit stopped him from seeing action.
Rask is at full strength this fall and playing with HC Plzen in the Czech Republic. If the season ever begins, Rask will have not seen NHL ice in a very long time. In a shortened season, a rusty performance from Rask could lead to a slow start for the B's. Also, as the clear number one goalie, Rask's health will be of the utmost importance.
In addition, it is not too far-fetched to believe that Tim Thomas may return in the event of an abbreviated season, so his trade status remains up in the air.
According to WEEI's DJ Bean, Bruins winger Nathan Horton will not play hockey during the lockout.
Horton shined in his first season as a Bruin, up until his memorable exit from the Stanley Cup Finals due to concussion. Continued concussion problems limited Horton to just 46 games last season, though he mustered an admirable 32 points.
As many fans know from witnessing Sidney Crosby's extended struggle with head injuries, concussions must be taken very seriously. In the worst case scenario, Nathan Horton could end up like Marc Savard or Eric Lindros, whose careers were significantly shortened due to repeated injuries.
Extended time away from hockey may elongate Horton's career and help him return to the ice ready to show off the skills that made the Florida Panthers draft him third overall in 2003.
With Horton at full strength, the Bruins could once again have two elite lines capable of creating tremendous matchup problems for opponents. A reemergence from Nathan Horton could also relieve pressure from line-mates Milan Lucic and David Krejčí, allowing them to bounce back from down seasons.
Bruins top prospect Dougie Hamilton was expected to make the leap to the NHL this fall. The ninth overall selection from the 2011 draft will be forced to remain with the Ontario Hockey League's Niagara Ice Dogs, however.
As a 19-year-old, Hamilton is not eligible to join the AHL's Providence Bruins, and therefore he must languish in a league that he has clearly outgrown.
Hamilton's production for Niagara in 2011-12 was spectacular, as he put up 72 points in just 50 games. He was awarded the OHL's prestigious Max Kaminsky Trophy, given to the league's most outstanding defenseman. Past recipients of the award include NHL stars Drew Doughty, Marc Staal and Chris Pronger.
Hamilton is a favorite to compete for the Calder Trophy given to the rookie of the year, and is pegged for big things on Garden ice. The Bruins must be concerned about how another year playing against teenagers could slow the development of this NHL caliber prospect.
Luckily, the NHL and CHL, of which the OHL is a part, have struck an agreement that will allow Hamilton to report to Bruins training camp if the season ever begins. If not, Hamilton will undoubtedly have another stellar year in juniors, but will fail to gain much-needed experience against mature opponents.
The Bruins currently have nine players contracted to play in Europe and that number is likely to grow in the near future. The longer the lockout lasts, the more likely it is that one or more Bruins stars will return home on crutches.
Core members of the team, such as captain Zdeno Chára, Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, leading scorer Tyler Seguin, and starting goalie Tuukka Rask will all be putting themselves at risk for foreign teams in the next few months.
Of course, it is important for these players to stay in game shape, but inevitably some teams will lose stars to long term injuries.
Rick Nash, just acquired by the New York Rangers in a blockbuster deal, has already injured himself playing for HC Davos in Switzerland. With many of their prominent players abroad, the Bruins will be at serious risk of similar injuries.
Claude Julien will have his fingers crossed that his squad returns healthy if the season ever begins.