The Biggest Question Mark on Each Boston Bruins Line for 2013-14 Season
But with the offseason changes in Beantown (No more Tyler Seguin or Andrew Ference, the arrivals of Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla), how will the team mold? Will it be like trying to fit Zdeno Chara into a Geo Metro? Or will the newcomers slide right in like a foot into a skate?
Here are the biggest question marks for each line going into next season.
Will Gregory Campbell's Injury Affect the Fourth Line?
The Bruins missed Gregory Campbell during the Stanley Cup Final after he broke his right leg blocking an Evgeni Malkin slap shot in the Eastern Conference Final. His absence made head coach Claude Julien tinker with the bottom two lines against the Chicago Blackhawks. Daniel Paille moved up to the third line, while Kaspars Daugavins and Carl Soderberg both saw time on the fourth line against Chicago.
NHL.com's Matt Kalman a couple of weeks ago reported that Campbell was behind in his rehab and that he had not been cleared to start skating again. If Soupy is unable to make it back in time for the start of the season, the third and fourth lines will once again be affected.
If Campbell is sidelined, the third line will still be centered by Chris Kelly, and his wings will either be Jordan Caron, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith, Soderberg or top prospect Ryan Spooner. More than likely, Caron will start the year alongside with Kelly. Caron was drafted 25th overall four years ago, and it's time for him to have an everyday spot in the lineup.
With Campbell's absence, either Soderberg or Spooner would could center the fourth line. Shawn Thornton and Paille will remain in place, and the only question marks will be with the third line.
If Campbell is ready to go by October 3, the fourth line will remain intact and the whole scenario is much ado about nothing (at least in terms of the fourth line).
Who Will Be the Third-Line Wingers?
As mentioned in the previous slide, the makeup of the third line will be dictated by Campbell's status. Assuming he is in the lineup, Kelly will most likely be joined by Caron and either Smith, Reilly, Spooner or Soderberg.
Soderberg is 27 years old and signed a three-year contract in April, but he's a natural centerman, the same position played by Spooner. If Julien wants a natural winger to join Caron and Kelly, then Smith and Fraser are the most logical choices, but they're not as valued as Soderberg or Spooner.
It wouldn't be surprising if Smith gets a shot because he played 37 games with the Dallas Stars last season. He would be the safest bet because he has the most NHL experience out of any of the prospects. But Spooner led the Providence Bruins in scoring last season and would probably be able to transition to winger easier than Soderberg.
If Campbell is healthy, the third line figures to be Caron-Kelly-Smith, with Smith having the short leash in terms of getting sent down. Spooner, Fraser and Soderberg will all see time in the lineup this year, and it will be interesting to see who gets the nod.
How Will Eriksson Mold with Marchand and Bergeron?
Loui Eriksson will like his new surroundings. After playing with one of the poorest lineups in the league with Dallas the past few seasons, he will be teamed up with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line.
They figure to be a force, and the only question mark is how long it will take for the line to jell. When Boston traded for Jaromir Jagr last season, he integrated quickly. While he didn't score as often as the Bruins brass wanted, there's no denying that he was effective.
Expect Eriksson to fit in great with his new mates. He will be the most offensively gifted of the three forwards on that line, and his defensive skills will be second to Bergeron's. As B/R's Chris Blanchard pointed out last week, his three 70-plus-point seasons with the Stars would have led the Bruins if he was on the team during those years.
The talented Swede should return to his high-scoring ways with a better supporting cast and will be be the offensive punch Boston has missed the last couple of seasons.
Can Iginla Keep the First Line as a Three-Headed Monster?
Boston's first line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton has been one of the most productive lines in the NHL the past three seasons. They combined to be three of the top four scorers in this year's playoffs, and Krejci led the postseason in scoring in 2011. With Horton now residing in the same city as Urban Meyer, his spot will be filled by the consummate pro, Jarome Iginla.
Can Iggy keep this line as dominant as it has been? Will his age hurt them?
It will help more than hurt.
The 36-year-old right wing will provide leadership and his noted scoring touch from outside the circles. With Krejci going into the corners in the offensive zone and Lucic parking in front of the net, Iginla will set up in his usual spot outside the hash marks and be deadly like he was for so many years in Calgary. It would be surprising if Iggy doesn't score between 25 and 30 goals this season. The line will be just fine.
He will also be able to get on Lucic's case if he underperforms like he has before. Horton didn't have the pedigree to call out a teammate when it was needed. But a 16-year veteran does.
Iginla isn't afraid to fight and will drop the gloves and will be the first guy to defend Krejci if he is targeted. He'll also back up Lucic if the bruiser starts something with the opponent (which will happen).