Ranking the Top 5 Boston Bruins Stories Halfway Through the 2014 Offseason
A future Hall of Famer, an endeared enforcer and an underpublicized instructor and builder have all bolted the Boston Bruins. On the flip side, a promising person and place with presumptive roles in the franchise’s future have surfaced.
All of this happened before the Bruins reached the essential midway point of their 2014 offseason.
If one defines the team’s summer as spanning its last playoff game (May 14) through the commencement of training camp (Sept. 18), that midway point fell this past week. Specifically, Thursday marked the dividing barrier between the first nine weeks of the offseason and the nine still to come.
One can expect replacements, re-signings and maybe a few exports and imports before formal team functions resume. The returnees will need to play their own role in compensating for key departures, and a few will have personal foundations to build upon.
The following slides recap the developments behind those impending preseason storylines and more events so far in the Spoked-B's summer.
Unless otherwise indicated all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.
5. Double Trophy Take
Center Patrice Bergeron, the quintessence of the club’s first layer of defense, collected his second Selke Trophy in three seasons. Tuukka Rask, the backstop behind the second-most efficient squad in the league (2.08 goals-against average), garnered his first Vezina.
The other nominee, 37-year-old captain Zdeno Chara, fell short in the Norris Trophy derby. Where he is in his career, that footrace could be his last bid for individual hardware.
But all three nominations combined to underscore the way the team’s resolve and aptitude coalesced when key injuries (e.g., Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid) struck.
For all of the question marks glowering upon the Bruins, the three faces of their three lines of defense stand as one symbol of stability. A combination of conviction and determination to redress the team’s playoff shortcomings should keep Rask and the letter-bearers a critical nucleus.
4. Front-Office Exits
A consequence of consistent contention is that some of the personnel behind it are more likely to earn greater gigs. On the heels of seven straight playoff runs—which have included a Stanley Cup, another conference crown and a regular-season title—the Bruins have faced a double dose of that reality this summer.
Jim Benning, a constant through the first eight years of general manager Peter Chiarelli’s administration, filled a GM vacancy in Vancouver one week into the offseason. Within a month, the Bruins plugged that void with a pair of promotions and the hiring of John Ferguson, Jr. as executive director of player personnel.
On June 19, the team’s website confirmed that Geoff Ward, who had been a part of Claude Julien’s staff since 2007, accepted a head coaching offer from Adler Mannheim. Higher-ups have yet to select a replacement, though Chiarelli told reporters that an internal transaction is a possibility.
Bruce Cassidy, who has spent the last six seasons behind the Providence bench, would constitute that hypothetical promotion. But that is not quite an empty-net shot. As WEEI.com beat writer DJ Bean phrased it, “Chiarelli noted the team might want to keep Cassidy in Providence because of how dependable he has been with developing younger players, especially on the back end.”
File more ripples on that front among the most anticipated storylines for the latter half of the summer.
3. Clean Sheet Coming
For more than a quarter-century, Bruins personnel have crossed county boundaries to get to practice at Wilmington’s Ristuccia Arena.
Within two years, they will not even need to break through city limits each day. A July 8 press release detailed the club’s intent to train at a new arena within the upcoming Boston Landing complex in the city’s Allston-Brighton neighborhood.
According to the release, construction commences this coming spring and the state-of-the-art rink will open its doors in the autumn of 2016.
Besides geographic convenience for participants and bystanders, the move will promote a more professional vibe. Per ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald, in reference to Ristuccia, “Over the years, the Bruins have made renovations to the rink to accommodate the players, but the facility is not up to league standards. Most NHL teams have top-notch facilities.”
To declare the upgrade overdue would be an understatement. As an Original Six franchise that has long replenished and retained its relevance, the Bruins are pursuing improved representation through this new venue.
2. Dave New World
The Bruins selected and signed their latest first-round draft pick, David Pastrnak, in a matter of 18 days. In between, the flashy forward spared not an ounce of energy or ebullience in offering his first impression to the organization.
The No. 25 overall selection, who hails from the Czech Republic and has groomed his game in Sweden, was the consensus star of the team’s development camp. Last Sunday, the final day of camp and two days before inking his entry-level deal, he garnered universal encouragement.
Per Caryn Switaj of the team’s website, “Pastrnak impressed at development camp with his shifty play and his quick foot speed, and with the ability to make nifty passes, or rip one past glove-hand. He has a flair on and off the ice. Teammates and staff gravitate to him.”
Dense input from Chiarelli, Cassidy and assistant general manager Don Sweeney throughout Switaj’s write-up validated that assessment. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s signing emboldens the notion that Chiarelli is willing to give Pastrnak a whirl with the established pros this September.
That hardly guarantees an instant NHL break-in, but earning a mere shot without deferment speaks to Pastrnak’s skill and will. He had five days with which to fill his post-draft sample size at development camp, and the higher-ups want more.
How soon they tap into that through extramural engagement remains to be seen. But through his first three-plus weeks in the organization, Pastrnak is following through on his vow, per Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com, to take after incumbent No. 1 Boston center David Krejci.
1. Retooling the Right Wing
For the second straight summer, multiple right wings have left Boston via free agency.
Like Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr 12 months before them, Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton have taken off this month. Minimal cap room pushed Iginla to sign a more lucrative deal with Colorado, while Thornton did not fit into Chiarelli’s desire for a new direction.
The latter loss carries chiefly sentimental implications. Many Bruins buffs admired Thornton’s personification of the blue-collar community, and even more appreciated his year-round community involvement.
But while Thornton was looking at a dwindling, albeit still existent, role on the ice, Iginla still had the look of a dependable top-nine, if not top-six forward.
Having turned 37 this month, he was not necessarily looking at a repeat 30-goal season. He was not necessarily going to be fit for another ride on the top line with Krejci and Milan Lucic.
Even so, had the Bruins retained Iginla, they should have been able to bank on him delivering consistently as a second- or third-liner. With his exit, they must now seek a new body to supplement Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith in that column of the depth chart.
As their NHL payroll currently reads on CapGeek, the Bruins are $209,143 above the cap limit. That speaks to the constraints that barred them from keeping Iginla and signals a need for salary-shedding moves in order to upgrade up front.
Like they are on the search for a new assistant coach, fans are advised to stand by for Part Two of the B's summer.