It's been just over four months since Scott Walker broke Boston's heart with a his overtime garbage goal in the Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
But Causeway Street has been anything but quiet since then...
Trade rumors, veteran departures, key acquisitions, surgeries, and recoveries have all made headlines for the black and gold this summer.
And with two weeks left before the inaugural puck drop, let's break down the top 10 questions surrounding the Boston Bruins as they head into the 2009-2010 campaign.
#5- Veteran Leadership
With the departures of P.J. Axelsson, Shane Hnidy, Stephane Yelle, and Aaron Ward the Bruins lose a good amount of veteran presence in the locker room.
On the plus side, Boston resigned Mark Recchi to a one year deal. Factor in the acquisition of 12 year veteran Derek Morris, along with the continued development of younger players such as Patrice Bergeron and Boston's locker room shouldn't have any problems picking up the slack.
#4- Player Development
All indications point to players such as Milan Lucic, and David Krejci maturing into elite-level athletes. But what about the bubble players such as Tuuka Rask, and Vladimir Sobotka?
Rask is currently penciled in as Tim Thomas' back up goaltender this year, but he faces tough competition against a NHL&id=1584&line=89738&spln=1">very determined Dany Sabourin.
Sobotka showed promise in the 2007-2008 campaign, but failed to emerge last season when he put up a -10 plus/minus rating in 25 games with the big leaguers. This season could serve as the last chance for 22 year old, who is expected to get more ice time thanks to the expected absence of Krecji for the first part of October.
It was quite obvious in the second round of last year's playoffs that the Bruins were battling injuries.
David Krejci, who is recovering from a torn labrum, is expecting to return in mid-October. Krejci has participated in limited on-ice sessions since training began a few weeks back, and he has stated there's a chance he could be ready for the season opener.
Phil Kessel (if he's still in Boston) won't be ready until at least November as he underwent surgery on his rotator cuff, and labrum (and possibly bruised ego) this off-season.
It's imperitive that the B's stay healthy, especially at the season's bookends, if they want to continue their winning ways.
#2- The Phil Kessel Situation...
As the weeks have turned into months this off-season it has become increasingly clear that Phil Kessel's days in Boston appear to be numbered. Foresaking any remnance of team loyalty in favor of the all-mighty dollar Phil "The Thrill" has been the corner stone of all trade rumors this off-season.
It's no secret that general manager Peter Chiarelli nearly shipped Kessel to Toronto for Tomas Kaberle on Draft Day. But a "miscommunication" between Chiarelli and Toronto's commander and chief Brian Burke led to the deal being called off. The Leafs are still considered the front runner to land Kessel, but the price at which #81 will go for is still unclear.
If the Bruins' front office wants to capitalize on this situation, Chiarelli needs to trade Kessel before Toronto gives the young winger an offer sheet. But as time passes, that Kaberle trade looks more and more enticing.
It seems highly unlikely that the Kessel situation will become a distraction to the Bruins locker room. Word has it that Kessel wasn't winning any popularity contests among the B's players, and Boston has an abundance of youth foaming at the mouth for the chance to compete for a roster spot.
As for Kessel's 36 goal output, Bergeron's continued offensive recovery, coupled with the expected emergence of Lucic and Blake Wheeler's scoring ways should comfort any B's fans who have lost sleep over the matter.
Phil Kessel is a great hockey player. No one seems to want to see him leave Boston, with the exception of the young star and his agent. If neither will budge before the season starts, I fully expect Chiarelli to get a good return for the former Masterson Memorial Trophy winner.
#1- Is this the year?
No one is more aware of the pressure being put on the Bruins to continue their success than the B's themselves.
The "surprise" element of the Bruins attack will no longer be viable. Teams are gunning for them, as they should be. This is a team that was one win away from the President's Trophy last year, and one goal away from the Eastern Conference Championship Round.
Boston's balanced attack led by offensive mastermind Marc Savard, Vezina winning goaltender Tim Thomas, Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara, and Jack Adams award winning head coach Claude Julien should strike fear into the hearts of any opponent.
Heading into the 2009-2010 campaign, the Bruins are clearly one of the front runners to compete for Lord Stanley's Cup.
How close will they come to accomplishing that goal and ending Boston's 38-year itch? As they say, "that's why we watch".
Today legendary Bruins announcer Fred Cusick passed away at the age of 90. He will be missed.
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