Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
Added: Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla, Chad Johnson
Subtracted: Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Anton Khudobin, Jaromir Jagr, Andrew Ference
The Bruins are going to be good
This a team that has been to two Stanley Cup Finals in the past three years – winning one – and has the core pieces still in place. You cannot physically be a bad hockey team when you start with a spine of Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask. All the guys that made the Bruins the Bruins like Milan Lucic and Shawn Thornton are still there. You’re taking out Tyler Seguin (29 goal career high season) and replacing his “promise” with “proven” in Loui Eriksson, pushing their depth down the middle to “amazing” with Eriksson, Bergeron, Krejci and Chris Kelly. They have one of the best goalies in the league. They’re top D pair is one of the best in the league, and they have a couple bright prospects back there too. Of course this team is going to be good.
The Bruins are going to be bad
Did you not read the “subtracted” list? Think about the key roles played by Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, Rich Peverly, Jaromir Jagr and Andrew Ference. You can’t take a team that failed to win the Cup, remove five important Jenga blocks and expect the tower to stay standing by replacing one key guy and adding an aging Jarome Iginla. The once reliable D-corps now includes names like Matt Bartowski(?) and unprovens Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton (who’s shown flashes of “really bad”). Hell, do you remember how Zdeno Chara looked by the end of playoffs last year? Guy is getting older and starting to slow down. Tuukka Rask has earned his money now, so who knows what to expect, especially now that he’s not going to be protected by the aforementioned D reliability. This is a new-look team not nearly guaranteed the success they were in past years.
Flippant barstool prediction
I mean, the Bruins are the Bruins. They’ve got way too much talent to be bad. They’ll probably battle for home ice in playoffs, likely get it.
The B’s, as you well know, were pretty darn good in 2013. They gave up the third-fewest goals-per-game (2.21), they had the fourth best 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio (1.28), a good penalty kill (87.1%, 4th), took the second most shots per game (32.4), won more faceoffs than any other team in the league thanks to Patrice Bergeron taking a ton and being awesome, with 56.4% wins as a team. The only thing they really stunk at was the powerplay, where they were 26th in the league with a 14.8% powerplay.
Okay, but seriously:
It’s a weird year for the Bruins. When you look at the guys who’ve departed it’s easy to worry about them, but man, the guys they still have make up one formidable roster. You forget that they’ve had all this success the past few years with a fairly young core, so guys like Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand are still going to be a b***h to play. Those guys still exist. It really comes down to how their rookie defensemen play. If they can be replacement-level players, they’ll be laughing. I’m guessing they give up a few more goals this season and score as many, and make playoffs as a 3-4 seed.
Your NHL.com round up: