New NHL Order
The divisions are realigned and fortunately the NHL brass got it right when they kept the Bruins and their former Northeast division rivals intact while adding Tampa Bay, Florida and Detroit. So, that means the B's will have some formidable competition that they will be forced to reckon with four to five times each over the course of the season.
Based on last season's results the only relatively easy games (if there is such a thing in the NHL) would be against Florida and Buffalo. But anytime there is a divisional clash it gets more heated and records often get tossed out the window. That being said, having to battle the Canadiens, Senators, Leafs and now the perennial Western Conference powerhouse Detroit Red Wings will not be a walk in the park for these Bruins.
They say sometimes teams get better using addition by subtraction. Get a few bad apples off the team and suddenly the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the locker room morphs from a disjointed base of brooding contemplation to a bastion of good vibrations. Well, I'm not sure either of those scenarios are apt when it comes to the departures of talented but undisciplined Tyler Seguin and sniper Nathan Horton. Seguin was too young to be much more than an annoying distraction for the veterans while Horton went about his business in workmanlike fashion without making a ripple in terms of clubhouse politics.
But both are gone, with Horton leaving the high intensity Boston market via free agency for a more mellow Columbus, Ohio to join the Blue Jackets while Seguin had essentially worn out his welcome with late nights and questionable decisions. Seguin and veteran forward Rich Peverley were shipped to Dallas and the B's received goal scorer Loui Eriksson along with some promising young talent. In addition, Jaromir Jagr will no longer ply his trade in Boston but the Bruins did get a slightly younger Jarome Iginla to replace him.
So, what does this all mean? Will the departures of Horton and Seguin have a negative impact on this team or will the infusion of a top tier talent like Loui Eriksson and future Hall-of-Famer Iginla more than make up for the goal scoring that walked out the door? It's difficult to say but the synergy between these two newcomers and whomever coach Claude Julien teams with them will be a huge factor.
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Zdeno Chara -Another Year Older
By the time the season is finished Big Z will be 37-years-old and Boston is hoping his drop in performance in last season's Stanley Cup Finals was just a byproduct of too many games and too much ice time in each. I think there's more than a grain of truth to that but I also believe that hockey players - check that - professional athletes don't get better in their late 30's. Also the veteran presence that Andrew Ference brought to the team is no longer available as Boston allowed him to walk as well.
So What's the Prognosis?
Boston is a team that gets by on equal parts talent and grit. They are set defensively despite Chara's aging body because they have a core of youngsters who proved they belonged last year in the postseason. Tuukka Rask is an elite netminder as he demonstrated last year but the Bruins may be in a bit of a pickle if he gets injured for any length of time.
Offensively the jury is out. They lost some good ones but got a few gems in return. I think the total of 104 ½ points might be a bit lofty for this group and our NHL picks. The B's will contend but may suffer a Stanley Cup hangover for the beginning part of the season and that will make 105 points difficult to achieve.