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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Boston Bruins

The Bruins take a step back as they work to backfill declining production from their vets

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Eleventh up are the Boston Bruins who are the 5th oldest team in the NHL (average player age of 28.6). They made the playoffs 7 consecutive seasons between 2007 and 2014 but have only made it once in the last 3 seasons.

Basic Stats:
2016-2017 NHL Standings: 14th
Eastern Conference Standings: 7th
Atlantic Division Standings: 3rd
Goals for Rank: 13th
Goals against Rank: 9th

: I highlighted the age issue with the Bruins because while they made the playoffs last year, I see age as the cornerstone issue with the team. They were above average in both goals for and goals against last season (13th and 9th respectively); however, the demographic of the team is shifting to an older, more experienced but less skilled dynamic. David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and Tuuka Rask (5 of their top 8 scorers as well as their starting goalie) are all 29 or older. It's not like you fall off a cliff at a magic age but more often than not your most productive years are behind you. They will have David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner and Torey Krug to backfill some of this production but most of them should see a 5 point decline this year, specifically Brad Marchand, who I predicted to have a career year after watching him team up with Sidney Crosby last summer. Brad went from 61 points in 2015-2016 to 85 points last year, I think he drops back down to a 70-75 point level. Tuuka, who is a great goalie, also tapped into his fountain of youth bucking a 4 year trend of rising GAA and lowering SV% to post a 2.23GAA and a .915 Sv% last year. His realistic level is more around 2.35 GAA. The backfilling youth of Frank Vatrano and Brandon Carlo will help some but, after Boston had a respectable 2014 draft (David Pastrnak -€” 25th overall) they debased with a terrible 2015 draft cashing in three years worth of collecting draft picks with consecutive reaches at the 13th and 14th and 15th overall picks(selecting Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn in back to back to back picks) watching as Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor, Joel Eriksson Ek, Colin White, Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny would all go over the next 9 picks (I would speculate all have better NHL careers than those three). This year and next they will take a minor hit for that bad year as some of that necessary backfilling talent is missing.

Major Additions: None
Major Subtractions: Colin Miller

Prospects and Picks:
-Urho Vaakanainen. I did not have him as a first round pick but some others did. He was selected 15th overall by the Bruins. He is positionally sound with a hard shot. A few years at Finland's elite league has helped him develop but he still needs another year or two as most defensemen are slower to transition to the NHL. He will be a good backfill for Colin Miller but there will be a year or two before that happens.

-Malcolm Subban. The question becomes who will ultimately replace Tuuka in a few years and should that goalie start working their way into the occasional start this season. Malcolm has 2 NHL starts, and in both of them he gave up 3 goals. During 4 seasons of AHL play with the Providence Bruins he has seen a collective 56 wins across 127 starts for a win percentage of 44%. He's kept a GAA under 2.5 and a sv % above .910 in each year and I wouldn't be surprised if the Bruins bring him up for a bit and give him a few starts this year. He's been respectable in the AHL but it remains to be seen if he can adapt and excel on the NHL level.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
-Frank Vatrano. Add him to the ranks of Sam Reinhardt, Sven Baertschi, Sam Bennet, Beau Bennet and Teuvo Teravainen as players I have been bullish on for years now and keep waiting for that breakout year. Frank saw an increase from 11 points over 39 games in 2015-2016 to 18 points across 44 games in 2016-2017. If he can eclipse 30 points with 17 goals this year then he's showing the progression to become a 50-60+ point player. He would be a deep flier but someone to keep your eyes on as he may see top 6 ice time this year.

-Ryan Spooner. I can't say David Pastrnak as his stock is quite high and given David's ascension from 26 points to 70 points (largely through shooting almost 3x more year over year) I think Ryan is the one who you can buy low on. His shot totals went down last year as did his points so if he can start firing more shots on net, you could see a 45-55 point year out of Ryan.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $10.1MM with 20 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 21st
Eastern Conference Standings: 11th
Atlantic Division: 5th

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)