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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Bruins Look Forward

On the brink of another hockey season, the Bruins are looking to build on their 'meager' accomplishments from last season.

Well, to a Red Wings fan at least, making the final playoff spot and losing in Round 1 is meager. But for a team many picked as dead last, it was heady stuff to make the 2008 playoffs in spite of losing Patrice Bergeron and Manny Fernandez to injury.

Many talented young players, such as Milan Lucic, David Krecji, Phil Kessel, and Vladimir Sobotka, stepped up to the NHL level and propelled the team to the playoffs.

But still, the team squeaked into 8th place and fell in the first round to the hated Scabs, adding insult to injury, literally (Marc Savard's cracked vertebrae, courtesy Steve "Crosscheck from Behind" Begin).

Now, with Bergeron and Fernandez back, and the young guns having a season under their suspenders, things should be looking up for the Bruins. Coach Claude Julien brought the right qualities to a team that needed organization on defense and a confidence boost. We will see where he can go from here.

Michael Ryder, the primary off-season acquisition, and Stephane Yelle, potentially this season's Glen Metropolit, need to be slotted into the lineup, replacing and hopefully exceeding the departed Glen Murray and Metro. There are several more rookies contending for few openings, so training camp should be interesting.

Speculation immediately began that either PJ Axelsson or Peter Schaeffer would have to hit the road to make room for both Yelle and the young guns. With Yelle making 750K and the Bruins scraping their heads on the salary cap ceiling, something probably has to give.

Personally I think it is more Chiarelli's stockpiling as best he can against the possibility of early season injuries. Yelle is cheap, experienced, and flexible. If a Kessel or Krejci or even Savard come up lame after camp, the Bruins will need experienced bodies to fill in, as Metropolit did last season.

Another question mark is Manny Fernandez. He is healthy, supposedly. But hey, he was healthy last season, wasn't he? Yeah, for about a week. Then it turned out that his knee was still not right and he was compensating to the degree that other injuries occurred. But this season will be different - Manny will be #1. However, if he is not, Chia will have to scramble again to find this year's Alex Auld, so as not to blow the cap numbers by calling up Tukka Rask at the cost of $3m to back up Thomas. IF he gets injured again, Manny could end up being a $7.5m black hole in the lineup ($4.5m for MF and $3m for TR).

But right now, before training camp begins, there is a bright and shiny new season of hockey to look forward to.

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