Recently, the Bruins signed Mark Stuart to a 1 year deal worth $1.675 million. This means that the Bruins have 6 defensemen locked down and under contract for 2010-11: Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Stuart, Hunwick, and Ference. And I think 5 of these guys (everyone but Ference) is a good, solid D-man. And as far as Ference goes, you can do a lot worse that low on the depth chart.
The team is decidedly defensive in nature now. There's no feasible way to acquire a guy like Kovalchuk, or even a second-tier kind of scoring forward. And it seems like shipping Thomas' contract has proven more difficult than anyone could have imagined.
Rask will be in net, with frequent cameos from Thomas. It's funny how many Tuukka Time Twits criticized Thomas' style but fail to notice that Rask's style is even more, shall we say, original. Rask collapses back into his net like a funnel spider. Then again, it's been working... so far.
Chara and Seidenberg will pair up most of the time. That is a formidable duo. And with Boychuk, Hunwick, Ference, and Stuart; the Bruins have a good blend of youth, experience, puck-skills, and utter ferocity.
The forwards are not as deep, nor as menacing. The Bruins have a bevy of playmaking centers, but nobody to finish the plays made. Guys like Marco Sturm and Nathan Horton will get their 20 goals, but there won't be the On-Demand offense that's needed to win big games. And if there are just one or two injuries to guys like Savard or Sturm, the offense really gets anemic.
Tyler Seguin can start the season at AHL Providence. If he dazzles, which he likely will, the Bruins can trade Savard or Krejci. I'd rather trade Krejci since he has more value in a trade, and is essentially Savard Jr. By that I mean he's both younger, and not as good.
I've asked it before, but do the Bruins really need so many playmaking centers, when they lack wingers that can put the puck into the net?
The wingers are really weak for the Bruins. Guys like Lucic and Ryder need to step up. Lucic, when healthy, is a bulldozer, but he has no touch with the puck. Again, another guy who can help create chances for teammates, if only there were scorers he could play with. I'd put him on a line with Seguin when the time comes.
Mark Recchi is the best finisher on the team, but he's an AARP member.
Nathan Horton will contribute some offense, and should excel when paired with Savard/Krejci.
The Bruins can put out a solid team, worthy of a top 4 seed in the East. Their goaltending and defense will have to take it from there. The hope is that Seguin is a quick learner, and is capable of being an NHL scoring machine by the Spring. That's asking a lot in such a short time frame.
But this team's not bad. They've got the right coach for a defensive philosophy. Chara, Lucic, Boychuk, Thornton and Stuart can be physical, and can impose their will on opponents. Some people, like Michael Ryder, need to step up to the plate. They're not physical, so they must be skillful or be eliminated.
I think they still need a veteran forward, either a grinder, or just a solid type of guy that doesn't make mistakes with the puck. Their psychological difficulties last season were a real handicap. A guy like Seguin can add goals, but how much leadership can he contribute? There are a lot of followers on the Bruins, a few lead-by-example guys, and almost no true leaders.
It'll be hard to fit him in, but I still want Billy Guerin on this team. He's from Wilbraham, MA. Friendly's is from Wilbraham, MA. Everything from Wilbraham is exceedingly awesome.
But even without Guerin, this team is shaping up to be a competitor. And without borrowing against their future. There'll be a considerable amount of cap room opened after the upcoming season. But still some key players will be locked up.
It's asking a lot in the salary cap era to completely transform a team in just one off-season. If not for that #2 overall pick, the Bruins would look pretty much exactly the same. I don't think they'll win the Cup, or even advance further than the 2nd round. But like I said, the 2010-11 off-season could see some radical change.