Who knew the 16th century crazy Frenchman was a Bruins fan! As I previously mentioned, I have been on something of a Bruins kick lately so I thought I would put down some predictions for the upcoming season. Start with the easy stuff... line combinations:
Sturm - Savard - Ryder
Lucic - Bergeron - Kobasew
Schaefer - Krejci - Kessel
Thornton - Sobotka - Axelsson
Chara - Wideman
Ward - Ference
Stuart - Alberts
Healthy scratches: Reich and Hnidy.
Cavalry: Nokelainen, Wheeler, Lashoff, Hamill.
Swap Kobasew/Ryder - Kobasew showed promise last season playing on the top line and in my mind brings more grit and toughness to protect relative finesse guys Savard and Sturm. At the same time, Ryder would probably do better with a gifted assist-man like Savard centering him and boosting his confidence after last years debacle. Could see it going either way... Ryder is the more talented of the two and his status as the big FA acquisition means he will probably get the majority of time on the top line.
Schaefer - the obvious roster question after he was a flop last year... I heard talk of a foot ailment for much of last season contributing to his poor showing but seen no hard evidence (articles etc) regarding it so I may just be making that up. Still, he showed signs of life in the playoffs and 2.1M is a lot of money (and supposed talent) to healthy scratch...
Kessel - What to do with him? Possible breakthrough came during the playoffs when he realized an all-around game was required to play under Julien... definitely the best hockey of his young career. If he can follow that up with similar play to start the season, it will be hard to keep his talent and pedigree off the second line and could force Lucic down to the third line.
Lucic - Second line too much for the kid? He is only 20 after all and second line of an expected playoff team may be a bit too much pressure for him and may stunt his development. At the same time, he performed admirably last year, was a major spark plug for the team and has consistently won at all levels of play prior to his unexpected tenure with the Bruins. Also love the fact that he will drop the gloves (and absolutely punish his opponents) when needed, thus protecting Bergeron. I expect big things from him this season...
Goalie-go-round - who gets more starts? Fernandez's salary implies he should be the starter but Thomas's performance over the past few years cannot be ignored. For his career, Thomas is 73-62-0-20 with a 2.80GAA and .913% in 155 starts on some TERRIBLE Bruins teams. On the other hand, Fernandez is 127-115-24-8 with a 2.49GAA and .912% in 281 starts, mostly on the playoff-caliber Minnesota Wild. Personally, I prefer Thomas... never thought too highly of Fernandez but his more standard technique and higher potential (better single season GAA and save percentage) may give him the edge in this contest.
Bergeron - The biggest question of the season. Can he come back from the illegal Randy Jones check that could have cost him his life, never mind his career. Will he be gunshy and unwilling to go into the corners after the puck? Will he be playing scared, listening for footsteps coming up behind him? Or will he recover like an invincible young athlete and return to the promise of stardom that he displayed with his 70+ point seasons on poor teams. My money is on nearly full recovery and I expect big things from him as well... along with Lucic, he is (hopefully) the future cornerstone of this ascendant organization.
As for what those expectations are, I will be back later in the week for Part 2 and a look at my optimistic view of the point totals...
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