For The Boston Bruins, Steady As She Goes Is Still Best Approach

The Boston Bruins are in trouble. Or at least that’s what everyone is saying. It’s been a rough stretch for the boys from Beantown, losing to a team that ended up firing their head coach 4-0, and then proceeding to blow a 3-0 and eventually a 4-1 lead to the Detroit Red Wings.

Head Coach Claude Julien may have the hottest seat in the NHL, as many have called for him to join Gerard Gallant and Jack Capuano in the unemployment line.

How has it come to this? Maybe more importantly, should we even be having this conversation?
No, we shouldn’t, two losses aren’t enough to justify getting rid of a coach like Julien. Maybe the team has underperformed to this point in the season. As some have put better, a shakeup is needed, but firing Julien isn’t the best solution for the Bruins.

The team has struggled, yes, but they still sit second in a division that even with all the questions surrounding the Bruins, the rest have even more.

So where does that leave the Bruins?

A top-three in this division with the current run-of-the-mill roster shouldn’t be an impossible task, and it shouldn’t even take a shake-up like firing a coach to wake them up.

Here are three positive to take the rest of the way for the Bruins’ faithful.

They have the best even strength line in hockey, without their actual best player hitting his stride yet.

At 5v5, no line has been better at puck possession and just about any other statistical metric than the Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak trio. Marchand and Pastrnak are heading towards career season’s, while Bergeron has been left in the dust. At his current pace, he might not even break the 40 point barrier. That’s only happened twice in his career – and one of them was during the lockout-shortened season.

It hasn’t been for a lack of trying, as Bergeron is on pace to register more than 300 shots on goal for just the second time in his career. He is third in the league in shots registered and the only players in the top 20 in that category to convert at a lower rate than him are a pair of defensemen (Aaron Ekblad and Dustin Byfuglien). Law of averages dictates that he starts connecting as long as he keeps his pace.

The rest of the division in all actuality isn’t that good.

Toronto Maple Leafs play a fun, exciting brand of hockey that is every bit worth the price of admission. That’s a ticking time bomb with the timer set to explode right around the playoffs, though.

The Ottawa Senators have Mike Condon in net. He’s played good in place of the unfortunate situation of Craig Anderson, but it’s Mike Condon we are talking about here. Can you trust a team where their best defenseman is called a forward by opposing coaches?

It wasn't too long ago Tuukka Rask was in the Vezina Trophy race.  Photo Credit - Wikimedia Commons
It wasn’t too long ago Tuukka Rask was in the Vezina Trophy race. Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Tampa Bay Lightning have too many key names injured, and the goaltending that helped them to the Eastern Conference Finals last year isn’t at that same level.

Looks like firing Gallant didn’t give the Florida Panthers the boost they were hoping for. Injuries to two of your best player’s, one of which has missed the whole season, is a lot to overcome when you counting on them to carry the offense.

Detroit Red Wings are only four points out of a playoff spot, not bad, and they are an exciting team to watch. Will they be able to outscore other teams the rest of the season, though? The streak might be in serious jeopardy this year.

Buffalo Sabres are getting there with the right pieces. Still a few years out from truly competing.

Even the Montreal Canadiens you can question with the recent struggles of great and powerful Carey Price.

This year was never about winning, it was maintaining, and retooling.

Hard to believe that just a year and a half ago that the Bruins went into the 2015 draft with the sole intention of kick-starting a quasi-rebuild.

Maybe rebuild isn’t an acceptable term in Boston. Firing a head coach a year and a half after starting a retool-on-the-fly is senseless. Especially one with the record that Julien has. You know, Stanley Cup and all.

The Bruins moved a pending restricted free agent they couldn’t afford for three draft picks. The move was met with disdain at the time because Dougie Hamilton was still supposed to become a franchise blueliner. His metrics call him an ok offensive defenseman, but franchise player he is not.

They moved Milan Lucic for a goalie and a first round pick, plus Colin Miller AND THEN traded that goalie to another team for, you got, another first round pick in 2016.

The result? Six draft picks in the first two rounds of a deep 2015 draft class, plus two more top picks in 2016.

Now here is the real reason patience is needed when it comes to the Bruins. Over the next couple of years, the influx of youth and talent that is about to hit TD Garden is a group that few organizations can match.

Pastrnak is just the beginning. At 20 years old, the Czech Republic native has already topped his career high total of 15 goals from a year ago and has done so in ten fewer games. Despite missing time, he could still push the 30-35 goal mark.

Some other forwards to look forward to in the coming years that should bring some excitement to Boston, and help meet expectations.

Zachary Senyshyn

The 19-year-old was the 15th overall pick, and the last three straight picks for the Bruins in the first round of the 2015 draft. A pure goal scorer, Senyshyn finished in a tie for fifth in goals while playing in the Ontario Hockey League, registering 45 tallies. He is up to more of the same this year, again sitting in fifth place in goals scored.

In 166 career OHL games, Senyshyn has registered 98 goals. Standing at an imposing 6’3”, he has the frame to be a big-time scorer at the NHL level. HockeysFuture said that the youngster has ‘determination and strong skating, he is always tough to defend one-on-one’.

Jake DeBrusk

Taken a pick before Senyshyn, DeBrusk has already joined the professional ranks, playing this season with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. A big scorer in the junior ranks as well, DeBrusk registered 78 markers in 205 games, 42 of which came his draft year.

In 39 games in the AHL, DeBrusk has registered 20 points, not a bad start for a 20-year old in the AHL. A scouting report on DeBrusk hints at a player that fits the Bruin mold, ‘two-way winger with good mobility and scoring ability. Willing to battle in dirty areas. Good creativity with the puck.’

Danton Heinen was a fourth-round pick in 2014, who scored 36 goals in two years at the University of Denver before turning pro. He has scored 20 points this year for Providence as well as getting an eight-game cup of coffee with the NHL team.

Jesse Gabrielle and Jakob Forsback-Karlsson are two more players to watch. Gabrielle has scored 61 goals the last two years with Prince George of the Western Hockey League. Forsback-Karlsson was selected with one of the picks received in the Hamilton trade. He is tied for the points lead on a Boston Terrier team that features four first-round picks.

The group that will be the most interesting to watch going forward, and will more than makeup for the current group on the NHL roster, is the defensive prospect group. Like Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo is just 20 years old and making an impact in the NHL already. He has gone from roster spot surprise to playing top pairing minutes. Also, like Pastrnak, Carlo is just the beginning.

Matt Grzelcyk

The former third round pick is a local boy, coming up through the Boston system, going to Boston U. and honoring the Bruins’ draft selection by signing with them despite an opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

A smallish defender, Grzelcyk has the wheels and is honing his defensive game that will allow him to be an NHL regular. He has 16 points in 22 games with Providence this year and is a plus-13. The former Terrier saw his first taste of NHL action, playing in two games for the Bruins as well.

Jakub Zboril

The first of the three consecutive first round draft picks in 2015, the Bruins received some slack for taking Zboril, Senyshyn, and DeBrusk but they are all on their way to becoming NHL contributors. The 6’2” Zboril has registered 21 points in 26 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He is seen as one of the more NHL-ready defenders in the Canadian Hockey League. He uses his size to play a physical game but has the mobility and big shot to be a threat offensively.

Jeremy Lauzon

A second round pick in the 2015 draft, Lauzon recorded 50 points in 46 games last year. Lauzon recently played for Canada in the World Junior Hockey Championships, winning the silver medal. He also helped Rouyn-Noranda reach the Memorial Cup a year ago.

Charlie McAvoy

Another local Boston kid, taken 14th overall in the most recent draft. Charlie played his draft year with the Boston Terriers and continues there this year. He registered 25 points as a freshman and is about halfway there this year.

He was a key contributor to the USA squad that beat Lauzon’s Canada club in the WJC Gold Medal game. A right-handed shot, McAvoy plays a cool and collected game and if you watch that gold medal game again, you will have to pay close attention to see when he WASN’T on the ice during the third period and overtime. All those extra minutes didn’t impact his play, as he was solid throughout.

Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to the Bruins’ fans, or their organization, but they put this in motion in the 2015 draft, there is no reason that they shouldn’t follow it through.

It seems expectations heading into the season were elevated higher than what they should have been, and everyone is just now realizing it. Firing Julien, or even making a big move for the sake of doing something doesn’t fit into what they have been working towards.

No, patience is the way to go for the Bruins. Just watch and wait. It is all coming together perfectly.

Slow-and-steady is still the way to go. Having your team’s captain dominant the league in almost that precise way for so long, you would have thought it is more obvious?

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