Thursday, July 24, 2008

Peeking ahead

Two significant moves in the past two days -- re-signing flying defenseman Dennis Wideman and taking the first steps toward buying out the contract of old-school forward Glen Murray -- have given us, at least in broad strokes, an idea of what the Bruins' roster will look like this winter. Of course, there's still a lot of shuffling left to be done, but it doesn't appear there are any major surprises in store.

We can foresee this season's roster with clarity in part because the Bruins remain handcuffed by the salary cap. In fact, Wideman's contract renewal (a healthy 4-year, $15.5 million extension) put the team temporarily over the cap limit of $56.7 million. The obvious solution was to buy out Muzz's $4.15 million salary, even though the team will continue to carry a $1.4 million penalty. When the dust clears, the Bruins should enter the season with $55.469 million locked up -- leaving a paltry $1.3 million of "wiggle room" for a rainy day.

So, don't expect any major trades or free-agent signings this season (check us off the Mats Sundin destination list). Assuming the Bruins benefit from the recovery of Patrice Bergeron and Manny Fernandez, the lineup for Opening Night should look something like this:

Sturm - Savard- Ryder
Lucic - Bergeron- Kessel
Axelsson - Krejci - Kobasew
Reich - Nokelainen - Wheeler

Chara - Wideman
Alberts - Ward
Stuart - Hnidy

Thomas/Fernandez

Not too shabby! The top line should be explosive, with Michael Ryder adding much-needed scoring punch from the right wing. Granted, his production slumped off to a mere 14 goals last season. But taking passes from Marc Savard, and playing opposite the sneaky-dangerous Sturm, should give Ryder the quality opportunities he needs to reach the 30-goal level once again. 30 from Ryder, 30 from Sturm and 20 from Savard... that's the kind of line that can be a real bitch in the playoffs.

But it's the dynamic second line that could really have Bruins fans drooling. The pairing of Bergeron and Lucic is only natural -- a talented scorer and a grinding enforcer with good hands in the crease will usually work pretty well together. Add the enigmatic Phil Kessel, who is poised to take a step toward stardom now that he's got some playoff street cred, and you've got a personality cocktail that will either implode or blow the hinges off the Eastern playoff bracket.

Perhaps the biggest question mark going into the late summer will be the development of young talent in the Bruins organization. More on that topic later this week.

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3 comments:

BruinsHockey09 said...

Good stuff, the only thing I disagree with on the line combo's is Lucic and kobasew, I think Kobasew should be on the second line and Lucic on the third.

Tom said...

I can see that working out. Kobasew is a good sparkplug player, and I think he'd do well next to Kessel who seems to need that kind of emotional motivator on the ice. I think Chuck's naturally a right-winger, but he's played LW in the past so I'm sure he could handle that position with the right linemates.

It comes down to what Julien wants to see on the ice. Lucic might be better off with an AHL teammate at center and a lower-pressure support role as he develops. Or he might thrive with more a more skillful guy like Bergeron and a higher-pressure role. Training camp will tell us a lot about how Patrice interacts with the team's younger wings, and I'm sure Julien will be watching carefully to make those decisions.

Doh said...

Just came across the blog... excellent writing. Looking at the line combos, I noticed an absence of both Schaefer and Thornton. Now Schaefer I can understand but the problem is still his 2.1M salary... hard to justify benching that much money and he did show some signs of life in the playoffs. As for Thornton, I would think he would be more useful to the team than Reich... just not high on Jeremy.

My lines would be:
Sturm-Savard-Ryder
Lucic-Bergeron-Kobasew
Scaefer-Krejci-Kessel
Thornton-Sobotka-Axelsson

Chara-Wideman
Ward-Ference
Alberts-Stuart