Fun question from Alex Smolokoff from earlier on Twitter. He’s worried about the Boston Bruins, as are a number of pundits from around the NHL. He writes:
— Alex Smolokoff (@ASmolokoff) March 20, 2015
There are a number of answers to this question, and it really depends on how far back in time you want to go to find an answer. The least time consuming response is that the B’s are hurting you now because they made you feel so good for so long.
The NHL implemented a salary cap back in 2005 to try to make it difficult to create dynasties.
That’s where Boston is running into trouble now. As entry-level contracts and cheap bridge deals expire, players charge towards their primes and larger cap hits. Bruins management didn’t want to trade Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders last summer, but he was a victim of the numbers game.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli on Johnny Boychuk trade: 'This was really hard to do': http://t.co/wF37bieZG2
— Jen McCaffrey (@jcmccaffrey) October 4, 2014
He’s since pushed the Isles to new heights, and was rewarded with a seven-year extension worth $42 million. That’s way (way, way, way) more dough than the B’s had to spend on Boychuk, and moving him was a simple case of asset management. Torey Krug and Reilly Smith both needed extensions this season, while a handful of players on the roster already have big contracts that won’t be expiring anytime soon.
You can’t develop players like Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Krejci and let them walk for nothing. Tack on Tuukka Rask and that’s basically Boston’s core and will be for the next two to four seasons. Adding significant salary when you have that many players locked down becomes difficult, and that’s the challenge the Bruins are facing now.
It’s something that all elite franchises deal with though. It’s not only the cost of doing business, but it’s also the cost of competing for and raising a Stanley Cup banner. Boston drafted and developed well, and eventually that takes a toll in the salary cap era. The Los Angeles Kings have faced the same problems this season (compounded by the Slava Voynov situation), and you’ll start hearing the same kinds of things out of Chicago now that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are making what they’re worth.
There’s a deeper dive to be had here though, and you could also raise some questions about Boston’s ability to find a way to work in more talented offensive players on their roster. There’s an alternate universe where Joe Thornton is centering Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin on Boston’s top line, and in that universe they’re probably three of the league’s top-25 scorers.
All three were jettisoned for different reasons, and what’s done is done. It has to be a bit of an alarming thought for fans of the team that is 19th in the league in average goals scored, however.
Back to 2014-15 , where the Bruins are on the playoff bubble and trending in the wrong direction. It’s easy to pick on the goalie when looking at a disappointing team, but Rask really didn’t play up to his usual level up through January. He’s been spectacular since then, but it hasn’t been enough as the B’s have struggled to score.
There haven’t been many times this season when the Bruins have been clicking on all cylinders, but to their credit, it’s taken a historic streak from Andrew Hammond to push the Ottawa Senators to a similar level. This much is certain: an NHL postseason without the Bruins would be strange.
Tough campaigns happen, and Boston has won at least one playoff round in five of the last seven seasons. That’s a pretty outstanding run. That kind of consistency forces organizations to move valuable assets to stay under the cap, and that’s what the B’s have struggled with. Only having Krejci for 38 games hasn’t helped matters either, as it’s left the team short two-thirds of a top line.
Thanks for the question Alex. Feel free to sound off in the comments. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Boston’s year to this point.