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2014-2015 Bruins Preview: Getting Back Up Again

Mike Doria

NFL Editor for RotoWire. Roots for the Red Sox, Patriots, Bruins, Celtics and the underdog. Plus the McGill Redmen.

With a 54-19-9 record that resulted in 117 points, the Bruins won the 2013-14 Presidentsí Trophy (which recognizes the team with the NHLís top regular season record) for the second time in franchise history. Given the nature of the accomplishment, the Bruins seemed poised to make another lengthy postseason run, after having appeared in both the 2010-11 and 2012-13 Stanley Cup Finals.

However, injuries kept sturdy blueliners Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid out of the postseason mix, with the absence of Seidenbergís shut-down ability and penchant for eating up ice time particularly evident. As a result, the teamís overall inexperience at the position beyond Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk was apparent at times. Moreover, last summerís blockbuster that sent Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Stars cost the Bruins two of their fastest players, and team speed became an issue that ultimately hurt them in their seven-game defeat at the hands of arch-rival Montreal in the second round of the playoffs.

As the coming season approaches, the Bruins blue line will be bolstered by the return of Seidenberg, and the teamís otherwise strong nucleus remains largely intact. The Bís welcome back Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask, Norris Trophy runner-up Zdeno Chara and Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, as well as bruising winger Milan Lucic and playmaking pivot David Krejci.

Itís not like the talent ends there, either. Winger Loui Eriksson figures to bounce back in his second year as a Bruin, while fellow forwards Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg all bring offensive skills of their own to the table. Meanwhile, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton are rising young stars on defense. The dynamic Krug, in particular, helped spark what had been a sagging power play, with the team converting at a 21.7 percent clip last season, a mark topped only by Pittsburgh and Washington.

The teamís most notable offseason loss was the departure of 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla, who was a great fit on the Bruinsí top line in his only season in Boston. Though the team would love to have retained the veteran winger, the organizationís success over the past few seasons has proved costly in terms of salary cap ramifications. The re-signing of Iginla became virtually impossible, without some kind of roster shakeup.

Iginlaís departure bumps Eriksson up to the teamís first line, and with fourth-liner Shawn Thornton no longer around, thereís a couple of winger spots up for grabs as well. The likes of Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, Matt Fraser, Jordan Caron and perhaps even David Pastrnak are all candidates to jostle for the slots, plus the team plans to kick the tires on veteran wingers Ville Leino and Simon Gagne.

Itís also possible that the Bruins could deal a blueliner like Boychuk in order to add help on the wing and/or provide the team with some salary cap relief, with Krug and Smith still restricted free agents.

While the teamís cap issues remain in play and arenít going to disappear any time soon, GM Peter Chiarelli has, overall, managed to achieve a good degree of continuity personnel-wise, and the organizationís depth remains a strength. Under coach Claude Julien, the Bruins profile as a defensively responsible team, and one that is well equipped to contend for the Cup once again, in the absence of key injuries as the season rolls along.

The Big Guns

David Krejci, C (RotoWire Position Rank*: #31): Krejci, who the Bruins signed to an extension in September that will keep him around through 2020-21, finished last season as the Bruinsí leading scorer, with 19 goals, 69 points and a league-high plus-39 rating in 80 games. While Krejciís offensive skills are top shelf, to date, he has yet to score at an elite clip during the NHL regular season, in large part due to the Bruinsí typically balanced attack. Still, while manning the middle on the teamís top line and seeing power-play duty, he remains a highly-skilled setup man who possesses tremendous hands, vision and patience with the puck. Krejci, who can be a streaky player, still possesses tantalizing point-per-game upside and thus retains fantasy utility -- moreso in leagues where his plus/minus numbers factor in more than his limited PIM (28 last season). While 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla is no longer a Bruin, his place on the right wing of Krejciís line is now slated to be filled by the capable Loui Eriksson.

*RotoWire Position Ranks reflected for points-based leagues*

Zdeno Chara, D (RotoWire Position Rank: #19): The Bruinsí hulking captain finished the 2013-14 regular season with 17 goals, 40 points and a plus-25 rating in 77 games, en route to finishing as the runner-up in the NHLís Norris Trophy voting. At 37 years old, the clock may soon start ticking on his prime, but thus far, the fitness-minded Chara has shown little sign of slowing down. Heading into the coming season, Chara remains arguably the NHLís premier shutdown defender, with an imposing physical presence aided by his extraordinary reach. Moreover, Chara is surprisingly deft with the puck, and whether heís using his booming shot from the point or setting up screens in front of the net, heís as much of a force on the Bruinsí power play as he is while logging extensive even-strength minutes.

Tuukka Rask, G (RotoWire Position Rank: #1): Rask, who was named the 2013-14 recipient of the Vezina Trophy, posted a 36-15-6 record, 2.04 GAA, .930 save percentage and a league-high seven shutouts in 58 games for the Bruins this past season. The 27-year-old, who the Bruins have signed through 2020-21 at an annual cap figure of $7 million, is in the heart of his NHL prime -- in both real and fantasy terms -- and will continue to serve as the teamís top goalie for the immediate future, while seeing the bulk of the team's starts. Those looking to insure their investment in Rask this season are advised to look into drafting Niklas Svedberg, who is on track to replace Chad Johnson as the Bruinsí No. 2 goalie.

On the Rise

Torey Krug, D (RotoWire Position Rank: #11): The 5-foot-9, 181-pound Krug emerged as an offensive dynamo for the Bruins in his first full NHL season, recording 14 goals and 40 points in 79 games. He is an excellent puck-mover, using his fleet wheels, shiftiness and clever passing touch to create scoring opportunities for himself and teammates. Moreover, the 23-year-old Krug owns a deceptively dangerous shot, with all of the above making him a key cog on the Bruinsí power play, a unit that he helped perk up last season. With his prowess on offense no longer flying under the radar, those looking to secure Krug in their fantasy drafts this season will need to be aggressive. From a defensive standpoint, Krugís propensity for offensive advancement occasionally leads to some dicey defensive situations, but in general, he holds his own as a scrappy and fearless blueliner, relying on quickness, smarts and positioning to more than adequately fulfill duties on his own end.

Dougie Hamilton, D (RotoWire Position Rank: #35): The 21-year-old Hamilton is still growing into his 6-foot-5 frame, but with two years as an NHLer already under his belt, the smooth-skating blueliner is poised to see a boost in production in 2014-15. Last season, Hamilton, recorded seven goals and 18 assists in 64 games for the Bruins. While not eye-popping numbers, the youngsterís confidence seemed to grow as the 2013-14 campaign rolled along. After a playoff effort that saw Hamilton record seven points in 12 games, heís set to remain a vital component of the teamís blue line and power play for years to come, with deep league fantasy relevance likely on tap this year.

Three to Watch

Loui Eriksson, RW (RotoWire Position Rank: #31): With Jarome Iginla having signed with the Avs this summer, Eriksson is viewed as the top candidate to move up to the Bruins' first line this season, joining Milan Lucic and David Krejci. Injuries slowed Eriksson in his first season with Boston, with the winger recording modest totals of 10 goals and 37 points in 61 games. While he's not the sniper that Iginla is, Eriksson is a savvy and skilled two-way player who should mesh well with Krejci and Lucic. Moving up to the first line would no doubt be a major boost to Eriksson's fantasy value, though it would of course create a vacancy on the Bruins' third line.

Carl Soderberg, C (RotoWire Position Rank: #57): While Soderbergís overall numbers (16 goals and 48 points in 73 games) in his first full season with the Bruins werenít staggering, once he got going -- which largely coincided with his move to center -- he displayed good offensive instincts while helping anchor the teamís third line. Though Soderberg deals with impaired vision in his left eye thanks to an injury he suffered during the 2006-07 season, itís a reality that the 28-year-old Swede has adjusted well to at this point. Itís not hard to imagine the polished 6-foot-3 pivot seeing an uptick in production this season, with a power-play role likely in the cards.

Ryan Spooner, C (RotoWire Position Rank: #101): Spooner, who recorded 46 points in 49 games for AHL Providence last season in addition to providing 11 helpers in 23 games for the Bruins, is among the candidates to crack the teamís lineup for good, with at least two openings available up front with the big club. Barring an injury at center, the key to Spooner sticking out of the gate might be in proving that he can handle playing wing at the NHL level. The Bruins presumably would like to see Spooner cement a position sooner rather than later, as he possesses the sort of raw speed the team sorely lacked at times last season. Moreover, the 22-year-old also boasts playmaking upside, but for now Spooner remains more relevant in keeper formats than re-draft scenarios.

Don't Overrate

Dennis Seidenberg, D (RotoWire Position Rank: #178): Seidenberg, who is bouncing back from January surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL, was sorely missed by the Bruins after his 2013-14 campaign was limited to 34 games due to a knee injury. The expectation is that the sturdy rearguard will be ready for training camp, and assuming no setbacks with his knee. The 33-year-old will resume his role as rugged and defensively-sound defenseman, who will chew up ice time. Seidenberg is a shutdown defender who is generally strong in the plus/minus category and has a knack for blocking shots. Apart from the fact that he is bouncing back from an injury, the reason that Seidenberg falls into this category is that he is a prime example of a player who is far more valuable in real terms than he is to fantasy owners.

Daniel Paille, LW (RotoWire Position Rank: NR): Paille, who uses his wheels to kill penalties and generate a decent amount of chances on offense, has generally been a fixture on the Bruinsí fourth line during his tenure with the team. With Shawn Thornton having moved on, thereís a chance the Bís could retool their grinder line, with Paille potentially moving up to the teamís third troika. While such a promotion would likely result in some uptick in production, the speedster isn't known as a great finisher, so even in such a scenario, weíd be surprised if he emerges as a viable fantasy option in the Bruinsí very balanced attack.

Top Prospects

Malcolm Subban, G (RotoWire Prospects Rank: #39): With Chad Johnson having signed with the Islanders, Niklas Svedberg has the edge in claiming the job as Tuukka Rask's top backup in 2014-15. In such a scenario, Subban has a chance to see plenty of action this coming season as Providence's top netminder. In his first campaign as a pro, Subban put together a 15-10-5 record, 2.31 GAA and .920 save percentage in 33 games for Providence while working in tandem with Svedberg, who appeared in 45 AHL contests. With Rask in his prime, the Bruins have no reason to rush the 20-year-old Subban to the NHL, but the 2012 first-rounder remains a top prospect and maintains value in keeper formats.

Matt Grzelcyk, D (RotoWire Prospects Rank: #58): Grzelcyk, who the Bruins took in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, is slated to enter his third season with Boston University this fall. Down the road, the 5-foot-9 blueliner has some upside at the NHL level as a smallish puck-mover in the mold of current Bruin Torey Krug.

Alexander Khokhlachev, C (RotoWire Prospects Rank; #89): Khokhlachev -- a 2011 second-rounder -- blossomed in his first full season of North American pro hockey, leading AHL Providence in scoring with 21 goals and 57 points in 65 contests. Set to turn 21 in September, Khokhlachev projects as a feisty and skilled forward at the NHL level, who can provide the Bís with a spark on offense. Heíll have a shot to crack the teamís roster with a strong preseason, and even if he doesnít, Khokhlachevís time to shine may not be far off.

David Pastrnak, RW (RotoWire Prospects Rank: NR): The 2014 first-round pick from the Czech Republic spent last season in the Swedish B-League, appearing in 36 games and scoring eight goals to go with 16 assists. The 18-year-old Pastrnak will attend training camp with the B's and while the 6-foot, 171-pounder seems like a bit of a long shot at this stage to stick, his speed and skill opened eyes during the teams development camp. Heís a player to keep an eye on this fall, given that his listed position is right wing, an area where the Bruins have an opening.

Joe Morrow, D (RotoWire Prospects Rank: NR): The Bruins seemingly boast a glut of NHL-caliber defensemen heading into 2014-15 season, so thereís not a ton of buzz surrounding Morrowís short-term fantasy prospects. Still, along with the likes of David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman, Morrow isnít that far off from NHL consideration. At 21, Morrow could probably benefit from additional AHL seasoning, but he showed promise in his first year in the Boston organization, recording 29 points in 56 AHL contests with Providence. While the jury is still out on the blockbuster trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas last summer, if Morrow -- who projects as a puck-moving NHL blueliner down the road -- realizes his potential, the trade could start looking better for the Bruins, who also landed the surprising Reilly Smith and possible 2014-15 first-liner Loui Eriksson in the deal.

Seth Griffith, RW (RotoWire Prospects Rank: NR): At 5-foot-9 and192 pounds, Griffith will need to prove that he can handle the rigors of the pro game before he gets a shot with the big club. His first season with AHL Providence yielded good results, as Griffith finished second on the team in scoring, with 20 goals and 50 points in 69 games. After he was cut by the Bruins in training camp, another season at Providence awaits.