When news of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand’s double hip arthroscopy made its way to the public, fans feared how they would fare without their leading point-getter for up to two months into the season. The off-season is already in flux with the status of captain Patrice Bergeron. Add to that the fact that Don Sweeney’s new contract has not been announced and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk is sidelined for up to five months after shoulder surgery, and you create some uncertainty in regards to the 2022-23 season.
Just when Bruins fans thought matters could not worsen, news came out recently that star defenseman Charlie McAvoy underwent surgery on his shoulder and could be out for up to six months. Fellow defenseman Mike Reilly, who has been rumored to be on the trading block, had ankle surgery and expected a three-month recovery. That makes three defensemen that could be missing from the lineup to start the season, along with Marchand. Not only could the Bruins be looking for a new top-line centerman with the potential retirement of Bergeron, but the team will also be very short-handed to start the year.
So what does this mean for the organization and its plans to move forward and remain competitive? Typically, the ownership of the Bruins requires at least a postseason for increased ticket revenue and concession sales. There hasn’t been a true rebuild since 2006 when the team signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard, moves that put Boston back on the map. The Bruins have not missed the playoffs since 2015-16 and did not advance past the first round this season for the first time in five years. The Bruins have been successful, and the expectation is that competing for a Stanley Cup will continue for a team that resides in a city that expects championships.
The first order of business will be to announce the extension of Don Sweeney. The delay in bringing Sweeney back is a bit of a head-scratcher, but one would assume it to be a technicality. Head coach Bruce Cassidy will probably stay on as well with a tweak in the assistant coaching group a probability as Kevin Dean would need to be replaced. Then there is the roster. The rehabbing players would be eligible for Long Term In Reserve (LTIR). Therefore their salaries would be put back into the pool of money available to the Bruins. This would allow the Bruins to make some additions to the roster. However, when those players return, the team would need to make room within the salary cap. This leads to an off-season that is more complicated than most.
The question now will be, can the Bruins make the moves they need to improve the roster? Does the decision to repair these injuries now mean that the upcoming season is more of a dreaded “bridge year”? Does Bergeron come back, and will the Bruins use the available salary from others to bring back David Krejci? Can the Bruins trade one of Reilly or Grzelcyk, which seems to be necessary with a logjam at left-side defense? Does Jake DeBrusk remain with the team after his trade request last season? If not, who plays top-line right-wing? And will the Bruins have to move along young prospects like John Beecher and Fabian Lysell into bigger roles right away?
Many questions abound for the Boston Bruins. The feeling is uneasy within the Bruins’ fan base, and much needs to be decided before the season begins. Hopefully, as the Stanley Cup playoffs wind down and the NHL Draft approaches, there will be a clear vision from the Bruins and a well-executed plan going forward.