Evaluating where the Bruins stand after the trade deadline
The NHL trade deadline has come and went, and the Bruins are definitely in a better spot than they were in last week. They added two wingers, Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, both from the Anaheim Ducks. The pair is under contract for this year and next for cheap money. Kase, the more productive of the two, should slide in on David Krejci’s right side immediately, whereas Ritchie should slot in on either side of Charlie Coyle on the third line with Anders Bjork opposite him. Provided good health, the playoff lines should look something like this:
Are they better than they were last week? Undoubtedly. Kase provides a legit right shot winger that should be able to play adequately with David Krejci, and Ritchie provides some much needed size and grit in the bottom six. Ritchie actually reminds me a lot of the Coyle move from last year, a big strong forward drafted high (10th overall in 2014) with a lot of potential that has shown flashes but hasn’t put it all together. But did they do anything to close the talent gap between Tampa and Washington? Meh. Tampa was already a more talented roster and they added Blake Coleman, who is a better player than both Ritchie and Kase, and Barclay Goodrow (who they overpaid for dearly) just for good measure. Washington made minor moves bringing in Don Sweeney’s heartthrob in Ilya Kovalchuk and gritty defenseman Brendan Dillon, but I’d still give the edge in talent to Washington.
Oh yeah, and Pittsburgh also added a legit top-six winger in Jason Zucker, an experienced cup-winning forward in Conor Sheary, and old-timer Patrick Marleau
Last year’s Eastern Conference Finals foe was this year’s deadline darling, with Carolina bringing in a top-six forward in Vincent Trocheck, a top-pairing defenseman in Brady Skjei, and a veteran puck-moving defender in Sami Vatanen
The good news? Talent doesn’t always breed playoff success in the NHL. Just look at Tampa Bay last year. An absolutely loaded roster, and they were massacred at the hands of John Tortorella and his boys in Columbus to the tune of a first round sweep.
The road to the cup will be a different animal this year. If the playoffs started today, the Bruins would be the one seed and play the second wild card team which currently would be Carolina, but it could really end up being any of the middle-dwellers such as Philly, Islanders, Columbus, Florida, or Toronto.
After the first round, the odds are pretty high that Tampa will be waiting. And they’ll be ready. Guys like Stamkos and Hedman will be as hungry as starving lions after their first round embarrassment last spring.
The last time the Bruins played Tampa in the playoffs, they were able to take Game 1 on the road, but were physically and mentally abused the next four games en route to a gentleman’s sweep.
Last year, I felt the exact same way at the deadline. Good pieces, but not enough to put them over the top. Clearly I was wrong, as Coyle and Johansson were outstanding in the playoffs, and were integral pieces towards getting Game 7 of the Cup Final. Ritchie and Kase have the potential to make the same impact come playoff time. Both are highly skilled players who have thrived at times, but just haven’t been able to put together consistently. Don Sweeney is banking on them being big time contributors to this year’s cup run. Sweeney has built up enough goodwill over the past few years with his deadline deals to warrant the benefit of the doubt, but only time will tell.
Do I wish they did more? Hell yes. I was constantly refreshing Twitter hoping for a deal for Kyle Palmieri or Josh Anderson, or even Brandon Saad to pop up, but to no avail.
If Kase and Ritchie don’t come through, we’ll have a lot of second guessing to do. With the cup window for Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Krejci, Rask and crew closing fast, you’d think Sweeney would be more motivated to go all in and make a splash deal like a Zucker or Trocheck, but Sweeney clearly values his young prospects.
So as a whole, am I disappointed? Certainly. There were certainly guys out there that got moved that would help the Bruins much more than Ritchie and Kase will. But do I still believe that this team has what it takes to win it all? For sure.
All I know is this year, it’s going to be a much taller task.