Several seasons have come and gone, but the 2014-15 campaign has been a roller coaster to say the least.
From a roster that contained the youngest player in the league to being decimated with season-ending injuries, and from fraudulent contract extensions to jabbing at each other to the media, the Boston Bruins is not the same franchise that we used to know.
With all of that being said, the Bruins still had one last gasp of hope entering Saturday night because if certain miraculous events unfolded, they would still make the playoffs.
Since the Pittsburgh Penguins fell to the New York Islanders on Friday night, that made things a little bit more interesting heading into the final day of the regular season. The Ottawa Senators won their game in the afternoon, clinching a playoff spot. So, the Bruins or the Penguins would be heading to the postseason. Earlier in the night, Pittsburgh knocked off the Buffalo Sabres and eliminated the Bruins from playoff contention before the conclusion of their final game—a 3-2 shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Who would have thought that this team would miss the playoffs? After eight seasons at the helm, Head Coach Claude Julien and General Manager Peter Chiarelli have put themselves in a position in which they could lose their jobs. You can divvy up the blame pie all you want, but everyone within the organization should take some responsibility for what was considered a failed season right from the very beginning.
Here are the five reasons why the Bruins missed the postseason:
1. The Trade of Johnny Boychuk
This is where the initial problem arose, and it took place before the season even got under way. Just two days before the opener, the B’s traded the veteran defenseman to the Islanders for a pair of draft picks. Although he was a big fan favorite both inside and outside of the locker room, Boychuk was a guy who would have played top-four minutes for the Black and Gold. The move saved the organization $3.6 million in cap charges, but at what cost? Signing Simon Gagne? That move did not pan out, but it was due to an unfortunate family situation. Boychuk, an unrestricted free agent at the time of the trade, recently signed a multi-year deal to stay in New York in which he will make $42 million. The heart of the B’s locker room was slightly lost before the year even got under way.
2. Not Keeping Bobby Robins
Yes, this may look like a minor move in the grand scheme of things, but who knows how things would have played out if he remained with the team. Robins started the year with the big club, skating in the first three regular-season games. He dropped the gloves twice over that span and brought the hard-nosed energy every shift. That is what the Bruins were missing since the loss of Shawn Thornton in free agency. There was no emotion and the passion was at a minimum this year because a player like Robins was not on the roster for the duration of the campaign.
3. Inconsistency From the Backup Goaltender Position
Niklas Svedberg was the best goaltender in the AHL last year for the Providence Bruins. He appeared in 45 games with a 25-15-4 record, a 2.63 goals against average, and a .910 save percentage. He even won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award for being the league’s most outstanding goaltender during the 2012-13 season. With highly-touted Malcolm Subban waiting in the wings, many of us figured that the backup goaltender position would be set.
Not so much.
Svedberg only played in 18 games this year, but started 14 of them. He had a .233 goals against average, a .918 save percentage, and two shutouts. If you just use the eye test, there were times when he looked like he was owning the crease, but other times he was allowing incredibly soft goals. Also, Subban only got to appear in one game and was pulled after 30 minutes…but not before allowing three goals. This forced Tuukka Rask to assume a humongous workload of 70 appearances and a 34-21-13 record. He was running on pure fumes by the end of the season.
4. Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak Not Starting the Year With the Bruins
We all agree that Coach Julien can be a bit stubborn when it comes to players who cannot play defensive hockey. Ultimately, that could be his downfall. However, Spooner and Pastrnak were ready for the NHL prior to the opening puck drop back in October. Both players started the year with the P-Bruins due to underwhelming preseasons as well as injuries that they sustained during training camp.
When the time came for the kids to get the opportunity to play, they took the fans by storm. They provided the offensive spark that the team was lacking in desperate times. Pastrnak posted 10 goals and 17 assists in 46 games while Spooner notched eight goals and 10 assists in 19 games. It also helped that when they skated on the same line together with Milan Lucic, they were a force offensively. There is no doubt that they were inept defensively, but the speed and skill is where the league is going. Knowing that the Bruins did not do anything extraordinary to acquire another top offensive weapon after losing Jarome Iginla, it was shocking that the B’s did not experiment in house with these guys. It was unfortunate that because of injuries and Pastrnak lighting up the World Junior tournament that they got their shot.
Speaking of injuries, not being at full strength for an entire season is expected. The problem here is that the team did not really do anything to prepare for such a situation to arise. Kevan Miller (shoulder) and Dougie Hamilton (upper body) suffered season ending injuries, while Zdeno Chara (knee) and Adam McQuaid (wrist) both missed 19 games. The blue line took a huge hit this year.
Up front, David Krejci only played in 47 games due to various ailments, most recently a torn MCL. Brett Connolly broke his finger in his second practice with the team, and he only played in five games. The Bruins just could not get into a rhythm to sustain a consistent flow to their game. Even though injuries are part of the game and it should not be a top excuse, it is hard to overlook the key injuries that plagued this team all season long.
We are now in offseason mode, two months earlier than expected. Without question, changes will be made from a player and personnel standpoint. The question is where will they start to gut this organization? Only time will tell.