Five Bruins Training Camp questions
Fresh off two straight disappointing finishes in the regular season, the Bruins open Training Camp tomorrow at the State of the Art Warrior Ice Arena. Aside from the look and the amenities of the new rink, the Black and Gold have plenty of questions that need to be answered if they want to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring.
From the prospects looking to make a name for themselves to the X’s and O’s and the seemingly never-ending speculation of Claude Julien’s job security, here are five Bruins questions entering Training Camp.
1. Will any of the prospects take advantage of an opportunity?
Since he took over as GM last June, Don Sweeney has restocked the Bruins’ pipeline. Some of those prospects are looking to make the jump to the professional ranks for the first time.
With a few spots left to fill before opening night, some of the Bruins youngsters enter Training Camp having a shot to accompany the team to Columbus for Game 1 of 82. From Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon and Robbie O’Gara trying to make a spot on the blue-line to Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen looking to solidify a forward spot, the prospects will have a good couple of weeks to showcase their potential to Bruins coaching and management.
2. Will there be a training camp surprise in store?
Prognosticating players that could surprise their NHL teams during training camp is one thing. Watching it unfold can be a totally different story.
The Bruins have had their fair share of good stories coming out of training camp. Last year, Frank Vatrano impressed the brass during the pre-season, and while he initially reported to Providence, the former UMass-Amherst product eventually earned his callup to Boston. A few years ago, Chris Bourque earned a fourth line spot during after a decent camp, but he eventually fizzled out after playing in 18 games during the lockout-shortened season.
With opportunities for roster spots, players like Peter Mueller — coming in on a PTO after spending the last few years in Europe — and the aforementioned youngsters will look to impress the Bruins management and coaching staff during camp.
3. Can the Bruins defense correct itself?
This is an ongoing question that will likely be asked by Bruins fans during the course of the season, especially after Sweeney and company failed to address their biggest off-season priority.
Over the last two years, the Bruins have seen the likes of Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton depart from their blue-line. Since that time, a once stable core of Julien’s past squads has turned into a weakness for the Black and Gold.
Much like last year where they did little to add blue-line depth — with the exception of acquiring John-Michael Liles at the trade deadline and Colin Miller in the Milan Lucic trade — the Bruins will enter the 2016-17 season with familiar personnel on the back end. Seven players from that defense core are returning (Liles, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Joe Morrow and Adam McQuaid) with others like Carlo knocking on the door for an opportunity to crack the lineup.
For the time being, the Bruins will have to look from within for blue line help.
4. How active will upper management be?
The Bruins begin year two of the Sweeney era with a few holes in the roster. The defensive issues are front and center, but there’s also concerns over the status of the top two lines.
Over the last few years, upper management has struck out more often than not over their decisions from trading Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton to letting Loui Eriksson walk at free agency instead of trying to shop him at the trade deadline. Those decisions and the on-ice product over the last two years equals a fan base that has gone from optimistic to disgruntled.
As training camps progress across the National Hockey League, perhaps an opportunity or two will present itself for Sweeney, Cam Neely and company to improve their hockey club. Until that happens, fans will continue to question the decision making from upper management. By the end of the year, ownership may even have questions on the product if the Bruins go down a similar path from the last two years.
5. How hot is Claude’s seat (again)?
For most of his career in Boston, Claude Julien’s job security was and quite frankly still is a hot take haven. Despite the rumors and scuttlebutt, Julien has survived the hot seat and enters year 10 of his Bruins’ tenure.
Julien won’t escape speculation anytime soon. At this rate, it’s become a local Boston tradition. But after two straight regular season collapses and with former Providence Bruins bench boss Bruce Cassidy now at the helm as an assistant, one has to wonder if it really is only a matter of time for Julien’s tenure comes to an end sooner rather than later.