BOSTON — Bruins president Cam Neely fielded questions from reporters Wednesday morning for the first time since his team was eliminated from Stanley Cup playoff contention earlier this month.
Given that this was Boston’s second postseason no-show in as many years, much of the discussion revolved around how Neely & Co. plan to improve the roster for next season.
?We have to use every tool that we can,” Neely said. “We have some flexibility to check out the free-agent pool. I think we really have to look at every opportunity we can to improve our group.”
Neely broke down what he believes are the three areas that most need addressing this summer. Here they are, listed in order of importance:
This is the obvious No. 1. The blue line was Boston’s most glaring weakness from training camp all the way through the season finale earlier this month.
Zdeno Chara still was solid despite having clearly lost a step from his Norris Trophy-winning days, but beyond that, the Bruins’ pool of D-man talent was exceptionally weak. It also didn’t help that no member of the Colin Miller-Zach Trotman-Joe Morrow trifecta developed into a reliable contributor, with all three of the young defensemen appearing in 42 or fewer games.
?We had hoped some of them would improve a little bit more than they did,” Neely said. “You never really know. It?s a tough position, as you all know. You see them develop, and you hope that they will continue to develop and make an impact on your team. I think we would have liked to see a little more of that, yes.”
Chara, Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg are the only Bruins defensemen currently under contract for next season, so there’s a good chance of this group looking drastically different by the time camp rolls around.
2. Right wing
Finding production from the right wing position was an issue for the Bruins this season, as Brett Connolly and Jimmy Hayes both underperformed and David Pastrnak was slowed by injuries and inconsistency. Trade-deadline acquisition Lee Stempniak helped address this need, but it remains unclear whether he’ll be back next season.
Neely specifically expressed a desire to “get a little heavier on the right side,” similar to what the Bruins did on the left by bringing in Matt Beleskey last summer.
“I think we need that element in our forward group,” Neely said. “… We have some skill, we just need to have a little bit more of the gritty piece.”
The Bruins also would be wise to even out what this season was a highly top-heavy offensive attack. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Loui Eriksson (an impending unrestricted free agent) all topped 30 goals, but no other player tallied more than 17.
?The secondary scoring is an area that you really need in this game, and we probably didn?t have enough of that consistently,” Neely said. “That?s an area we?ve got to address.”
3. Backup goaltender
Jonas Gustavsson was an upgrade over Niklas Svedberg, but not a significant one, especially over the second half of the season. It’s safe to assume the B’s would have given Malcolm Subban another look had the Providence netminder suffered a freak injury during warmups in early February.
Will Subban be ready and healthy enough to slot in as Tuukka Rask’s understudy next season? That remains to be seen. Either way, expect the Bruins to explore other options on the free-agent market.
?We have to take a look at the backup goaltending situation,” Neely said. “With Subban?s injury this year, that kind of threw a wrinkle in.”
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