At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there’s a lot of change with the Bruins entering the 2023-24 season.
Perhaps no team in the NHL lost more in the offseason than the Bruins, who saw Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retire. That’s more than 100 points of production out the door, but it also leaves a huge hole atop the depth chart on the first two lines at the most important forward position.
So, it will be difficult for the Bruins to replicate their record-breaking regular season. But even without Bergeron and Krejci, this should not be a lost season for the B’s. Oddsmakers believe they are a playoff team and for good reason. Boston still has a talented roster with a solid veteran core.
However, if the Bruins are going to be true Stanley Cup contenders and remain one of the NHL’s best teams, these players are the ones who need to step up and carry the torch in the biggest ways.
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Charlie Coyle/Pavel Zacha
These two are kind of a package deal at this point. That’s probably not fair, nor is it fair to say they’re the ones most responsible for replacing Bergeron and Krejci. But, at the same time, someone needs to at least replace those roles and minutes, and the duo of Coyle and Zacha are the next men up. Coyle is likely going to center a line with Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk. They got some run together last season, so that should help. Coyle has been a half-point-per-game guy his entire career and that’s probably not going to change. The Bruins need him to play a responsible brand of hockey, one that fits in line with how Boston likely will have to play this season. Expect lower-scoring, tighter-checking games than perhaps we saw a season ago. That’s Coyle’s game.
Zacha, meanwhile, logged his career-high in points last season. There’s no reason to believe that changes moving forward, even as he moves to center. He’ll be reunited with countryman David Pastrnak on a line that probably will have James van Riemsdyk to start. Zacha’s playmaking ability paired with Pastrnak’s goal-scoring touch plus van Riemsdyk’s greasy get-to-the-net mentality could really be an asset if they mesh right away. The Bruins need that to happen in order to sustain success.
It’s hard to say someone who scored 61 goals and added 52 assists last season needs to “step up.” Coming anywhere close to that level of production without Bergeron or Krejci would be considered just that for Pastrnak. Assuming health, you can probably still pencil him in for at least 40 goals, but that’s the baseline for a team that won’t have as much offensive talent as it did a season ago. That’s the sort of expectation that comes with making $13 million per season.
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The 25-year-old franchise defenseman is in a similar spot to Pastrnak. If he’s the exact same player he was a season ago, that’s really good. You’ll definitely take that. But at the same time, you need McAvoy to find another level to get where you really want to go. For the shutdown D-man, that means more production in the offensive end. McAvoy’s 7-45-52 totals look nice on the back of his hockey card, although 17 blueliners across the league registered more last season. While he doesn’t have a blistering slap shot nor does he pick corners with regularity, perhaps McAvoy could be better suited to shoot the puck more. Eighty defensemen put more shots on net last season than he did. His 6.7% shooting percentage was roughly in line with his career rate — an increase on the prior campaign. Taking one more shot per game would be worth another three or four goals on the season. That’s probably not going to get in the way of his defensive prowess, either.
Geekie is a massive human, standing 6-foot-3 and tipping the scales at 200 pounds. The 24-year-old is an intriguing piece, to say the least. Geekie was a fourth-line center in Seattle, and he could take on an even greater role in Boston. The third-line center position is there for the taking with Coyle moving up the depth chart, and Geekie — who carries a $2 million cap hit — could be an extremely valuable piece for Jim Montgomery. His 2.3 points per 60 minutes last season would put him right between Coyle (1.9 per 60) and Bergeron (2.6). That’s exactly what the Bruins need. Geekie just has to show he’s capable of taking on the bigger workload — he averaged just 10:27 per game last season — and can find chemistry with new teammates from the jump.
Featured image via Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports Images