Contract years swindled Boston Bruins

bostonbruins.jpgLast season, the Boston Bruins were one of the league’s true surprise teams. Simply put, they were on fire at times, getting plenty of good bounces and more than a few career seasons from its players. It was a perfect storm of contract years and good fortune that – clearly – has proven to be unsustainable.

Obviously, Phil Kessel is no longer with the team but he still fits the bill in having an unusually productive contract year season. It honestly is a bit staggering how much of their success could be attributed to conveniently timed peaks. Here are the other three contract year stories from that season.

Tim Thomas – he’s been a big disappointment a year after winning the Vezina trophy. To be fair, the Thomas signing was at least slightly logic; after all, last year was his best season but not his only productive one. Still, I doubt the Bruins are happy with his deal right now.

David Krejci had an impressive season last year (73 points) but is now down to 40 points this season. I get the feeling Krejci was “chosen” over Kessel, but I wonder if the correct answer would have been “none of the above.”

Dennis Wideman has been a disappointment for most of his career, until he had a fantastic 2008-09 season in which he matched Zdeno Chara’s 50 points while posting an impressive +32 rating. This year he’s gone back to being a poor defensive player (-17) and middling offensively (only 20 points this season). Wideman’s deal must be the biggest regret for Boston.

Now, if you combine the contract years of Kessel, Thomas, Krejci and Wideman with somewhat lucky seasons from Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic, the picture becomes clearer. I’m not trying to say that the Bruins weren’t legitimate last season, but it’s clear that monetary motivation and luck just aren’t on their side like they were last season.

So, the bad news is that the Bruins’ cap will be clogged with players who will struggle to meet their contract expectations after atypical years. The good news, though, is that they can really stock up on prospects if those Maple Leafs picks end up being top-5 material. It’s not all rosy for Boston, but things should get better.

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    Video: Tyler Bozak with some saucy moves on this goal

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    It’s refreshing that hockey fans have, for the most part, moved on from debating Tyler Bozak‘s merits.

    The general feeling is that the Toronto Maple Leafs use him in appropriate ways these days, so we can simply enjoy his work as a pretty spiffy hockey player.

    Speaking of spiffy, check out the sweet moves he made against the Minnesota Wild for the goal above. Feels like you could dub over a Chris Berman “whoop” or two in there, right?

    (If you’re into that kind of thing.)

    Here’s that gaudy move in isolation and in GIF form:

    WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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    Even with two games in hand, some might be surprised to see the Washington Capitals tied with the Boston Bruins in standings points in early December.

    That’s the case on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as a somewhat up-and-down Capitals team (which is glad to welcome T.J. Oshie back) hosts a Bruins squad that’s riding a three-game winning streak.

    It should be an interesting matchup on NBCSN, which you can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

    Click here for the livestream.

    Rangers mostly dodge a bullet: Nash only expected to miss a week

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers moves the puck along the boards during the second period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 6, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    No one wants to hear “It could be worse” when injuries are really piling up, but … uh, it could be worse for the New York Rangers.

    At least, it could have been worse for Rick Nash. The team announced that he’s only expected to miss about a week after undergoing an MRI related to a groin injury.

    It’s been a redemptive season for Nash, so it’s nice to see that it isn’t getting totally derailed. Granted, injuries like these can linger even if a guy returns to the lineup, so we’ll need to see if he gets back to 100 percent.

    The Rangers certainly aren’t at full-strength right now. Their laundry list of injured forwards is quite daunting, even for a team with vaunted depth at that position:

    (It sounds like Pavel Buchnevich is still quite a ways from returning, sadly.)

    Alain Vigneault sells the biggest benefit of these issues: opportunities for other players – including Oscar Lindberg – to step up.

    “I just think this is part of the NHL and it is what it is. It’s there and you deal with it,” Vigneault said . “You get a lot of players at different times that wish that they can get more ice time to prove that they can have a bigger role and that they can do more. Well, no better time than the present for us right now.”

    Double whammy to Habs centers: Galchenyuk, Desharnais out 6-8 weeks

    MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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    Thanks to two knee injuries, the Montreal Canadiens suddenly seem pretty slim at center.

    The team announced two unfortunate and strangely similar timelines for important centers: both Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais are expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with their knee issues.

    It will be a challenge for Michel Therrien to make everything work, to the point where you wonder if maybe he’ll move a player from the wing to center (hey, Max Pacioretty DOES want an elevated role, if you believe the rumors about discontent).

    Tomas Plekanec becomes that much more important to the Canadiens, and one might assume that Andrew Shaw may go back to the middle. LNH.com’s Arpon Basu listed some options, in case you’re more of a visual learner:

    Yeah, not ideal.

    The road ahead

    It isn’t all bad news when you look at Montreal’s overall situation.

    For one thing, they gave themselves a nice cushion, as they currently lead the Atlantic Division by five points. With four games in a row and six of seven at home, they may be able to manage these tough losses pretty well in the short-term.

    The real challenges might come late in December and early in January. They play seven road games in a row – though with a break around New Year’s – and nine of 10 away from Montreal from Dec. 23 – Jan. 12.

    While they’ve suffered some minor bumps in the road so far, this is their truest test of 2016-17. It should be interesting to see how they handle this.