Considering the significant changes that took place this summer, you’d think that the Boston Bruins fell from contender to cellar-dweller.
In truth, they didn’t miss the 2014-15 postseason by much, falling two points behind eighth-place Pittsburgh. Losing Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic won’t help matters, yet it’s not outrageous to imagine them back in the playoffs next season.
They do still employ Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, after all.
Now, it’s reasonable to wonder if they’re still a Cup contender, but what are their chances of making the playoffs?
Let’s ponder that in a slightly different way: by looking at how they compare to the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Lightning – Tampa Bay made a huge leap last season, but they didn’t lose any significant players and are buoyed by young talent. They’re likely out of Boston’s league right now.
Canadiens – Some question Montreal’s possession merits, yet the Habs’ results have been satisfactory so far.
Senators – A clash of fading veterans in Boston and up-and-comers in Ottawa made for an exciting stretch run in 2014-15. Expect a sequel.
Red Wings – A franchise experiencing comparably large front office changes, although Detroit made some key additions instead of subtractions this summer. These two veteran-heavy teams may just battle it out in the bubble.
Panthers – The Bruins must watch out for a team brimming with young talent and familiar faces from the past in Jaromir Jagr and Roberto Luongo.
Sabres – Much improved, yet it’s an open question regarding how far Buffalo must go to merely be respectable again.
Maple Leafs – Lottery fodder, you’d think …
Capitals and Islanders – Two teams that may only climb further out of Boston’s reach in the race for playoff spots.
Rangers – Could this team be a little vulnerable? Martin St. Louis’ retirement and Carl Hagelin’s trade lowers the skill level a bit, while a regime change is in order with Jeff Gorton taking over GM duties for Glen Sather. One would think that the defending Presidents’ Trophy winners hold an edge over Boston, perception-wise.
Penguins – Pittsburgh was right there with Boston as far as almost missing a playoff spot goes. The Pens’ outlook sure looks different with former Bruin draftee Phil Kessel in the mix, though, right? If it does come down to these two teams, just imagine Kessel being the deciding factor.
Blue Jackets – A dangerous team that almost seems like it’s being built in the bruising, Bruins’ mold.
Flyers, Devils and Hurricanes – You’d think these teams will struggle in 2015-16, but at the same time, it’s dangerous to write these franchises off entirely. Still, you’d think that the Bruins would pass them by.
Looking at the East teams, do you think the Bruins might make the playoffs? Could they even threaten to win the Atlantic or, conversely, fall into the lottery? It’s an interesting outlook when you try to ponder Boston’s place compared in this mix.