Five bold Bruins predictions for the 2015-16 season
Bruins will fall short of the Stanley Cup playoffs
Let’s get the biggest one out of the way first. People have asked me all summer what I think about the Bruins headed into the season after all of the roster changes this summer, and I’ve pretty much said the same thing over and over: the Bruins will be far more entertaining this season than they were last year, and I think the overall effort level will be higher and much more consistent than it was last season as well. But I don’t think this team is as talented as last year’s group of Bruins that didn’t make the playoffs and many other teams have improved. Think about it: Montreal, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, both New York teams and Washington are all easily better than the Bruins to start this season, and one could make the argument that Ottawa and Columbus are as well. The Bruins will be right around the 7th or 8th spot in the Eastern Conference all season, but I don’t think they’ll do enough to get into the postseason when it all comes down to the final few games of the season. The Bruins defense just isn’t good enough to start the season, and there are no easy answers for improving it right away.
Brad Marchand will score 30 goals
I know I put him under 30 goals in my season projections, but I think No. 63 could be good for a career-high in goals based more on feeling than my extremely complicated stats projection formula. Marchand has already been among the leading goal-scorers for the Bruins in each of the last few season, and has actually led the B’s in goals in two of the last four years. He got to 28 goals in 2011-12 and finished second on the Bruins behind Tyler Seguin’s team-leading 29 goals. So there’s a track record there, and Marchand will also be getting more power play time this season while getting back to full strength following elbow surgery. Add all of that together with another season paired with Patrice Bergeron, and all of the makings are there for Marchand’s first 30-goal season for a Bruins team that desperately needs everybody on the roster to step up their scoring.
Colin Miller will win the Calder Trophy
The 22-year-old defenseman has been impressive during training camp while showing good skating wheels, great mobility and decision-making while carrying the puck and a bomb of a slap shot that’s been clocked at over 105-mph in the minor leagues. He is coming off a dominant season in the AHL for the Manchester Monarchs, and he was part of the super-sized haul that Don Sweeney received in exchange for Milan Lucic. So all signs point toward good things for Miller, and the young defensemen prospect was also skating with Zdeno Chara in practice on Tuesday as well. Beyond the skating and the shooting abilities that the Bruins absolutely need, Miller also isn’t shying away from competing for pucks in the D-zone and throwing the occasional hip check at an unsuspecting puck carrier at the defensive blue line. If Miller is given some learning curve slack at the beginning of the season and fed steady power play time, I think he’s going to put up some impressive offensive D-man numbers for a Bruins team that badly needs a guy like Miller to step up. Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow are both solid-looking D-men prospects, but Miller looks like he could be something special.
Malcolm Subban will be traded during the season
The 22-year-old is the biggest trade chip in the Bruins organization, and is part of a crowded depth situation between the pipes for the Black and Gold with Tuukka Rask, Jonas Gustavsson, Jeremy Smith and Subban all in the NHL or close to being NHL-ready, and Zane McIntyre as a bright prospect that could come fairly quickly as well. The Bruins were impressed with the work that Subban put in during the summer and the added maturity level he seemed to be carrying himself with during training camp. He also looked very good on the ice where his technique seems to finally be catching up to his impressive athleticism. But it’s clear he’s never going to be the No. 1 guy in Boston with Rask here for the foreseeable future, and Subban could be very attractive to any number of teams still yearning for their franchise goaltender. If the former first round pick can transfer his solid training camp into a productive start to his AHL season, there’s a good chance that Subban could be one of the key pieces included in a deal for the veteran top-4 defenseman the B’s desperately need.
Zac Rinaldo will score more goals than games suspended
The aggressive Bruins fourth liner has built a reputation out of finishing big hits, and stepping over the edge at times when an opportunity presents itself. That’s earned him the attention of the Department of Player Safety, and a reputation as a bit of a cheap shot artist around the league. Rinaldo understands the way the wind is blowing in the NHL, and will undoubtedly take notice of the 41-game suspension slapped on repeat offender Raffi Torres for going head-hunting during the preseason. Couple that with Boston’s willingness to put him in situations where he might use his speed and aggressiveness to create offensive chances, and he might actually start changing the ratio of goals scored (8) to games suspended (12) that’s currently going in the wrong direction for Rinaldo right now.