BOSTON --The motto for this year’s Bruins team might come out of what’s now considered a classic rock Guns N’ Roses song: “Take it slow and it'll work itself out fine, All we need is just a little patience."
Clearly Axl Rose didn’t have the B's in mind when he took pen to paper to write “Patience,” but that’s exactly what Don Sweeney, Bruce Cassidy and Cam Neely have signed on for this season with a major influx of young talent. Not only is the talent flush in numbers -- with rookies Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy and Sean Kuraly starting the season with the Bruins -- but all of those first-year players are expected to fill major roles for Boston.
It certainly makes for an exciting time for a Bruins group that should again compete for the playoffs this season, and might only be a year or two away from building really something special.
“It’s exciting,” said Bruins president Cam Neely. “It’s been a few years in the making, to see some of the young kids being able to push for jobs. It looks like a couple [of youngsters] have done that.
"[You] have to give credit to drafting properly. Then once you draft them, you have to do a good job developing them. It starts with our development camp, and having these younger players understand what our expectations are of them, where they need to work on their game to get to the NHL level.
“I think we can really build off what we did last year. I saw a little different style of play, and the league has gotten faster. Our coaching staff has helped us become faster with the way we practice and how Butch [Bruce Cassidy] wants us to play. I think, even though we lost in the first round, it was a close series. I think it was the first time for some of our players to play in the playoffs. They haven’t – understanding what it’s like to play in the playoffs, and they got a taste of it. I hope they are hungry for more.”
- Joe Haggerty's NHL Predictions: B's will be good, but it's looking like a three-peat for Pens
- Haggerty's preseason Power Rankings
Bjork is slated to be top-line right wing, and use his blazing speed, high-end skill and good instincts to produce plenty of offense and points with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. DeBrusk will start the season at left wing alongside David Krejci and David Pastrnak, and will fill the power-forward role of net-front finisher and winner of battles that has often been successful with the playmaking Czech center throughout his career. McAvoy will start the season in a top-4 role paired with Kevan Miller, but the 19-year-old is going to be a workhorse playing in all situations, moving the puck and shouldering a heavy burden for a D-corps that’s probably still a year or two away from being a truly dominant group again.
The role for Kuraly still isn’t completely defined, but it’s clear that he’s got a friend in David Backes after the two big-bodied forwards showed chemistry and production during the playoffs together. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him settle into a third-line role with Backes, where he can work up the same straight-line, north/south game that proved so successful in the postseason against the Senators.
Certainly it’s all adrenaline and reality setting in on the coolness of being an NHL player for these young guys, but for most, if not all, there will be ups and downs as they navigate for the first time through the sometimes unforgiving world of the NHL.
Much is expected of these prospects and more of Boston’s youth movement in Sweeney’s third season guiding the Bruins franchise, where his five year plan should be fully entrenched with the draft-and-development effort paying dividends.
“I think we do have to have some patience, and some understanding that we’re going to go through some of those [rough] time periods,” said Sweeney. “We have a core group that’s going to pull us through those periods, and we have depth during those times when guys do stub their toes where we can withstand some of those times of struggles. But the results also take over from here, to tell you the truth. That’s what this league is and we have to be cognizant of that while balancing the patience part of it.”
Certainly the teaching style that Cassidy employed for close to a decade at the AHL level in Providence is going to be an asset with the younger players. The head coach will preach aggression and creativity within a controlled systems environment, and mistakes will be tolerated as long as they’re not repeated and devolve into chronic issues on the ice.
That’s a far cry from Claude Julien, who seemed to no longer have the patience to live through youthful mistakes when a conservative, defensive-minded option could be at the ready. The other factor working in Boston’s favor is the established veteran core that’s embracing the infusion of youthful talent that they so desperately need.
Brandon Carlo went through the rookie experience with the Bruins last season, and he said that a big part of his successful season was the unflinching faith that both Bruins management and his veteran teammates showed.
“It was great,” said Carlo. “I definitely needed it at times, and for them to show trust in me definitely helped me keep my confidence up when I wasn’t playing as well. Getting that opportunity was pretty special, and allowing me to stay in the lineup and learn from my experiences was beneficial. [Zdeno Chara] was definitely a big help during those times. At practice he could tell I was a little frantic at times because my confidence wasn’t all there, and he would tell me to take a step back, realize that I’m in the NHL right now and wasn’t going anywhere. I just needed to work on my game. [Chara’s words] were so helpful for me.”
Certainly the Bruins may not hit with all of these young players, and there will be growing pains with a pair of rookies among their top-6 forwards and two more first or second year players in their top-4 on defense. But patience isn’t going to be a dirty word for the Bruins this season as they mix their draft-and-development future with the established players of the present while looking for just the right mix for success.