BRIGHTON, Mass. – By this point, anybody familiar with the Bruins is well-versed in last season’s struggles with their defense corps and this past summer’s promise that upgrading the “D” was a priority for the Black and Gold.
Well, the summer of 2016 is officially kaput and the Bruins didn’t do anything to improve the personnel on their back end by Thursday’s official start to B’s training camp.
Bruins President Cam Neely told CSN a few weeks ago that he wasn’t ruling any moves to upgrade the defense prior to the start of the regular season, but it sure sounded like the Bruins are ready to roll into the season with the same defense as last season.
That means a group that counts only a pair of proven top-four defenders: a soon-to-be 40-year-old Zdeno Chara as their de facto No. 1 defenseman, and 5-foot-8 puck-mover Torey Krug as the second best defensemen on the roster.
The only discernible changes were a buyout of the aging Dennis Seidenberg, and the decision not to re-sign free agent Zach Trotman. Otherwise it’s all of the same incumbents from last season’s group that ranked 19th in the NHL, and mightily struggled at times to simply break the puck out of their own zone with speed and precision.
It sure sounds like the Bruins are simply expecting more from the status quo without any hint of outside help.
Claude Julien said as much when asked about upgrading the defense and whether the Bruins had a good enough blue-line group to win this season.
“My plan is to upgrade our D with our play [on the ice]. I think I really, honestly feel that we can be a lot better with that D group just by our play,” said Julien. “We’re going to do some things this year. We’re talking about tweaking some things. The game evolves and we’re going to evolve right along with it, so I think we have the ability to make our D-corps better this year with our play. That’s where we’re going to start.”
Krug was one of Boston’s most effective defensemen last season and bristles at the thought that the defense will be the weak link this season. In other words, it sounds like this group has a chip on their shoulder, and something to prove.
“I don’t want to keep dwelling on last year, but we hear everything that’s being said,” said Krug. “We know people want to make changes to our back end, so we’re using that as motivation. This group knows that we can be better. We’ve developed together. We’ve grown up together. Now being in this locker room we want to be better for our team and more accountable. We are motivated, for sure.”
Perhaps things will work out in Boston’s favor when it’s all said and done. Rather than spending trade chips or wasting money on a veteran defenseman that would give the Bruins a minimal improvement, perhaps youngsters Colin Miller, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow will be able to step up like they didn’t, or couldn’t, last season.
There simply may not be another choice for the Black and Gold group looking for improvement after last season’s struggles on the back end.