The Boston Bruins will need to overcome a tough hurdle to begin the 2022-23 NHL season: Survive without three important players.
First-line left wing Brad Marchand (hip), No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) and top-four defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder) all had offseason surgeries and will miss the start of the season.
So far, none of these players have suffered any major setbacks in their rehab.
“Everybody's doing well in their timelines," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Aug. 10. "Again, we've always put a band on things to prepare for whether or not a guy is doing better than expected or not necessarily. And right now, as indicated, I think the guys are following the trajectory that was laid out and hopefully we don't have any surprises every now and then."
Here are the latest updates on these players with the new season about two weeks away.
The loss of Marchand is significant. He's the best all-around left wing in the league and has led the Bruins in scoring two straight years and five of the last six. Marchand also is a key component of the Bruins' penalty kill and power play.
He had surgery on both hips in May with an expected recovery timeline around six months. He's hoping to return to game action around Thanksgiving.
"I think it's around there, the end of the month -- the last few days of November is kind of the target date. It's about six months, around there," Marchand said earlier this month, per B's team reporter Eric Russo.
Marchand has produced like an elite scorer for some time -- six consecutive seasons at above a point per game. But he's also 34 years old. How much will the surgery impact him going forward?
McAvoy is arguably the Bruins' most important player. He's an elite defenseman at both ends of the ice and finished fifth in Norris Trophy voting last season. He's the definition of a franchise cornerstone d-man.
The Bruins announced June 3 that McAvoy underwent a left shoulder procedure and that his recovery time was six months. That means a return around Thanksgiving or early December is likely, assuming no major setbacks.
Like Marchand, McAvoy has been back on the ice skating, so that's encouraging. Given his importance in every facet of the game, the Bruins should handle McAvoy's recovery with caution. They cannot win the Stanley Cup if he's far less than 100 percent healthy (or out of the lineup) come playoff time.
Grzelcyk had a procedure done on his right shoulder, and his recovery time was expected to be about five months, which puts him at an early- to mid-November return.
The veteran defenseman is back on the ice skating -- a positive sign.
"I think my range of motion is better now, I don't know. Obviously, we're working on a lot and just little things like sleeping, waking up in the morning it's not as stiff," Grzelcyk told reporters Sept. 22, per the team. "It's kind of a long few months there at the end of last year. So just happy to feel a little bit more like myself. Still have kind of a long ways to go but light's at the end of the tunnel."
Grzelcyk is a key defenseman given his offensive abilities, puck-moving skill and importance to the power play. He also has tremendous chemistry with McAvoy and together they form one of the most effective pairings in the league.
Grzelcyk's absence should give players such as Mike Reilly and Jakub Zboril more opportunities to impress the coaching staff.