Bruins should invest in this season, even if it means taking risks

File Photo

Bruins should invest in this season, even if it means taking risks

In February of 2011, then-Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli took a calculated risk. It helped the Bruins at the time. It's helped another team since.  

The risk was that the young player he was trading, fledgling third-year pro and top-five draft pick Blake Wheeler, would end up becoming a star. Wheeler did, but it was a risk Chiarelli was willing to take because he wanted Rich Peverley and the cap space to fit (whooooooops) Tomas Kaberle. 

That trade, more so than the Joe Colborne-and-a-first-for-Kaberle deal, has proven to be the type of deal Bruins fans might fear right now: trading a good young player with plenty of development left in him for an older vet who might help more in the present. 

And it worked for both sides: The Bruins got a forward who helped them win the Cup and while Atlantapeg got its future captain.  

These trades don't always work, but that doesn't mean they're never worth making. If the B's saw it through with Wheeler, they might not have gotten out of that first round vs. Montreal, let alone win it all. 

This season, for as scary as it sounds, is one in which the Bruins should consider such a risk. The Bruins are on pace to win the Presidents' Trophy as the top regular-season team in the NHL. They'd have a difficult second-round matchup with Tampa, but if they can win that, they've got a realistic shot at a title in a season expected to be just another step in a soft rebuild. 

It's easy to sit back and think that the Bruins are playing with house money and that any playoff run on top of the kids' development is gravy, but there's another way of looking at it: This could very well be the Bruins' last shot at a championship with a Chara-Bergeron-Rask core. 

I'd assumed those days were already gone, squandered by the trades of Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Yet the combination of Chara's longevity and Don Sweeney's ability to supplement the roster with youth has the Bruins in a rare situation: They'll likely never have their vets - mainly Chara, but even Bergeron -- this good again. 

Next year, maybe (probably) Chara's not as effective. Even if the young players take another step forward, that could mean a worse team. Too many people in Boston underestimate the impact of Chara. Plus, maybe one of these other teams in the Eastern Conference amounts to something. Maybe Chicago comes back to life out West. 

So, now is the time to consider pouncing, to consider trading Brandon Carlo and a first-round pick for Ryan McDonagh. To turn any of the Bruins' ELCs not named DeBrusk or McAvoy into someone who would either beef up the defense or give one of the best offenses in the league one more stud scorer. 

It would be uncharted territory for Don Sweeney, who has yet to make such a deal while he's hoarded prospects in a style Sports Vulture Adam Jones compared to Ben Cherington. Jones probably made the comparison to insult Sweeney, but it should be a compliment: Sweeney's made it so the Bruins are not only one of the best teams in the league, but the team with all the guys the sellers should want. 

It would be a risk to miss out on one of these young players' careers, but it's also a risk to assume the Bruins will have this chance again. They should go for it. 


Countdown to Bruins training camp: Joakim Nordstrom

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Joakim Nordstrom

It’s still a little unclear exactly what role Joakim Nordstrom is going to play with the Bruins after signing a free agent contract with the B’s on July 1, but the 26-year-old Swedish winger will play somewhere in the bottom-6 for the Black and Gold this upcoming season. He’s not a high profile offensive player or somebody that’s going to blow anybody away with his hockey skills, but Nordstrom will bring plenty to the table in terms of intangibles and things that are needed to win hockey games. The best case scenario is that Nordstrom turns into another Riley Nash, a largely unheralded free agent signing that turned into a pretty good performer for the Black and Gold.

What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Nordstrom had just two goals and seven points in 75 games for the Hurricanes last season, but was a staple as a bottom-six forward that killed penalties and played a checking role. Nordstrom was a minus player on a non-playoff team and really had minimal offensive production, so he wasn’t exactly headed into free agency on a high note. But as mentioned above, nobody was signing the Swedish forward to a contract thinking he’s going to turn into a top-6 sniper in Boston or anywhere else. Instead the Bruins needed some penalty killing help with guys like Riley Nash and Tim Schaller moving on, and Nordstrom certainly did that kind of thing for the Canes last season.


Questions To Be Answered This Season: The one question about Nordstrom is just how good he can be over the next couple of seasons for the Bruins. If Nordstrom can get back to the 10 goals and 24 points that he posted for the Hurricanes a couple of years ago, then the Bruins will be getting a real steal for the money they’re paying him. But another season like last year, where he posts two goals in 70-plus games, will be a really average all-around season that could arguably be topped by players that the B’s already have in their minor league system. So the real question is whether Nordstrom can get back to his level from a couple of seasons ago while arguably surrounded by better talent in Boston than he had anytime recently in Carolina. There’s also simply the question of where Nordstrom is going to play given he’s versatile between positions and there doesn’t seem to be a pre-ordained spots for him up front.  

In Their Words: “I think my biggest asset as a player is my skating. I know the Bruins want to play fast, so that is, obviously, something I can help with. Then, just on special teams, the last couple years, I played a lot of PK, so that’s obviously something that I wanted to bring to the table, as well. I don’t want to limit myself to just be a special-teams guy, so hopefully I can take my game to the next level here with the Bruins.” –Joakim Nordstrom, on what kind of role he’s going to play for the Bruins now that he’s signed in Boston.

Overall Outlook: Nordstrom actually sounds a little bit like a former Swedish Bruins forward in P.J. Axelsson with skating and penalty killing as staples of his game, and he’d really settled into a supporting role with Carolina over the last few seasons. It remains to be seen just how competitive it’s going to be between veterans and young players for some of the bottom-6 roles with the Black and Gold this upcoming season, but Nordstrom is going to bring versatility, smarts and a strong skating game to the table in a combination that’s often difficult to beat. It should also be good for a guy like Nordstrom where the Bruins, an already strong offensive force, aren’t going to be looking for big numbers out of the veteran Swede.


Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

NBC Sports Boston illustration

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Noel Acciari

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Noel Acciari.

Noel Acciari has always been known for throwing around his 5-foot-10, 208-pound body with reckless abandon and never backing down from a hit no matter how big the guy he’s tracking down. Those are great traits for a fourth-line center/winger that managed to get a full NHL season under his belt as part of a young B’s fourth line that had some great moments this past year. Acciari certainly has a lot going for him: Physicality, a local boy done good story as a Rhode Island kid and even a little offensive fire that adds to his value as an energy line forward.  


What Happened Last Year: The 26-year-old Acciari made a nice step forward in his first full season with the Bruins as he suited up for 60 games, cracked double-digits with 10 goals scored and continued to play a heavy, punishing game when he was in the lineup. Acciari plays hard all the time and plays with a fearless tenacity, and those kinds of qualities rub off on the rest of the fourth line when he’s out there running around and making hits. Unfortunately, playing that way also leads to injuries and last season was no different as Acciari missed time after blocking a shot, absorbed a concussion and played through a sports hernia injury that required surgery following the season. It’s probably unfair to say that Acciari is injury prone, but injuries are just the cost of doing business with the way the former Providence College standout plays.  

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The biggest question with Acciari is if he can stay healthy enough to remain effective in his role with the Bruins. By all accounts Acciari had a very good season providing energy, physical oomph and even kicking in 10 goals while scrapping for offense around the front of the net. He’s dogged, fearless and the kind of player that will help a team win hockey games. But that style of play leads to injuries and time missed, and Acciari needs to find a way to stick in the lineup and finish up strong if he wants to remain an integral part of what the B’s are doing. Given that he’s shown some offensive spark and plays with true fire in his belly, the Bruins will certainly be patient with the aches and pains that go along with Acciari doing his job. But if Acciari truly wants to be a part of the core Bruins group, he’s also going to need to be a reliable, constant presence in the everyday lineup.   

In Their Words: “We’ve got a lot of confidence from this past season, and like I said, that can build up until next year, and get better from there, and make a deeper run next year. We want to continue what we did this past year and get even better, so it’s going to be a good hard summer, and work hard, and kind of have that bad taste in our mouth where we got knocked out this year. Let’s not have that again next year.” – Noel Acciari, on the mentality that he and his B’s teammates are looking for headed into next season. 

Overall Outlook: Acciari has earned his reputation as a tough competitor and a punishingly physical player, and he continues to hone the offensive production as a fourth-line player. It’s to his credit that he even got a bit of a look as the third -line center when Riley Nash went down with injury, and speaks to how the Rhode Island kid continues to up his game. That being said, it feels like Acciari is really in his sweet spot as a hard-hitting fourth-line winger that plays with energy and physicality. It all comes down to remaining as healthy as he can within his reckless playing style, and showing that he can stay in one piece at the NHL level while playing the way he does. Other than the occasional run-in with injuries, Acciari brings everybody anybody could want in a fourth-line energy winger.