When it comes to their group of forwards, the Bruins are known for two things: having potentially the best line in hockey and not having nearly enough after that.
So for as great as the Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak trio has been over the years, their lack of depth on the wing has allowed for the argument that the line shouldn't be a line at all. Had the Bruins spread out the wealth last season, for example, expectations could be high throughout the lineup and eyes wouldn't be rolled at fruitless attempts at fixing the third line.
So far, the Bruins have taken at least one step to remedy that issue. Signing Craig Smith gives them another 20-goal scorer on the wing, but really, that's just a start. They need more, whether that comes in the form of a young player (Jack Studnicka or Anders Bjork) stepping up or another free agent signing (Mike Hoffman is still available).
So let's look at the Bruins' projected lineup and see whether splitting up the Bergeron line makes sense. We'll do this in a vacuum assuming full health, so this wouldn't even really matter until Marchand and Pastrnak are healthy.
With Boston's current options, maybe the lineup looks something like this:
- Ritchie (but should be Bjork)-Coyle-Smith
That third line needs a bit of help.
SWAP OUT PASTRNAK?
Over the years, any argument for breaking up the top line has been to remove Pastrnak and play the star right wing with David Krejci.
This offseason, however, the Bruins helped their right wing situation with the Smith signing. Kase is a major wild card, but if he can play, DeBrusk-Krejci-Kase is a fine middle-six line. If Kase is hurt and/or unproductive, Smith is a good enough option with Krejci.
Should that scenario arise, the Bruins can try Kase or Studnicka as the third-line right wing. In short, Smith, Kase and Studnicka should be sufficient depth on the right wing for the middle six after Pastrnak. The Bruins should keep Pastrnak on the first line, which leads to this bonkers idea...
SWAP OUT MARCHAND?
Crazily enough, the more logical move among the two options to break up the Bergeron line would be to move Marchand, who's basically been super-glued to Bergeron for going on a decade, off the line.
Would I do it? Absolutely not, but given Boston's roster needs, it makes more sense than moving Pastrnak off the line.
Just for fun, let's just take a look at a lineup with a Marchand-less Bergeron line:
- Bjork (please not Ritchie)-Bergeron-Pastrnak
As the kids say, "thanks, I hate it." That lineup is certainly deeper than what the Bruins had last season, but Marchand and Bergeron split up just looks wrong.
That move-Marchand-down exercise served to underscore the Bruins' need at left wing. The Bruins don't need an all-world talent like Marchand on the second or third line, but they could use someone who's better and/or more dependable than a Bjork or a Ritchie.
I'm not holding my breath, but ideally the Bruins create some cap space, grab Hoffman for cheap and re-up Zdeno Chara.
The money-saving options range from obvious (moving Ritchie for nothing and saving at least half a million dollars) to pros-and-cons (trading John Moore, which would create roughly $2 million in cap space but also force the Bruins to expose a different defenseman in the expansion draft) to extreme (moving Krejci, shifting Charlie Coyle to the second line and giving Studnicka the third-line center gig).
Adding another legitimate left wing like Hoffman could make the Bruins serious contenders for this season. As is, they're still a little thin.