The Boston Bruins have a seven-point cushion atop the NHL standings with the trade deadline less than one month away.
The B's are on pace to be one of the best regular season teams in league history. In addition to their impressive 39-7-5 record, Boston ranks No. 1 in goals scored, No. 1 in goals allowed, No. 6 on the power play and No. 1 on the penalty kill. Oh, and the Bruins also have the Vezina Trophy favorite in veteran goaltender Linus Ullmark.
Simply put, the Bruins are the favorite to win the Stanley Cup. But regular season success does not guarantee playoff triumph. In fact, eight of the last nine Presidents' Trophy winners failed to advance past the second round of the postseason.
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How do the Bruins break that trend and reach the Eastern Conference Final (or further) for just the third time in the last decade? One option would be to go all-in at the trade deadline and make a massive upgrade to the roster, whether that's a top-six forward or a top-four defenseman.
The logic of going all-in does make some sense. The Bruins are an older team and their roster could look much different next season with 10-plus players eligible for unrestricted or restricted free agency this summer. The team should capitalize on this window while Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are healthy and playing -- and doing so at a very high level.
But there's also a risk in making a huge addition. Why upset the team chemistry and camaraderie this group has built? Players up and down the roster have settled into roles that suit them, and the results are in the stats referenced above.
History also should be the Bruins' guide.
Not many of the recent Stanley Cup winners pulled off a major trade that same season. The Los Angeles Kings swung big for Jeff Carter in 2012 and Marian Gaborik in 2014, and they won the Stanley Cup both of those years. But since then, the Cup winners just added depth at key positions and did not acquire the best players rumored to be available.
Here's a recap of what the previous eight Stanley Cup champs did before the trade deadline:
That's not a list of household names, is it?
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been aggressive at the trade deadline since taking over the job in 2015. He was particularly aggressive the last two seasons, acquiring top-six wing Taylor Hall in 2021 and top-four defenseman Hampus Lindholm in 2022.
What's his mindset in 2023?
“You’ve got to hope you stay healthy, and I think we have a good hockey team. I think we’re deep, but we’re probably going to have to continue to add and supplement," Sweeney said after the Bruins defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 14. "We’ve been blending in some of the players that have played particularly well down in Providence and earned an opportunity, so we’re going to continue to evaluate that if the opportunity presents itself.
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One plan of attack the Bruins would be wise to emulate is what the Colorado Avalanche did last year. The Avs added important depth up front by acquiring left wing Artturi Lehkonen from the Montreal Canadiens and defenseman Josh Manson from the Anaheim Ducks. Lehkonen provided scoring and versatility, while Manson added much-needed toughness, experience and penalty killing to Colorado's blue line.
Neither guy was the first-, second- or third-best player rumored to be available, but the Avalanche identified them as good fits for their lineup and made the deals. Both players played a key role in the Avalanche winning the Stanley Cup.
"I don't think (the Bruins) have to do too much," TNT analyst Keith Yandle told NBC Sports Boston in late December. "I think they've got enough skill. Their goaltending has been really good. I honestly don't think they have to do too much, which is a good thing. Anything they do (accomplish) will just be a bonus."
A versatile forward (preferably a right wing) who can score, add some toughness and maybe contribute to special teams would be an ideal addition up front for the Bruins. Max Domi of the Chicago Blackhawks, Ivan Barbashev of the St. Louis Blues, Nick Bjugstad of the Arizona Coyotes and Kevin LeBlanc of the San Jose Sharks would be good fits for that role.
On the blue line, players such as Vladislav Gavrikov of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Luke Schenn of the Vancouver Canucks and Shayne Gostisbehere of the Arizona Coyotes would provide solid depth.
Maybe the Bruins will look at their roster, the opportunity in front of them to win another Stanley Cup, and swing for the fences ahead of the trade deadline. San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier, Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly and right wing Vladimir Tarasenko, and Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun all would be major upgrades.
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The Bruins have one of the best leadership groups in the league. They do a tremendous job welcoming new players acquired mid-season and helping them make a smooth transition. Just look at Charlie Coyle, Hall and Lindholm as recent examples of players who've been acquired before the trade deadline and immediately became key contributors in Boston.
That said, the Bruins have a really good thing going. They don't have any glaring weaknesses. The only potential problem is a lack of depth in the event of injuries. Not having enough scoring depth has been a fatal flaw for the B's in recent playoff runs. Injuries on the blue line have been a difficult obstacle for Boston over that span, too.
This Bruins team doesn't need a substantial upgrade. If they do what the Avalanche did last season by adding a middle-six forward and a No. 4 or No. 5 defenseman, that should be enough to give head coach Jim Montgomery the pieces he needs for a deep playoff run.