It still feels like the season just ended, but with the draft and free agency already behind us, it's time to look forward to the 2016-17 season. We will preview every team in the NHL throughout August and take a look at what the new season may hold.
Team: Boston Bruins
How they did last season: 42-31-9 (93 points), 4th in the Atlantic, 9th in the Eastern Conference. Did not make the playoffs.
Notable acquisitions: C David Backes, C Riley Nash, G Anton Khudobin
Notable departures: RW Brett Connolly, LW Loui Eriksson, G Jonas Gustavsson, C Chris Kelly, RW Lee Stempniak, D Dennis Seidenberg
When they will play the Caps: Dec. 7 in Washington; Feb. 1 in Washington; April 8 in Boston
Analysis: After missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season, the Boston Bruins faced a choice: blow it up and rebuild or try to keep things together and boost the roster to try and reach the playoffs. The Bruins elected a little of both, signing David Backes out of St. Louis while also buying out Dennis Seidenberg and watching as Loui Eriksson sign with Vancouver. The result is a team that looks desperate to make the playoffs with no real plan in place to do so.
Backes is coming off a good season in which he scored 21 goals and 25 assists. As captain of the St. Louis Blues, he brings leadership as well as skill to Boston. The hope is that he will make up for the loss of Eriksson who was the team’s second leading scorer last season with 63 points.
The Bruins, however, did nothing to address the blue line apart from buying out Seidenberg even though defense is the much bigger concern. Boston finished 20th in the league in goals against last season with 2.78. With a struggling defense led by Zdeno Chara, who will turn 40 in March and is nowhere near the elite player he used to be, the result is a defense far too dependent on goalie Tuukka Rask.
Rask had a down year last season which greatly contributed to the team’s difficulties in keeping the puck out of the net. The team will try to lighten Rask's load with the signing of veteran backup Anton Khudobin. The hope is that more rest will result in better overall play for their star netminder.
Season prediction: The Bruins are determined to avoid a rebuild and instead are going to push for the playoffs, but they ultimately failed to improve what is the team biggest weakness. Rask is a great goalie and it’s fair to believe he can have a bounce-back season, but how much can Boston really rely on the defense? How much can they rely on Zdeno Chara who will turn 40 in March?
To further complicate matters is the fact that the Bruins are going to miss Eriksson this year. Backes is a good addition, but he is 32 and will account for $6 million in cap space for the next five seasons. That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Boston may have narrowly missed the playoffs, but didn't get any better in the offseason. Does Backes really make up for the loss of Eriksson? Can Rask really carry the struggling defense by himself? I’m not so sure.
The ceiling for this team looks like a low playoff spot, but it’s much more likely that Boston misses out on the postseason yet again.
MORE CAPITALS: CAPS' GALIEV SWITCHES JERSEY NUMBERS
2016-2017 NHL TEAM PREVIEWS
— Boston Bruins
— Buffalo Sabres
— Detroit Red Wings
— Florida Panthers
Montreal Canadiens (coming Aug. 19)
Ottawa Senators (coming Aug. 20)
Tampa Bay Lightning (coming Aug. 21)
Toronto Maple Leafs (coming Aug. 22)
Carolina Hurricanes (coming Aug. 23)
Columbus Blue Jackets (coming Aug. 24)
New Jersey Devils (coming Aug. 25)
New York Islanders (coming Aug. 26)
New York Rangers (coming Aug. 27)
Philadelphia Flyers (coming Aug. 28)
Pittsburgh Penguins (coming Aug. 29)
Washington Capitals (coming soon)