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Season preview: Boston Bruins

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Season preview: Boston Bruins

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Boston Bruins

2014-15 record: 41-27-14, 5th in the Atlantic

How they finished: Did not make the playoffs

Coach: Claude Julien (9th season)

Notable additions: RW Jimmy Hayes, LW Matt Beleskey, D Matt Irwin

Notable subtractions: C Carl Soderberg, D Dougie Hamilton, LW Milan Lucic, RW Reilly Smith, C Gregory Campbell, LW Daniel Paille

RELATED: How good was the Caps offseason?

Schedule against the Capitals: Thu. Nov. 5 at Washington, Tue. Jan. 5 at Boston, Sat. Mar. 5 at Boston

Outlook: The Bruins had perhaps the most tumultuous offseason in the NHL as new general manager Don Sweeney tried to put his mark quickly on the franchise. Sweeney served as assistant general manager with the Bruins since 2010, but was promoted after the firing of Peter Chiarelli and let everyone know that there was a new sheriff in town.

Despite the fact that trading away players like Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic may single a rebuild, Sweeney did not simply dismantle the team. He was able to get some return with players, especially in Matt Beleskey. Whether they want to call it a rebuild, however, that's exactly what the Bruins are head for.

Consider the situation: a new general manager takes over a team that didn't make the playoffs with a coach who is entering his ninth season. Do you think that coach could be in a bit of trouble?

There was no guarantee Claude Julien would keep his job after last season and only did after he met with Sweeney to make sure they were both on the same page. When a general manager has a "agree with me or you're fired" meeting with the coach, that's not exactly a vote of confidence. Julien enters this season with a sword of Damocles hanging over his head (it's an expression, look it up) and it won't take much for Sweeney to pull the trigger on a coaching change.

The problem is that the Bruins aren't exactly loaded heading into the season.

Though Sweeney ultimately made the right move in trading Hamilton who was not going to re-sign in Boston, it still leaves a hole on defense that the Bruins have not filled. In the past, the team could rely on Zdeno Chara to keep their defense tough, but let's face it, he's not getting any younger.

Sweeney vowed to restore the "aggressiveness" that helped the Bruins win the Cup in 2011 and then turned around and traded Lucic. Talk about mixed messages. Yes Lucic was wildly inconsistent last year, but he still managed 44 points and would seem to be the type of player Sweeney would want in order to restore the "big, bad Bruins."

This has all the makings for a team on the path to an identity crisis.

That's not to say Sweeney won't be successful in Boston or that the team didn't need some kind of change. Chiarelli is the guy who traded Tyler Seguin away after all. Looking strictly at this upcoming season, however, it's hard to see how this team could be better than the 2014-15 Bruins who missed the playoffs.

Expectations: Boston was not as bad as they looked last year and fell only two points short of a playoff spot, but ultimately management recognized that the team was on the decline, hence the firing of Chiarelli. Sweeney made some bold moves, but not enough stem the tide of decline the Bruins now face.

A head coach on the hot seat is the ultimate wild card when it comes to season predictions. Julien could be gone by November and then who knows what can happen? Just based on the roster, however, I don't know how this team is supposed to be more aggressive without their most aggressive player (Lucic) or how the defense can make up for the loss of Hamilton or for a declining, 38-year-old Chara on the top pair.

The Bruins failed to make the playoffs last year and there's no reason to think things will be any different this year.

MORE CAPS: Gonchar could be returning to the Penguins

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Minnesota Wild
Nashville Predators 
St. Louis
Winnipeg Jets

Atlantic Division 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

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@tkopaintings on Twitter

D.C. artist turns her love for the Washington Capitals into works of art

Local artist Taylor Kampa has taken her love for the Washington Capitals and turned it into works of art. 

You can find paintings done by Kampa of Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Braden Holtby on display at Circa Chinatown – a restaurant neighboring Capital One Arena – along with other D.C. celebrities.

A professional artist for the last decade, Kampa told NHL.com that the pictures were "passion projects," and took about eight hours to finish. She became a fan of the Caps after she began dating her now-husband back in 2009.

Her work has even caught the eye of The Great Eight. After posting a video to Instagram of her painting Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner liked and commented on it. 

"I almost died," Kampa said.

"It has been amazing sharing something that I am excited about that resonates with the people in my city," Kampa said. "I've been painting these portraits for a long time, so it's awesome to have them seen by so many people."

Kampa will also create paintings for the Capitals foundation's annual Casino Night fundraiser next year. 

MORE CAPS NEWS: 

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Key Caps questions: Who will play center on the fourth line?

Key Caps questions: Who will play center on the fourth line?

The dog days of summer are officially here, but it's never too hot to talk some hockey.

Capitals correspondent JJ Regan is here to help you through the offseason doldrums as he discusses key questions facing the Caps for the upcoming season as Washington prepares to defend its title for the first time in franchise history.

Today's question: Who will be the team's primary fourth line center?

With the departure of Jay Beagle, there is a spot open at center on the fourth line. There appears on the roster to be three clear candidates to fill that position: Chandler Stephenson, Travis Boyd and Nic Dowd.

To find out why you should cross Stephenson’s name off the list, you should read yesterday's Key Caps Question about whether or not Stephenson is a wing or a center. To summarize, Washington sees Stephenson as more of a wing which explains why they both re-signed Boyd and brought in Dowd.

So who will it be between those two?

Both players seem to fit the mold as effective centers in the AHL where they were both productive. Dowd has an edge in NHL experience with 131 NHL games as compared to Boyd’s eight.

But Barry Trotz clearly had faith in Boyd at center which is why we saw him fill in on the top line on March 18 in Philadelphia. Boyd rewarded that faith with a spin pass to Alex Ovechkin for an assist, his first career point.

Trotz is now gone and Todd Reirden is in charge, but there is at least a level of familiarity there with the coaching staff and Boyd, more so than with Dowd who is new to the organization.

Second, the Caps may have tipped their hand a bit when you compare the two contracts. Center is an important position and Brian MacLellan has frequently referenced the team’s strength in center depth as a major reason for their Cup run.

Both Boyd and Dowd were signed over the offseason. Both contracts are one-way, suggesting both will be in the NHL, but Boyd’s cap hit is $800,000 while Dowd’s is $650,000. Of course, that will not matter when the players get on the ice. If Dowd outplays Boyd, he will start over him. Plus, the market ultimately dictates price. Even if the Caps wanted Dowd for their top line, if you can get him for $650k, you sign him for $650k.

Considering how important a position center is, however, even on the fourth line, it seems telling that the team was willing to give Boyd, a player with eight games of experience to his name, $800k while Dowd was signed for the minimum. That seems to suggest the Caps at least foresee Boyd having a bigger role which, for two players penciled in for the fourth line, would mean playing him at center.

Other key Caps questions: