The Boston Bruins have had the exact definition of a roller coaster season. After major highs and lows during the course of the season, they are ending the year on a major low. They have lost six of their last seven games and only hold a one point lead for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic division with 88 points. Detroit and Philadelphia have both won four of their last seven and sit right behind Boston at 87 points. On March 8th, the Bruins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning and moved into first place in the division. At that time, Boston was the hottest team in hockey and seemed to be putting it all together at the perfect time. As a whole, the team has totally fallen apart and I don’t think the Bruins will make the playoffs this season. It may not be a bad thing if they don’t make it, either.
Now, in no way am I rooting for the Bruins not to make the playoffs But their play all season has not been competitive enough to even come close to winning the Stanley Cup. If the Bruins don’t make the playoffs, then their position in the NHL Draft will be better. The Bruins have drafted very poorly and a better pick can only help this team get an impact player in the draft.
The biggest positive if the Bruins don’t make the playoffs would be that head coach Claude Julien would be fired. I wrote about how Julien was not the right coach for this team in November, and that with him as the coach they wouldn’t make the playoffs. He’s still the coach and they are on the verge of falling out of the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Julien consistently makes mind-boggling decisions with personnel and it is a huge part of the struggles with this team. One example is putting Jimmy Hayes on the powerplay unit when Hayes has 13 goals on the year. Hayes struggles with scoring and defense and just about every other thing it takes to be a hockey player. Another is Julien’s short leash with 20 year old David Pastrnak. Pasternak’s future is very bright and his talent has helped the Bruins offensively and defensively all season. When he’s been out on the ice, he has helped this team. When Julien sends him to the fourth line mid-game because he isn’t playing well, I don’t have a problem. It’s when he brings him down after one turnover and replaces him with Brett Connolly, who is one of the worst players on the team. It’s not like this has happened once either and I’m complaining about it, but on multiple occasions Pastrnak has been replaced on the second line in close, important games by Connolly. If the Bruins not making the playoffs means a better draft pick for the team and a new coach, it might just be worth it.
The downside is obviously that for the second straight year the Bruins won’t be playing in the postseason. It would be good for the long term sake of the team to miss the playoffs, but this team is too talented to perform at the inconsistent level that they do. Loui Eriksson has been a huge factor in what success the team has had. His 27 goals and 30 assists just go to show how well he’s played all year. His contract is up at the end of the year, one of his best seasons in quite some time, and he is 30 years old. Players tend to perform very well in the final year of their contracts to assure they get paid as a free agent and Loui has done that. With star forward Brad Marchand’s contract being up after next season, he is more of an essential player to make sure stays here then Loui. If the Bruins don’t make the playoffs, then not trading Loui at the trade deadline was wrong. If he leaves in free agency, then the possibility of getting players or picks for him is gone and the Bruins lost a primary goal scorer and got nothing in return.
The final five games determines the future for a lot of people in the Bruins organization, some for better and others for worse.