Is it October yet? The question on many hockey fans’ minds all summer has been answered. It is October, and the NHL season has started once again.
It has been 180 days since the Bruins last hit the ice for a regular season game. That game, a 2-1 overtime loss to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, ended a very disappointing season for the Black and Gold, who failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
Changes needed to be made in both the roster and the front office during the offseason. General manager Peter Chiarelli was fired due to his mismanagement of the salary cap over the last few seasons, and was replaced by former Bruin Don Sweeney in a move that many saw coming. Sweeney was not shy at the start of his tenure, trading away Milan Lucic and future star Dougie Hamilton for prospects and draft picks. The team also chose to let Carl Soderberg, Gregory Campbell, and Danny Paille walk in free agency, leaving holes throughout the Bruins lineup. The core of the roster, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Loui Eriksson, Zdeno Chara, and Tory Krug, is still there, but they need help.
Which new and old faces will fill the gaps of this major roster turnover?
Matt Beleskey was one of the highest-profile free agents in an otherwise vanilla free agent class this offseason. The Bruins were lucky to sign Beleskey to a team-friendly 5-year contract that averages $3.8 million against the salary cap. The seven-year veteran scored 32 points in 65 games with Anaheim last season, but he really turned it up in the playoffs when he had eight goals and an assist in 16 playoff games. The physical left-winger has skated with David Krejci and David Pastrnak on the first line in the preseason, and many fans predict that he will replace the production of Lucic.
Jimmy Hayes was acquired from the Florida Panthers in exchange for the Marc Savard contract and Reilly Smith. The Dorchester native and former Boston College Eagle is back home, and will add a physical presence to the forward group.
Spooner, the smooth skating young centerman, secured himself a spot on the roster toward the end of last season, as he burst onto the scene with point streaks of seven and five games during the playoff push in March and April. One of the knocks on Spooner in the past was that he could score well at the AHL level, but could never find the back of the net when up with the big club. He is scoring now, and could have a breakout year now that he has secured the third-line center spot, in between Hayes and Brett Connolly.
Captain Zdeno Chara suffered an upper-body injury at the end of the preseason, but should be ready to play. The 38-year-old blue liner has definitely seen his best days, but still has the size and the smarts to be a top shutdown defenseman. Other than Chara, the rest of the defense is a mystery. Dennis Seidenberg is injured, Torey Krug needs to step up into a second pair role, and Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller need to stay healthy for a full season. The Bruins will look to young defensemen like Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow and Colin Miller to step up in a big way this year.
In goal, Tuukka Rask is set to take on a big role as he did last year when he played in 70 games. Rask was worked hard because the team did not have a trusted backup goaltender. This year, they signed Jonas Gustavsson, a 6-year veteran, to provide some stability at the position and to hopefully give Rask some rest.
The wait is over. Time to drop the puck.

Executive Editor