What to say about the Boston Bruins? After missing the playoffs this year, there has been enormous speculation in this big market as to what the team will do in the offseason to rebuild. According to our metric, the Bruins were 12th in the conference in AB at a -32.08. By itself this score would be substandard, but where Bruins fans should be very concerned is that when we adjust AB for time on ice, the number becomes -61.71! This means that the Bruins allowed over 61 goals at the margin versus their opponents in the aggregate and played mistake maximizers far too much. More crudely stated, the Bruins shot the puck in their own net almost 62 times this year. To be honest, we are actually scratching our heads as to how the team did as well as it did.
Consider that the AB score of Buffalo, which was beyond abysmal in 2014-15 outpaced Boston by 17 goals AB and a whopping 57 goals adjusted for TOI in 2015-16. While we are nowhere near being able to forecast predictions for next season, what is clear is that Boston requires a massive shift in either the personnel or coaching philosophy fronts (or both) soon. Even TOR was only 6 goals worse than the B’s this season. Therefore a failure to address the propensity for this team to minimize its costly mistakes could land them in last place in their division next season.
Undoubtedly, Loui Eriksson and David Pastrnak are part of the solution (and Loui, or his equivalent needs to be resigned). Each added about 8 goals at the margin for the Bruins on top of their adjusted for time on ice (which was important in the case of Pastrnak). David Krejci also was among the league’s upper tier with a +5.43 AB.
Oddly, Krug, Morrow and Liles were serviceable on the back end, however each are unsigned in various forms of free agency (the former two are RFAs). The Bruins are actually in a somewhat enviable position in having three defensemen who are not profound liabilities. The Bruins should therefore prioritize retaining these three (save for maybe Liles depending on the price associated with his age). Having said that, like Dougie Hamilton (who actually cost Calgary over 9 goals this season and was a gruesome liability, as we opined), the Bruins have a myriad of problems on their back end as well. Other than the D men mentioned, the rest of the corps, in a word, sucked. Even with a “healthy” Zdeno Chara (-4.56AB), the other blue liners were among the worst in the NHL at allowing marginal goals. The articles suggesting that Boston needs a D overhaul are in our view right on point, however Boston has the double whammy of having their biggest liabilities under (generous) contract while their best players are presently unsigned.
What also may not be apparent is that some of the play up front was equally as bad. Spooner, Stempniak and Hayes were each among the worst in the NHL according to our metric. While the good news is that players like these are easily replaceable in the free agent market or the farm system, the bad news is that two of them are still under contract.
In essence the Bruins may not be in as bad a shape as one might think at first blush (and they have $20mm available under the cap according to General Fanager), but rather suffer from a pronounced lack of depth on the third and fourth lines on both offense and defense. Shoring up each in the offseason through either trade, the draft or free agency with players less prone to the type of mistakes measured in our analytical process could help the Bruins regain playoff form next year. However, the team appears to be on the cusp of a precipitous decline and therefore more vulnerable to management missteps than most other teams in the eastern conference.