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Are the Boston Bruins in trouble?

Wednesday 12/27/23

Sometimes you'll see a hockey team with a really good record, but perhaps it feels shaky to you. Like the team isn't as good as the record suggests it is. Or that the team will eventually find itself faltering because certain things just haven't caught up to them yet. If you look at player stats, you'll often get a sense of what's wrong, and why that record isn't sustainable unless there are some changes and various players start playing better.

This is what I see when I look at the stats of the Bruins' players. I see a team that has the record they do for two reasons--three if you want. We'll get to those in a minute. But how about Charlie McAvoy? I am very confident when I say what a player is--whether that's Mac Jones, Chris Sale, or McAvoy--that I'm correct. I can't recall a time I've been way wrong in assessing how good someone actually is or isn't.

I've said a number of times that McAvoy is not close to being one of the best defensemen in the league. This is not some heir apparent in the Bruins' tradition of great defensemen, and no, I'm not putting Zdeno Chara in there either.

The Bruins have the record they do, and yet the player who is supposed to be this franchise cornerstone, who should be at the top of his game, is a team-worst -7. You're not getting the offense you should from him. This player is so far below the likes of someone such as a Cale Makar, a Quinn Hughes. They blow him away in terms of value. 3 goals in twenty-four games? 15 assists? That's what I'm looking at? I don't think he's a stalwart in his own end by any means. I do not like this player. Not as what they want him to be. Second pairing guy? Okay, then talk to me, maybe. But D-man stud? No way.

How about fellow defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who is supposed to be your second best rearguard? Thirty-two games played, 1 goal, 6 assists. In this current version of the league, you need offense from your defense. You can't be as much of an offensive no-show as this guy is every night. And he's often weak in his own end.

Jake DeBrusk. What are you doing out there? Thirty-one games and 4 goals. Scoring goals is your value. You don't really bring anything else. You're not even an assist guy because you don't have a well-rounded offensive game. Goals are your thing. And you have 4 in 31 games? How is that happening? Where's the focus? He's not hurt. Bruce Cassidy was right about Jake DeBrusk.

Captain Brad Marchand: less than a point a game, and a -2.

You know who has been really good for what they've asked of him and what you might expect at this stage of his career? James van Riemsdyk. Thirty-one games, 21 points, +3.

When Charlie Coyle (who is tied with the under-achieving Pavel Zacha and van Riemsdyk) is your third-leading scorer, I think you're in trouble, and you're operating with a very thin margin for error. But you really don't want to see van Riemsdyk third. That's no knock on how he's been. It's just not what he's meant to be right now. He's going to be third because other guys are under-performing. Then everything is lessened along the line.

So why do the Bruins have the kind of record they do for now? Pretty simple: David Pastrnak and the two goalies.

Pastrnak has matured quite a bit. He takes his craft more seriously than he used to. He's their offense. The goalies have given the team a shot in most games. But you're so dependent on one guy for scoring, and you can't bank on goalies creating wins for you again and again. They'll falter at some point, things will level out. It's just not a way to be successful over more than a stretch of a season.

You can tell that the coach is concerned. I bet if he was being candid, that he'd say that right now, without significant change, this isn't a Cup contender. Even when they win, it's like he is still walking past a wall and seeing the writing on it.

I think the Bruins would be better off with less security (which could be false security anyway). Something that would cause them to go about their business differently. Produce some discomfort. How might that be achieved? Trade a goalie. The dual-goalie security blanket thing has produced a listlessness, in my view. I see a team that's almost lulled itself into what it is, purports to be, has been.

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