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What Your Team Is Thankful For: Boston Bruins

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What Your Team Is Thankful For: Boston Bruins

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As Thanksgiving and the holiday season approaches, PHR will be taking a look at what teams are thankful for in 2022-23. There also might be a few things your team would like down the road. We’ll examine what’s gone well in the early going and what could improve as the season rolls on for the Boston Bruins

Who are the Bruins thankful for?

Jim Montgomery.

The Bruins made one of the most controversial moves of this past offseason when they fired head coach Bruce Cassidy. Cassidy had taken the Bruins to within one win of a Stanley Cup championship in 2019 and had not missed the playoffs in any of his seasons coaching the Bruins. But after a disappointing first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, with rumors of friction between Cassidy and the organization generating buzz, GM Don Sweeney made the choice to initiate a coaching change.

Out went Cassidy, and in came Montgomery. The 53-year-old Montgomery was the former head coach of the Dallas Stars and was hired off of Craig Berube’s St. Louis Blues staff having helped the Blues orchestrate one of their best offensive seasons in team history.

More than anything else, Montogomery represented a complete stylistic departure from Cassidy. While Cassidy was known to be a demanding coach whose style could sometimes wear players thin, Montgomery was a more laid-back, player-friendly option who was viewed as a breath of fresh air for their locker room.

At this point in the season, it’s safe to say that despite Cassidy’s initial disappointment at his Bruins exit, this seems to be a coaching move that has worked out well for all parties involved. Montgomery has the Bruins at the top of the NHL standings at this early stage, and their locker room is seemingly in great shape.

As for Cassidy, he moved on to take a role as head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights, and he has the NHL’s 31st team sitting first in the Western Conference. While it’s definitely a major risk to fire a clearly talented coach like Cassidy, the risk seems to have paid off for Boston, as they look to have a new coach who is giving them many reasons to be thankful.

What are the Bruins thankful for?

Their training staff.

A team’s training staff is an extremely important part of an NHL organization, but they often don’t receive the attention or praise they deserve. A training staff is responsible for managing the injury situations of a team’s players, and the Bruins this year have heavily leaned on theirs. Star players such as Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Jeremy Swayman have all missed time, and yet the Bruins’ haven’t missed a beat.USATSI_19422207-231x300.jpg

In fact, both Marchand and McAvoy have returned earlier than when many may have expected them to return when their injuries were first revealed. Their recovery processes for their respective injuries seem to have gone extraordinarily well, and now the Bruins are near full health as they look to continue their scorching hot start.

While the players themselves undoubtedly deserve credit for the quick turnaround in the face of their injuries, the Bruins have to be thankful for their medical and training staff at this point in their season.

The team has capably navigated the challenge posed by the significant injuries they were hit with and the roster has returned to close to full health faster than anyone could have reasonably expected.

Injuries are inevitable over the course of an NHL season, but the Bruins’ staff has ensured that they are prepared to weather any storm injuries could force them through. That’s not something many teams can boast, and it means the Bruins’ training staff is definitely something for the team to be thankful for.

What would the Bruins be even more thankful for?

Progress in their prospect pool.

The Bruins have been a competitive team for the better part of a decade and were in the Stanley Cup Final in 2019. The cost of the team’s pursuit of another Stanley Cup championship has been that their prospect pool has suffered significantly. The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked the Bruins’ prospect pool last in the NHL, while EliteProspects.com ranked them 30th.

Winning games, of course, is far more important than winning prospect pool rankings. No fan would sacrifice the record of success the Bruins have had since 2011 for better placement in farm system rankings.

But that being said, a lackluster player development pipeline does hurt the Bruins’ ability to maximize their current competitive window. Their ability to win a trade deadline bidding war for a top player is limited, and the Bruins’ lack of young, cheap, developed talent may have forced their hand and led them to sign some relatively expensive contracts (Nick Foligno, Mike Reilly) to fill spots lower in their lineup.

With so much going right so far in the Bruins’ season, there aren’t many things that could happen that would make the team even more thankful. But if there’s one thing they could hope to add to what has already been a magical start to their season, it would be some accelerated progress for the team’s top prospects.

A few of Boston’s top offensive prospects, namely Georgii Merkulov and Fabian Lysell, are playing above expectations, but some, such as 2019 first-rounder John Beecher, have disappointed.

If players such as 2022 second-rounder Matthew Poitras or 2021 third-rounder Brett Harrison could take emphatic steps forward in their development, the Bruins would have that much more to be thankful for this season.

What should be on the Bruins’ holiday wish list?

Trade interest in Mike Reilly.

The Bruins don’t have any major immediate need to trade Reilly, such a trade would pose some major benefits. Sure, they would lose their top depth defenseman who they can shuffle between the NHL and AHL based on need, but in exchange, they would be rid of the $1.875MM cap hit Reilly currently costs when his salary is buried in the AHL.

Reilly is clearly no longer in the Bruins’ long-term plans and is reportedly hoping for a trade in order to resolve his current situation. Reilly’s $3MM base cap hit for this season and next complicates things and is likely the reason that he hasn’t been moved to this point, especially considering he cleared waivers.

If a team were to suddenly have interest in acquiring Reilly with limited retention required on Boston’s part, that would certainly ease the Bruins’ precarious current cap position. Reilly had 17 points in 70 games last season and could be a bounce-back possibility for some teams.

But given his $3MM cap hit and the overall shortage of cap space around the league, it seems a potential Reilly trade that doesn’t require the Bruins to attach sweetener assets is more in the “wish list” territory than the realm of realistic possibility.

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