One thing that wouldnt seem necessary on a team like the Bruins is a sweeping youth movement.
After all one of their key All-Star players isnt even able to order a legal drink in the city of Boston, and a healthy chunk of the Bruins corps will enter next season between the ages of 24-28 years old while seemingly in the prime of their hockey careers.
But that hasnt stopped many of the Bruins players from admitting they were fighting tired legs and exhausted minds by the time the playoffs arrived this spring.
Brad Marchand copped to a motivation level that was noticeably down a few notches from last years Stanley Cup run.
You dont notice it until after it happens. Youre obviously excited for the playoffs, but the hype of last year didnt really feel the same this year, said Marchand, who needed to be dropped to the fourth line in practice prior to Game 5 before he briefly woke up in the series. But at some point you have to find a way to get yourself engaged and prepare for the game.
I learned about how I have to make sure I prepare. There are different ways to get up for games. When youre not as excited or able to get up for games like we were last year during the playoffs, it can be a little tough. You have to be mentally tough enough to be able to mentally prepare yourself. Its a tough job to mentally prepare yourself to play at a high level every night, but what you have to learn to do being a professional.
So whats the best thing to do when key Bruins players are having difficulty finding their motivation just like Johnny Drama at a Hollywood movie audition?
Its easy if youre Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli.
Perhaps its time to start bringing along some of their talented young players to push the established veterans and create some roster competition. Whether its warranted or not another wave of shimmering Bruins prospects are about to make a play for NHL roles in Boston.
The Bruins are already counting on 2011 first round pick Dougie Hamilton to step in and potentially fill a top-six defensemen roster spot vacated by Joe Corvo. The 6-foot-5 two-way skilled Hamilon should be an upgrade both offensively and defensively despite his NHL inexperience.
The 18-year-old Hamilton has set records this season with 17 goals and 55 assists for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL, and doesnt appear to have much more to prove at the junior hockey level after this season. Theres no reason to have him dominate the OHL for another year when he could begin helping the Bruins next season while learning his craft from experienced NHL blueliners like Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk.
Chiarelli has mentioned on numerous occasions he fully expects Hamilton to compete for a spot out of training camp, and his passingskating combo could do much to help jump start the Bruins offense with speed out of their own zone. Expectations should be tempered, but the talent is there.
I just want to look at the trade market and the free agent market. And we got a couple of good, young players coming too. We got a good defenseman that I think will challenge for a spot: Dougie Hamilton, said Chiarelli. Weve got young defensemen, you saw Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski. Youve seen some guys that are going to challenge but on the major change front, Im not looking at doing anything on that front. I would like to add some pieces.
On the front lines, 20-year-old Ryan Spooner has seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in eight games for the Providence Bruins over the last two years. The creative center will be entering his first full AHL season next year and has an NHL-level skill set once his body fully matures.
Twenty-year-old Jared Knight is also graduating from the OHL and the London Knights, but wasnt able to finish up things with the P-Bruins while skating in the Memorial Cup playoffs at the end of the season. Hell push players like Caron and Pouliot for one of those bottom-six wing roles even if he needs a refresher course in Providence to start the season.
Both of those players will start pushing Bostons forwards as young, cheaper alternatives if they start showing play-making and goal-scoring prowess as they have during their junior hockey careers.
That will remedy one problem from this past season: Bostons AHL farm club was bereft of blue chip prospects this year, and that meant few players on the Bs roster felt threats for their roster spots coming off a Cup victory.
Things might be a little different now with a host of talented young players pushing for look-sees in Boston.
Perhaps that will wipe out some of the complacency and banish the bad habits Andrew Ference said he noticed creeping into Bostons game once the playoffs had rolled around. In the words of the Lion King, the Bruins were more than what they had become against the Washington Capitals, and that left a feeling of great disappointment when the season was over in April.
The disappointing thing about going to seven games is the feeling that during moments in a lot of those games we had more to offer from our end, said Ference. We brought The Chain in for a reason, so that nobody would be the weakest link. Its not just words there. Theres a lot of pride that goes into that. Youve got to continue to push who you are as a player, and what youre going to be known for as a player.
You need to live up to the expectations that are set. If you dont have that commitment from every single piece of the team then it hurts, and it only has to be a little bit. If it just slips a little bit this league is too good that it becomes a coin toss after that. Last year there was a real focus into detail and a pride on doing the small things that dont always get noticed. They added up to make us better than other teams. Those things all make a difference.
Perhaps a little youthful enthusiasm and healthy competition from the treasure trove of draft picks acquired in the Phil Kessel deal can bring some of the Black and Gold magic back.
Bs long range prospects will finally start turning into present day players this upcoming season, and that could all the difference as well.