During an off-season following a championship, it’s easy to get complacent. Especially in one that began immediately after the first Stanley Cup parade in the puck-crazed city of Boston since 1972. Unfortunately for the one million-plus fans that lined the streets of the Hub on that sunny June afternoon and Black and Gold enthusiasts across the globe, complacency is exactly what creeped into the minds of Bruins’ brass last summer.
If any team – with the exception of Pittsburgh – should be familiar with the wrath of concussions it’s the Boston Bruins. It started with Patrice Bergeron just four and a half years ago. Boston’s prodigal son would wind up missing large portions of back to back seasons after suffering concussions in October of 2007 and December of 2008.
A mere two seasons later it was star pivot and power-play specialist Marc Savard who would become the next Bruin befallen with a concussion after the infamous Matt Cooke incident at the old Igloo in Pittsburgh. The Peterborough, Ontario native tried to return to the game on multiple occasions, but was sidelined with another concussion each and every time. Even fourteen months after his last NHL action, Savard is reportedly still suffering from symptoms of post-concussion syndrome.
As if the hockey gods hadn’t punished the Black and Gold enough, when it comes to concussions, Nathan Horton became the next victim of a brain injury amidst the Bruins’ run to a Stanley Cup last June. Likely misled by Horton recovering faster than normal (for a concussion) Bruins’ brass failed to recognize the magnitude of the situation. The biggest common denominator between the injuries to Bergeron and Savard has been the player’s increased proneness to suffering from another concussion after the first.
By not bringing in another proven top-six forward this summer, Bruins’ management failed to protect against the unfortunate card they’ve been dealt this season. As Horton continues to rehab from his second concussion in seven months, it remains unclear as to if number 18 will be able to suit up again this season. Combine that with the month-long loss of Rich Peverley and the Boston offense looks remarkably different than Boston fans had envisioned it.
One thing Bruins’ fans can likely agree on is that GM Peter Chiarelli had another solid trade deadline this season. Acquiring three veteran role players (Mottau, Rolston, Zanon) who are known as solid locker room guys at such a cheap price paid (two low-level prospects, regular healthy scratch) is something the former Ottawa executive should be lauded for. However, what’s put the Bruins in the hole they find themselves in today -- along with injuries -- was Chiarelli’s failure to provide his team with an insurance plan in case injuries –more specifically, Horton – struck. Instead of making a play for a top restricted free agent or bringing in a proven top-six forward last summer, the B’s GM opted to go down the low risk route and bring in Montreal castoff Benoit Pouliot as his lone off-season forward acquisition.
Now, as the Bruins are mired in a two month-long slump that’s seen them unable to string together two straight wins since early January, secondary scoring has become a major issue for the Black and Gold. The most telling statistic? During Boston’s last four games, players not on the first line (Lucic—Krejci—Seguin) have combined for only two goals.
During the Cup run last summer, the B’s biggest strength was without doubt their depth. Boston bench boss Claude Julien could steadily run all four lines with each possessing the ability to score, something not many coaches in this league have the luxury of doing. Now, as the Bruins enter the stretch run and prepare to defend their title in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, that depth just doesn't seem to be there anymore.