BostonBruins.com — Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien characterized Boston’s offseason thus far in just a few words:
“We don’t feel like we're in a real tough situation.”
There have been some changes since the B’s packed up their dressing room on May 16. The biggest: Top line right winger Jarome Iginla departed for Colorado, leaving a big vacancy at an important place.
But as Julien emphasized during a conference call on July 24, there are plenty of options to fill that vacancy, and none of them leave him uneasy.
The No. 1 option: Slotting in Loui Eriksson alongside Milan Lucic and David Krejci. The winger played the bulk of the 2013-14 season on the third line with a variety of accomplices, but he was most successful on a line that featured Chris Kelly on the left and fellow Swede Carl Soderberg at center.
The first chunk of the 2013-14 season wasn’t easy for Eriksson. He suffered two concussions within five weeks early in the season, and when he finally returned to the lineup, it took him some time to acclimate.
The good news is, he did acclimate just in time for the Olympic break, and when he returned from leading his native Sweden to the gold medal game, he was in top form.
“We’ve lost Jarome, but as you’ve probably heard, I think Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year,” Julien said last week. “I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility.
“But at the same time, Chris Kelly will be coming back [from a back injury], so are we going to look for somebody to be a third liner, or are we going to look for somebody who’s going to be replacing Iggy?
“I think there’s just a couple of things here that we have to resolve, but at the same time, we do have some young players in Providence that are going to deserve a look. So when training camp starts, I think a lot of those decisions will probably be taking place.”
Given the additional departure of Shawn Thornton, the B’s also have some retooling to do on the fourth line, but their depth allows them the luxury of creativity.
The Bruins have a stable of players who ostensibly seem to be ready to make the leap from Providence, including wingers Ryan Spooner, Matt Fraser and Justin Florek. The three of them, among others, are expected to compete for one of the open spots at forward. Fortunately for the B’s, their decisions about how to fill the missing roster spots are infinitely easier, given the talent in Providence.
One critical area the Bruins must address heading into training camp is on special teams — specifically, with the power play, as well as extra-attacker situations. Former Assistant Coach Geoff Ward — who left the B’s this summer to pursue an opportunity as the head coach of Mannheim in Germany — was tasked with commandeering the man advantage, and by all accounts, he engineered vast improvements.
Given his departure -- along with that of Iginla, who played on the B's first power play unit -- Boston certainly has some holes to fill. But Julien isn’t worried, nor does he believe there is any urgent need to make decisions right now.
“Those are things that if I answer now, I might change my mind a week into the season or even in preseason,” he said. “So those are always hard questions to answer because this is what we do as coaches. You know, we adjust. We make adjustments to power plays, to our play throughout and so on and so forth.
“So I think just because Jarome is gone doesn’t mean that we have to blow everything up. But certainly, I think we have a good nucleus here to continue to have a good power play.”