NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.
Peter Chiarelli has traded away some big-name players during his eight seasons as general manager of the Boston Bruins and allowed others, like forward Jarome Iginla this summer, to leave as unrestricted free agents.
But regardless of how the Bruins' season ended, Chiarelli has kept the core intact.
Despite winning the Presidents' Trophy and then losing in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Montreal Canadiens last season, Chiarelli did it again. The core and most of the supporting cast is back for 2014-15. And Chiarelli has made sure the core that starts with center Patrice Bergeron, defenseman Zdeno Chara and goaltender Tuukka Rask will include center David Krejci for the foreseeable future. Krejci signed a contract extension this fall that kicks in after this season for six more years.
"It's awesome that they believe in you, that they trust you, that means a lot," Krejci said. "You just go out there and you play the game, you don't think about anything else. To have Peter, [president] Cam [Neely], the whole organization behind me, that's awesome, that's perfect. … So hopefully we can make a run, and that's why I signed here. I want to win another Cup, and this is the team that can do it and I'm happy to be here."
The Bruins thought they had enough to win the Cup last season. Chiarelli has bet the early playoff exit was an aberration. Only Iginla, forward Shawn Thornton, and goaltender Chad Johnson are gone. What holes there are in the lineup project to be filled by veterans who have been waiting for a bigger role, or prospects.
The Bruins have gone to the Stanley Cup Final the past two odd-numbered years. Here are the three keys for them to do it again in 2014-15:
1. Make up for Iginla's 30 goals -- Iginla shared the Bruins lead in goals with Bergeron last season. That's a lot of goals to make up, and Boston didn't import anyone from outside the organization. The pressure is on Loui Eriksson to bounce back in his second season with the Bruins. The wing sustained two concussions and scored 10 goals in 61 games in 2013-14.
Right Wing - BOS
GOALS: 10 | ASST: 27 | PTS: 37
SOG: 115 | +/-: 14
"You always have pressure when you play. And it was the same in Dallas when I played there, I always wanted to play good and do good," Eriksson said. "So it's definitely something I want to do here, and like I said, play consistent and produce almost every game and contribute for the team. So that's something I wanted to do."
Krejci has said he wants to score more goals, and the Bruins might get an offensive injection from one of their promotion candidates in the bottom six, including Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser. Signing or replacing restricted free agent Reilly Smith, who scored 20 goals last season, will also be important.
2. Maintain high power-play efficiency -- The Bruins' power play was third in the NHL in success rate after being a laughingstock for several years. The move of Chara to the front of the net, the additions of defenseman Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton at the points, and Iginla's effective one-timer all contributed to the turnaround. Now Iginla’s gone and Geoff Ward, the assistant coach who was in charge of the power play, has left to coach overseas.
Although the power-play strategy might stay the same, the personnel is going to be different and is going to have to quickly jell to avoid taking a step back. Chara, who scored 10 power-play goals, figures to remain at forward. The Bruins will probably have to find a role for left wing Brad Marchand, who scored 25 goals last season with almost no power-play ice time. The promotion of defenseman David Warsofsky and return to health of Dennis Seidenberg might help, but this season's Bruins have a tough act to follow.
3. View this season as a last hurrah -- Chiarelli has kept the core together and committed to several players for seasons beyond this one. But there are several players in the second and third layer of his infrastructure who could be on the move during or after this season. Defensemen Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski, centers Gregory Campbell and Carl Soderberg, and wing Daniel Paille each is entering his final season before unrestricted free agency. Forward Reilly Smith and defensemen Krug and Dougie Hamilton are scheduled to become restricted free agents. There will not be enough space under the NHL salary cap to keep them all, and some might have to be traded to make room this season. There would be no better way for these players to end their Boston careers or make a case to stay than contributing to another Stanley Cup-winning team.