At one point during the 2011-12 season, the Boston Bruins didn't just look like favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champions, they looked like a juggernaut not seen in the NHL since the days when the Montreal Canadiens last ruled the landscape.
A couple of injuries, particularly another concussion for Nathan Horton, short-circuited the team's forward depth, and goaltender Tim Thomas wasn't quite superhuman like he was the year before. Thomas' play on the ice also was overshadowed by his decision to not join his teammates at the White House to celebrate the Cup win with President Obama.
Thomas has said he's taking the season off, but the Bruins should again be among the NHL's elite, especially with some extra rest after a surprising first-round playoff exit.
2012-13 Bruins Fantasy Team Preview
Under-valued:Nathan Horton – Expected to be healthy for start of this season, Horton will have question marks, but he’s certainly worth the risk considering he's a top-six forward for Boston and totaled 17 goals, 15 assists and 54 PIMs in just 46 games last year.
Over-valued: Rich Peverley – Stepped up as a top-six forward in place of Horton and recorded 42 points and a plus-20 in 57 games last year, but will likely be a third-line member this season which would decrease his value significantly.
Sleeper: Dougie Hamilton – If he earns a roster spot, Hamilton has potential to see immediate power play time and could be second-most valuable fantasy d-man behind Chara – he posted 17 goals and 72 points in 50 OHL games last season. The "if" is significant, but definitely keep an eye on him come draft day.
NOTES: Horton is expected to be healthy for training camp, and having him puts everyone back in the roles where they were in the first half of the 2011-12 season when the Bruins tore through the League like few teams in history (winning 18 of 21 at one point). The Bergeron line might already be the team's top line, but expect it to be confirmed this season if Seguin and Marchand continue to improve.
There are five defensemen who look set, but the sixth could shuffle the pairings. If Hamilton is ready, it's hard to think the job won't be his, and expect him to be paired with one of the top guys for a proper apprenticeship. The other candidates include Bartkowski, Colby Cohen, David Warsofsky and Torey Krug. If the sixth comes from that group, he might be put with McQuaid as part of a more traditional third pairing.
If Thomas really sits out the season, this is Rask's chance to prove he's a No. 1, and the one-year contract he accepted this offseason could look like a smart move for him. It will be interesting to see how much Claude Julien uses Khudobin, who has great NHL numbers (albeit in seven career games) and whose American Hockey League resume has improved in the past two campaigns.