NHL Power Rankings: Where Bruins stand in loaded Eastern Conference originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The NHL offseason is almost over, and in just a few weeks training camps will open up around the league.
It was a busy summer for many teams, including the Boston Bruins.
They fired head coach Bruce Cassidy even though he led the B's to the playoffs in all six of his seasons behind the bench and won 51 games last year despite a lack of scoring depth, a tough division and many players missing time due to COVID-19. Cassidy was replaced by former Dallas Stars head coach Jim Montgomery. The Bruins also were fortunate that centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci both returned on one-year contracts.
Where do the Bruins fit in the Eastern Conference hierarchy with training camps on the horizon? Check out our updated East power rankings below.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning didn't win a historic third consecutive Stanley Cup title, but they put up a pretty good fight, losing to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 6 of the Cup Final.
The Lightning didn't make any major additions to their roster in the offseason, but they did ink several important players to eight-year extensions, including forwards Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak, as well as defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
The concern for the Lightning is fatigue. They have played a total of 279 games over the last three seasons, including the playoffs. That's a ton of hockey for a mostly veteran roster, and it has to take a real toll at some point. But until the Lightning lose their grip of the Prince of Wales Trophy, it's hard to bet against them.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes were eliminated in the second round for the second consecutive year. They responded to the disappointing finish with an aggressive offseason that saw them add winger Max Pacioretty and defenseman Brent Burns to an already loaded roster. If goalie Frederik Andersen can stay healthy, the Hurricanes could be the team to beat in the East.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs came so close to winning their first playoff series since 2004, but they were eliminated at home in Game 7 to the Lightning. It was actually the fourth time in the last five years that Toronto lost in Game 7 of the first round.
Toronto took a risk in the offseason by letting Jack Campbell leave in free agency and acquiring Matt Murray to be the team's No. 1 goalie. Murray won two Stanley Cup titles with the Penguins in 2016 and 2017, but injuries have been an issue for him in recent years. He's played in only 85 games over the past three seasons, posting lackluster stats including a 35-36-8 record and a .898 save percentage. Goaltending could be the Leafs' Achilles' heel yet again.
4. Florida Panthers
The Panthers won the Presidents' Trophy for the first time and then got swept by the Lightning in the second round. Florida has lost to its in-state rival two postseasons in a row. The biggest move of the offseason for the Panthers was trading Jonathan Huberdeau -- the league's second-leading scorer last season -- and top-four defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to the Flames in exchange for power forward Matthew Tkachuk. Florida also lost Claude Giroux in free agency and haven't replaced him yet.
The Panthers will be a good team in 2022-23, but they aren't in the top tier of the conference at the moment.
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5. Boston Bruins
The Bruins could be one of the biggest boom or bust teams in the league.
If they're healthy late in the season and a couple things go right -- including the goaltending -- this team could be a real Cup contender. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci returning give Boston one of the best 1-2 punches at center. The acquisition of Pavel Zacha bolstered the team's scoring depth, and top prospect Fabian Lysell could make an impact as a rookie. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman give new head coach Jim Montgomery a solid goalie tandem, too.
The potential problems are injuries -- Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk will all miss the start of the season. The blue line will be a Hampus Lindholm injury away from being really thin over the first month of the campaign. David Pastrnak's future could be a distraction if he enters the season without an extension. Bergeron, Marchand and Krejci are all age 34 or older. When does their decline start? Will it be this season?
There's enormous pressure on the Bruins to make a deep playoff after failing to advance past the second round in five of the past six seasons.
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6. New York Rangers
The Rangers made a surprising run to the Eastern Conference Final last season, thanks in large part to the brilliant play of Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Igor Shesterkin. One development that could vault the Rangers to the next level is 2020 No. 1 overall draft pick Alexis Lafrenière making a Year 3 leap. He scored a career-high 19 goals in 79 games last season. Can he live up to all the pre-draft hype and become a superstar?
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins brought back franchise icons Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang with new contract extensions. Secondary scoring is one weakness Pittsburgh must address before next season's trade deadline. That said, this team will always be a threat as long as Malkin and Sidney Crosby are healthy.
8. Washington Capitals
The Capitals are pretty much in the same spot they've been in recent years: Quality team that will make the playoffs but not a real threat to contend for the conference title. Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin needs 22 goals to pass Gordie Howe for second on the all-time leaderboard.
9. Ottawa Senators
It's hard not to like what the Senators did this offseason. They already had one of the most talented young cores in the league, and then added 40-goal scorer Alex DeBrincat via trade and top-six center Claude Giroux via free agency. There's a lot to like about Ottawa's roster and the future is very bright, but the goaltending is a bit concerning and could end up being what keeps this team out of the playoffs.
10. Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings were busy in free agency, acquiring center Andrew Copp, left winger Dominik Kubalik, left winger David Perron and defenseman Ben Chiarot, among others. Detroit has the potential to compete for a playoff spot in the East, but the goaltending has to show major improvement. The Red Wings ranked 28th in save percentage and 31st in goals allowed last season. Signing former Blues goalie Ville Husso in free agency should address those concerns.
11. Columbus Blue Jackets
The Blue Jackets made a huge and surprising splash in free agency by signing star winger Johnny Gaudreau to a seven-year, $68.25 million contract. Gaudreau tallied 115 points last season, the second-most in the league, but he doesn't address Columbus' defensive issues or goaltending. The Blue Jackets allowed the fifth-most goals in 2021-22 and didn't make any substantial blue line upgrades.
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12. New York Islanders
The Islanders fired Barry Trotz after one bad season even though he's one of the league's best coaches. They also weren't able to sign center Nazem Kadri in free agency despite reportedly being one of the teams interested in him. Without any additions to the roster this offseason, it's hard to see New York making any real improvement.
13. New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes is an early candidate for breakout player of the year after he set career highs with 26 goals and 29 assists in 49 games last season. Hughes becoming a superstar center would be a massive boost for the Devils offense and potentially lift them to the cusp of the playoffs.
14. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres have the league's longest postseason appearance drought at 11 seasons despite picking inside the top 10 of the draft 10 times during that span. We should see some progress in Buffalo this season, but it would be a massive surprise if that playoff drought ended.
15. Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens won the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery and selected Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick. The objective for Montreal this season should be the development of their young players and prospects. There's no reason to rush this rebuild, especially in an Atlantic Division that contains three of the top four Stanley Cup contenders (per PointsBet's title odds).
16. Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers earned the fourth-worst record in the league last season, while scoring the second-fewest goals and allowing the sixth-most goals. No major upgrades were made in the offseason, so it's hard to envision how Philly competes for a playoff spot in 2022-23. The Flyers also have very little salary cap space and have traded away a bunch of draft picks over the last year, including second-rounders in 2023 and 2024 and their own 2023 third-rounder. This roster is a total mess.