The decision by David Krejci to go back to the Czech Republic makes for a lot of lineup decisions for the Bruins. Decisions, decisions.
With the flurry of free-agent additions made by Don Sweeney, there was no doubt that the Bruins’ lineup would look quite different. But now with David Krejci announcing that he is going back to the Czech Republic, things will look even more different than expected.
Krejci was a consummate professional whose absence in the lineup and locker room will be felt heavily. This is a decision that we know he pondered for quite some time. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him to make what was undoubtedly a tough decision for himself and his loved ones. All the best to a player who should be the last to ever wear the number 46 for the Boston Bruins.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 30, 2021
On top of losing Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Jaroslav Halák, and Jarred Tinordi all found new homes in free agency. Sweeney made quite the splash with the cap space he had to work with, adding Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek, Derek Forbort, and Linus Ullmark. Additionally, Mike Reilly was brought back for three years, Dan Vladar was traded to the Calgary Flames, and some depth signings were made. All of these things on top of losing Jeremy Lauzon in the expansion draft.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) July 29, 2021
The top line is staying as is, let’s get the obvious out of the way. After that, the most likely move to replace Krejci, which I think will happen, is promoting Charlie Coyle to the second-line center spot. He had a rough go this past season, but I have faith that he can bounce back following his knee surgery. He’ll have Taylor Hall and one of likely Craig Smith or Nick Foligno to help him do so.
There’s also the potential for Sweeney to acquire a second-line center on the trade market. But, that could prove to be difficult with the team’s limited cap space.
That brings me to the next question that needs to be answered, the second line right wing – a tale as old as time. I think Smith and Foligno are definitely the two most likely candidates. Smith has familiarity with Hall and Coyle, and Foligno could prove capable of holding down that spot if necessary.
Whichever player doesn’t play on the second-line right wing will almost undoubtedly hold down the third-line right wing spot. As for the left-wing and center spots, I think Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula are the best bets. DeBrusk has spent quite a bit of time in that spot and Haula can play center or wing. Jack Studnicka is also a player who could fill the second or third-line center spots.
I think Foligno will fill out the line, at least to begin with, but some second-line time next season isn’t out of the question. Two new linemates could be just what DeBrusk needs to snap out of his slump. Maybe some more power play time too with Nick Ritchie going elsewhere.
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With Kuraly bound for Columbus, the fourth line needs a new look. Tomas Nosek is a bottom-six forward that could end up at center or wing. Trent Frederic will likely occupy whichever fourth-line spot that Nosek doesn’t. As for the right-wing, Curtis Lazar was pretty solid for the most part on the fourth line and earned another look.
The defensive core is easier to sort out. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy will occupy the top pairing. It’s the best situation possible and they have plenty of chemistry. After that, it comes down to who they want to play with Brandon Carlo. Mike Reilly, Derek Forbort, and Jakub Zboril are the top-three candidates, with Zboril having an outside shot. I think it’ll be Reilly because going with familiarity here makes the most sense.
That leaves Forbort to establish chemistry with Connor Clifton, which I could absolutely see working well. They have options now if they need a change at some point. The goaltending is pretty self-explanatory. With Tuukka Rask unsigned and currently recovering from surgery, Linus Ullmark was brought in on a multi-year deal. At least for a decent chunk of the season, Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman will occupy the crease.
Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak
Hall – Coyle – Smith
DeBrusk – Haula – Foligno
Nosek – Frederic – Lazar
Grzelcyk – McAvoy
Reilly – Carlo
Forbort – Clifton
The 2021-2022 Boston Bruins are going to look a lot different. There’s always the possibility of even more moves being made. But, I think the odds of a lineup similar to this being sent out on opening night are good. Teams will have to game plan for the Bruins much differently with all of this change, and a lot of teams not even playing the Bruins this past season.