By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The days after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup final are copy-cat time—when the other 29 NHL teams figure out what parts of the championship team they want to emulate so they can possibly be the last team standing the following June.
For the second straight year, the Pittsburgh Penguins have set the standard.
Here are a few ways the Bruins can be like the Penguins, who capped a six-game victory over Nashville on Sunday:
Hire Mike Sullivan & Install His Brand Of Aggressive Hockey
This is not going to happen; that ship has sailed, but the Bruins already have a similar coach on their bench in Bruce Cassidy. There’s no doubt the Penguins championship run in 2016 influenced teams to be more aggressive on the forecheck and in pursuit of the puck carrier. The Bruins tried to go this way at the start of this past season, but Claude Julien never fully let the reins loose. Cassidy was more willing to increase risk in favor of aggression, and the Bruins figure to continue playing this way as their personnel improves and their players assimilate after nearly a decade of playing a certain way.
Of course, this process would be accelerated if the Bruins could luck into drafting the next Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in consecutive years, but that’s not going to happen.
Improve The Backup Goaltender Position
It’ll be interesting how general manager Don Sweeney handles this situation. The Penguins were uniquely positioned to benefit from the play of both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. That luxury will probably end this summer with Fleury moving on either to Vegas or another team. Can the Bruins trust Anton Khudobin to be the type of backup that can carry the load if Tuukka Rask ever went down at a crucial time? It’s doubtful. It might be time for Sweeney to consider that with Khudobin inconsistent, and Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban showing they need more seasoning, moving a future asset for immediate help at the No. 2 goaltender would be prudent.
There should be a lot of goaltenders shifting around the league, as there are rumors Vegas might stock up on goalies in order to trade them around. If Sweeney can grab a goalie who won’t tie up too much cap space (either a veteran backup or a younger goalie who hasn’t gotten a chance to earn big bucks yet), he should go for it. The worst that will happen is that goalie will flop but there’s always the chance that he’ll play his way into a bigger contract and improve his trade value or push Rask out of a job.
Stock That D Corps
I already discussed the importance of depth on defense, as proven by the Penguins. So I won’t dig too deep into this without noting that for every Justin Schultz, a team needs a Ron Hainsey. For every Kris Letang, a team needs a Chad Ruhwedel. Losing defensemen for nothing to expansion won’t help the matter.
Sign A Forward Who Was A Bruins Draft Pick Last Decade
No, Phil Kessel, the Bruins’ first-round pick in 2006, isn’t going to be free for a while (he’s signed through 2022). But Kris Versteeg, a Bruins fourth-round pick in 2004, is available after a 37-point season with Calgary. This wouldn’t be an earth-shattering signing, but Versteeg is 31, can play both wings and play up and down the lineup. He made less than $1 million last season and he has some championship experience from his Chicago days. The Bruins could do worse in free agency than bringing Versteeg into the fold to provide competition for spots in the top nine.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.