By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — What an exhilarating summer distraction that Jimmy Vesey watch was, huh?
I believe recovery time post-decision was about 30 seconds. Jimmy Vesey is a New York Ranger, the Bruins missed out on a potential upgrade and the sky is still blue, the Earth is still turning. Oh, and the Bruins, who have missed the playoffs two years in a row, look ticketed to bring back almost the same exact team that laid an egg in the regular-season finale in April.
We all know that without an upgrade on defense, the Bruins aren’t going to be anything more than a middle-of-the-road team battling until the last weekend of the season again – at best. Vesey wasn’t going to help out the defense, but he would’ve provided the Bruins with another asset that could’ve made other players expendable in potential trades.
Vesey’s decision to pass on staying home to play his pro hockey, however, will have an impact on the Bruins’ forward corps. Here are a few thoughts I’ve had in the days since Vesey blessed us all by revealing his plans.
1. Frank Vatrano and David Pastrnak better be ready to produce beyond their age.
If not playing in front of the home crowd and dealing with those pressures factored into Vesey’s decision, well … then he’s underestimating New York. But that’s his problem. The pressure now shifts to Vatrano and Pastrnak, who have to be ready at 22 and 20 years old, respectively, to produce like top-six forwards.
Both showed the potential to break out and also had some growing pains last season. Hopefully the Bruins will be able to provide them with the competition necessary to keep them motivated. But in terms of sheer talent, the Bruins don’t have anything to replace them and might just have to ride the highs and lows with the two young wings as Boston tries to maintain its top-10 offensive production this season.
2. David Krejci better be healthy and better find chemistry with some linemates.
Krejci had hip surgery at the conclusion of last season. Every update from general manager Don Sweeney has been positive. But there’s no telling how Krejci will feel once training camp opens, preseason games begin and then the season starts. He might be a little rusty. At some point, the hope is that he’ll feel better than he has in a few years.
Of course, it would help Krejci’s recovery if he has a couple of linemates to help carry the load. If Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are a definite pair, that leaves the likes of Vatrano, Pastrnak, David Backes, Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, and potentially a shifted Ryan Spooner, to round out Krejci’s line. Playing with Vatrano and Pastrnak, especially early in the season, might leave Krejci exposed. Beleskey could be key to making room for Krejci and also a skillful right wing. Backes would provide relief for Krejci if he’s having a tough time at the faceoff dot. Of course, all this chemistry has to be forged while Pastrnak and Backes are at the World Cup and Krejci will still be working his way into post-surgery form.
Fun times ahead for Boston’s second line.
3. What is Ryan Spooner?
Spooner has the speed and skill to be in the top six, but not on Boston’s depth chart. So now we find out if at 24 he can force the Bruins to make a hard decision.
If Spooner shows up at camp flaunting better strength and a more threatening all-around game, and then gets off to a hot start, Boston can consider moving him to wing to help out the top six or consider or leave him on the third line and go ahead with the plan to use Backes as a jack-of-all-trades. Spooner can also alleviate some of the pressure from Krejci by meeting his own potential this fall. A hot Spooner also becomes a valuable trade chip that could facilitate a trade to make the Bruins defense corps less of a laughingstock.
Spooner took most of the necessary steps toward being a legit top-six forward last season, albeit with his share of struggles. If the struggles carry over into this season, well the Bruins could find themselves stuck with an untradeable young player without a position. That would set back the organizations’ rebooting process.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.