Much to Don Sweeney’s chagrin, the Bruins’ pursuit of a top-six winger has become an annual tradition over the years — with Boston constantly on the prowl for that valuable missing piece to slot in on David Krejci’s right.
Two years ago, Boston believed it found its answer in Rick Nash, parting ways with a package of players and a coveted first-round pick to bring the veteran forward aboard. But the effects of a concussion suffered in March 2018 prompted Nash to hang up his skates that summer and send the B's back to the drawing board.
Last February, Boston opted to give its slumping third line a facelift, dealing for both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson.
Given Coyle’s return in 2019-20 and the flashes of potential from the likes of Karson Kuhlman and others last season, perhaps this was going to be the year that the Bruins would not have to relinquish valuable assets in an effort to put Boston over the top?
Well, holding such optimism was fun while it lasted.
In a perfect world, Bruce Cassidy likely wouldn’t have to bump Coyle off of his usual spot at third-line center, where he has excelled at driving a bottom-six line with plenty of promise alongside the likes of Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and others.
But such isn’t the hand that Cassidy and the B’s have been dealt, with a top-six vacancy once again prompting Boston’s bench boss to divert plenty of resources toward finding the right pieces to get Boston's 5v5 offense rolling.
The fix, for now, has been slotting up Coyle into the 2RW spot. Overall, it’s worked out so far, with Boston holding a 6-1 edge in 5v5 goals during the 102:16 of ice time that Coyle and Krejci have logged together.
But, as was the case throughout last season’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins are going to need its third line to produce at a steady clip if it wants to get past the likes of Washington, Toronto and others this spring. For all the strides that Bjork has made and the potential that wingers like Heinen, Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn offer, methinks Boston is not going to be all that comfortable rolling the dice with Par Lindholm at the pivot come to the postseason.
Whether it be a top-six winger or a third-line center (if Boston wants to keep Coyle at RW), it seems rather inevitable that Boston will once again be scouring the trade market this winter — looking for another piece to max out the Bruins’ chances at another Cup run.
The one issue? The Bruins might have the chips necessary to play the tables at the trade deadline. But do they have the capital to even play? Well, that’s another story.