By most standards, the Boston Bruins are off to a strong start in 2018-19, sharing the fourth best record in the NHL. By their own standards, the campaign has been less than spectacular thus far due to the heavy reliance on the first line. The grouping of Patrice Bergeron between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak is considered by many to be the best line in the NHL. Through twelve games, Pastrnak is tied for the league lead in goals with 11 and has a total of 16 points, Bergeron is third in the league in scoring with 19 points, and Marchand has hardly looked himself and has still contributed 15 points. However, beyond those three, scoring has been hard to come by. According to Matt Kalman of WEEI Boston, it’s not a problem that president Cam Neely and company are willing to “wait too long” to solve.
Neely knows that the Bruins cannot possibly top their performance from last season, a Round Two defeat at the hands of the division rival Tampa Bay Lightning, with just one line of production. Yet, that is more or less what they have had so far. Beyond the top line, second line mainstay David Krejci has been playing well with nine points to date. However, he has had little help, as frequent linemates Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen have failed to build upon breakout rookie campaigns and have been held to just three points apiece. Calder hopeful Ryan Donato has been anything but and was recently demoted after recording just a single point in eleven games. Even surprise top-nine regulars Joakim Nordstrom and Anders Bjork have just two points each. This also comes after prospects Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, and Jack Studnicka all failed to claim an open third-line center spot in camp, a role initially held by veteran David Backes, who was scoreless through seven games before getting injured. Kalman recently opined that Backes should not necessarily even return to the Bruins lineup once healthy.
Neely told Kalman that “we recognize we don’t want to sit around, wait too long, for something that may or may not happen”, as management’s patience with the lack of secondary scoring is running out. He spoke individually on each of the four struggling younsters – DeBrusk, Heinen, Donato, and Bjork – expressing varying degrees of trust in their ability to bounce back, but simply said as a group the young forwards need to improve in all three zones. There is no reason to think that any of the four will turn things around, especially without some shakeup to the roster.
So what could be the next move? Speaking with TSN 1050 in Toronto yesterday, insider Darren Dreger stated that he thinks the Bruins would be willing to part with one of Heinen, 23, or Bjork, 22, in the right deal. The pair share a similar skill set and ceiling and neither has made much of an impact thus far. Of the two, Heinen’s stock is higher, fresh off of a 47-point campaign that placed him among the top ten in rookie scorers. However, Bjork himself was on pace for a 30+ point season prior to season-ending injury and has looked the better of the two thus far this season. Using the last-place Los Angeles Kings as an example, Dreger speculates that a cap-strapped club like L.A. might be willing to part with a Tyler Toffoli or Tanner Pearson for a package based around a young, affordable, and controllable asset like Heinen or Bjork. Beyond Dreger’s hypothetical, the Bruins could also deal from their wealth of defensive prospects or dangle a mid-round draft pick in order to land some help. Established young forwards of any kind would likely be the primary target group, but impending unrestricted free agent centers could also make an immediate difference. The Bruins could kick the tires on the likes of Matt Duchene, Kevin Hayes, Jason Spezza, and Brock Nelson before too long. Neely has made it clear that the team won’t wait to fix their secondary scoring and a deal could occur any time now.