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Thursday, 17 July 2014 03:45

My (Not-So) Drastic Line Combinations for the Boston Bruins

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With the loss of Jarome Iginla to free agency this summer, the Boston Bruins have a hole in the right side of their first line.  During the tenure of head coach Claude Julien, his Bruins team has been very reluctant to make wholesale changes to multiple lines when players are lost, injured, or underperforming.  Promoting Loui Eriksson from the third line to the first line would seem to be the most obvious replacement, which would keep the majority of the forwards playing with familiar teammates next season.  But what would happen if Julien, team president Cam Neely, and GM Peter Chiarelli decided to shake up the pairings to start the season?  Other than the rise in heart attacks from Bruins fans and Michael Felger?

Here are my current line proposals:

First line - Carl Soderberg, Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson

Second line - Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Reilly Smith

Third line - Brad Marchand, Chris Kelly, Matt Fraser         

Merlot Fourth line - Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, Justin Florek

*Side note: I put Fraser and Florek in the starting lineup because they were in the lineup during the playoffs last season.  In reality those two spots could also be filled with Ryan Spooner, Alexander Khokhlachev, Seth Griffith, Bobby Robins, first round pick David Pastrnak, or other prospects.  And yes I left out Jordan Caron on purpose.  Personally I liked what I saw from Fraser and Florek so they got the nod.

No I did not make a mistake numbering the lines.  Let's all stop kidding ourselves.  Any line with Patrice Bergeron on it is the first line.  He's the best player on the team and one of the best centers in the league.  His line is on the ice to start a majority of the games, and when the team needs a big faceoff win or a clutch shift he's on the ice.  When Zdeno Chara retires, Bergeron will be the next captain of the Bruins.  So his line in my opinion should be called the top line.

Putting Bergeron with Soderberg and Eriksson is the best top line combination that I could come up with.  Soderberg is technically a center, but is a left shot and played wing on the third line for a good portion of last season.  Soderberg and Eriksson were often the top two players on the ice during the playoffs, so why split them up?  Plus pairing them with one of the best players in the league can only help them grow as a tandem, with Bergeron hopefully unlocking the potential that we were told Eriksson had when he was acquired last July.

On the second line, Krejci and Lucic stay together, adding Reilly Smith to the mix.  Smith was tremendous during the first half of last season before tailing off in the second half.  He was a force in the playoffs, scoring four goals including two power-play goals and two game-winning goals.    Elevating him to the newly-named second line would be risky, but he doubled Eriksson's scoring output last season and proved that he was much more than a throw-in piece of Eriksson's trade to Boston.  The Bruins have preached this offseason that they were trusting their young talent to fill holes in the roster, so why not move Smith up to the Lucic-Krejci line?

The third line would be a demotion for Brad Marchand, but after a pitiful performance in the playoffs why should he be rewarded with a top-six spot?  Marchand had 25 goals in the regular season, but had long gaps in his scoring during the year.  He had just four goals in his first 31 regular-season games, and had just four more goals in his last 24 games.  Add that with the scoreless streak throughout the two rounds of the playoffs and you get someone who needs to be demoted down to the third line.

The fourth line would be missing an enforcer with Shawn Thornton moving to the Florida Panthers this offseason.  This would open the door for Providence enforcer Bobby Robins, but the team has stated that they are ready to move on from having a fighter on the roster.  Some fans have clamored for the team to go really young and pursue trading Campbell, Paille, or Kelly, but the leadership and special teams play that those three players bring to the squad would be almost impossible to replace. 

So those are my proposed line combinations for the 2014-15 Boston Bruins.  They might look like drastic changes but in reality only three players are moving lines.  Soderberg and Eriksson played together last year, as did Lucic and Krejci and Kelly and Fraser in limited games for Fraser.  Barring injuries, trades, or poor performance in training camp, there are only two open spots for a number of prospects (and first-round busts like Caron) to claim.  Hopefully this column brought a little excitement to a dull offseason for the Bruins.  Unless you like hearing about first-round busts who get signed to a contract just in the off chance that another team has an opening in exchange for some skate sharpeners.  Yes I'm definitely not the president of the Jordan Caron fan club.  However if anyone knows how I can get in the Carl Soderberg fan club let me know.

Adam Belue

My name is Adam Belue, I'm from Fall River, MA, and I'm a sports fanatic.  I'll watch and write about just about any and every sport, even the fringe ones that aren't really sports like bowling, poker, and ultimate frisbee.  I'm a huge Green Bay Packers fan, and a self-proclaimed New England Patriots hater (and proud of it!)... which makes my job in a sporting goods store quite interesting.  I'm a big fan of the other local teams (Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics), along with the Alabama Crimson Tide and college football as a whole.  I may be a bit obsessed (or a lot obsessed) with Taylor Swift, and I've seen her in concert four times so far... some of the best times I've had by the way her concerts are quite the experience!  I'm also a huge tennis fan, and have played the sport for a good majority of my life.  I wish more people watched and appreciated tennis.  I'm currently a part of the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox Beat Team on CLNS Radio, and post a weekly fantasy football and college football column during the season.