Bruins roster analysis: Comparing the projected 2022-23 lineup to the average Cup winner

In 2022-23, Jeremy Swayman could take the next step toward becoming an NHL ace. Linus Ullmark should be right behind Swayman, playing either a support role or that of a busier veteran goalie.

Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm should be as sturdy of a No. 1 pairing as there is in the league, once McAvoy returns from injury. Every other defenseman is under contract. Under ex-coach Bruce Cassidy in 2021-22, the Bruins were the tightest defensive unit in the league when it came to expected goals against per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, per Natural Stat Trick.

Goaltending and defense may be why general manager Don Sweeney has high aspirations for the 2022-23 team — provided it stays healthy and Patrice Bergeron returns, among other critical variables.

“No,” Sweeney answered when asked if he needed immediate futures replenishment. “I feel we have a very competitive team. Am I going to make some changes? Some necessary changes? Absolutely. Part of that will be some of the younger guys that are coming on board, whether or not they can make a difference. Maybe we get a glimpse of that with some of the injuries and rehabs we have to go through.”

McAvoy (shoulder), Brad Marchand (hips) and Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder) will not be available for the season opener. Whether Bergeron will be in uniform is unknown. It remains to be seen how long Cassidy’s replacement will need to acclimate to the surroundings.

For Bergeron to return, he would have to believe a Stanley Cup is a realistic pursuit. That may be far-fetched.

The Athletic’s Dom Luszczyszyn constructed a blueprint for contenders based on a decade of champions using Game Score Value Added. There’s no single method for team building, but the blueprint helps pinpoint patterns that have led to success. 

There are 12 common elements that emerge as the staple pieces on those championship-caliber teams:

  • Elite first-line center who is among the very best players in the world.
  • Elite first-line winger to support the elite center.
  • Two other top-line-level wingers on each of the top two lines.
  • Top-line-level center to play behind the elite center.
  • Two more top-six forwards for depth in the middle six.
  • Elite No. 1 defenseman.
  • A second No. 1-level defenseman to play behind him.
  • A top-pairing-level defenseman to help anchor a strong second pair with the No. 2.
  • Another top-pairing-caliber defender to crush soft minutes on the third pair.
  • A top-10-caliber starting goaltender.

This is just one way to analyze. But it’s the measuring stick we’ll use for the Bruins, set against both projections (based on three years of data weighed by recency and adjusted for age) and actual values (per 82 games, to equal the playing field) from this season to see who measures up within the range per position. 

Bruins roster analysis

First, let’s look at how the Bruins roster as most recently constructed compares to the averages from a decade of champions:

Note: Gold checkmark is above the acceptable range from the average Cup winner. Black checkmark is in line with the average Cup winner. Gray checkmark is below average relative to the average Cup winner but within range. Red X is below the acceptable range.

By these measures, the Bruins came out quite well. Bergeron, Marchand, McAvoy, Grzelcyk, David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall exceeded expectations in their respective categories to qualify for the above-acceptable range of an average Cup winner. 

Of the 12 elements, only one category fell into the below-acceptable range. It was, however, a big one: goaltending. 

It was one of Edmonton’s red X’s, as well. Below-acceptable goaltending was one reason the Oilers fell short. 

Things get dicey, however, when projecting a possible 2022-23 roster. The key is Bergeron. The Bruins also may have to trade Pastrnak if they sense any hesitation on the right wing’s part to re-sign.

For this exercise, we’ll use Erik Haula and Charlie Coyle as the top two centers. Pastrnak and Hall would be the top-line wings. Jake DeBrusk and Craig Smith would serve as top-six forwards. 

You can see more red than historically usual on the Bruins’ ledger this time. It looks more like those of the 16 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs. 

The weakness is in the middle. None of the eight teams that advanced past the first round this year were in the red in both elite and top-line center categories.

At their ages, Marchand (34), Smith (32), Haula (31), Hall (30) and Coyle (30) are either at or past their primes. This does not improve the picture.

These comparisons also do not account for the fact that Marchand, McAvoy and Grzelcyk — three of the five players who qualify for above-acceptable range in their respective categories — will be unavailable at the start of 2022-23 following offseason repairs. 

To make that point clear, the lines for the season opener could roll out as follows:

Left wing Center Right wing

Taylor Hall

Erik Haula

David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk

Charlie Coyle

Craig Smith

Trent Frederic

Jack Studnicka

Fabian Lysell

Nick Foligno

Tomas Nosek

Oskar Steen

It’s better on defense, but still compromised without McAvoy and Grzelcyk:

Left defense Right defense

Hampus Lindholm

Brandon Carlo

Derek Forbort

Connor Clifton

Jakub Zboril

Mike Reilly

As for the net, this is where the Bruins are relying on game-stealing stuff early on:

Goalies

Jeremy Swayman

Linus Ullmark

As Sweeney noted above, he is committed to making changes for 2022-23. He could trade one of his left-shot defensemen. He could take offers on Foligno, Haula, Nosek and Smith, all of whom have one year left on their deals and are unlikely to be re-signed. The roster that stands today will not be the one that takes the ice for Game 1.

But the GM does not have much cap space. He is short on futures to use as trade capital. 

As of now, the Bruins do not have enough good players.

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(Photo of Charlie McAvoy: James Guillory / USA Today)