BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins will have undergone a bit of a makeover when the puck drops on the 2014-15 season Wednesday night at TD Garden.
For years, there’s been little turnover on the team’s roster. The core has remained the same since the team won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the likes of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask.
The supporting cast has changed slightly in the past, but this season youth and character will invigorate the Bruins on and off the ice.
General manager Peter Chiarelli submitted his roster at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and the Bruins will have forwards Matt Fraser, Bobby Robins, Ryan Spooner, Craig Cunningham and Brian Ferlin, along with goalies Malcolm Subban and Niklas Svedberg all eligible to play against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night.
At the start of camp, the Bruins had four open positions at forward, but since forwards David Krejci (undisclosed) and Gregory Campbell (mid-core) are sidelined with injuries, Boston’s opening night roster will be tweaked just a bit.
But Fraser, Robins and Spooner all have a chance to stay with the Bruins if they continue to perform.
“It’s nice to be on the roster for right now, but the hard work starts now,” Fraser said. “I’m excited about it. I’m excited about the opportunity and I like that it falls on my shoulders, and it’s on my shoulders to win and compete for a spot.”
(For more from Fraser on making the opening night roster, see the video above.)
Fraser, 24, had a terrific camp. The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder is a left wing by trade, but he can play the right side too. He’s known for his shooting and scoring ability.
“He’s a shooter,” Chiarelli said. “He brings a competitive side if he can keep that up, and his skating has improved. To have a player with that release and that shot, he has to get open and he’s got to get someone to get him the puck. If he’s not doing that, he’s not as effective. That’s his dimension. He’s improved his game physically. He’s improved his fitness. He’s improved his skating to get to that point, so he’s had a good camp.”
When the Bruins won the Cup in 2011, the team’s third line of Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Michael Ryder performed on a consistent basis. Chiarelli agreed with the comparison that Fraser is a left-handed version of Ryder.
“Yeah, that’s a good example,” said Chiarelli, who added that Ryder was a little better and a little heavier on the puck.
“But Rides had put up the numbers -- a lot -- even before we got him, and Matt hasn’t yet. He’s put them up in the minor leagues,” Chiarelli said.
For all the talk about finding a way to replace Jarome Iginla’s 30-goal production from last season, Chiarelli said it’s not about the number of goals scored, but getting the timely ones that is more important.
“Our goal isn’t to recover what we lost,” Chiarelli said. “You’ve got to get the right type of goals.”
Fraser showed the ability to produce in such a manner on the big stage when he scored the winning goal in a 1-0 overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last spring. Oh, and he played the entire postseason, both for Providence and the Bruins, with a broken foot.
He had surgery in May to repair a displaced fracture in his right foot and quickly began his rehab to prepare to earn his spot when camp broke.
“It’s been a whirlwind of a summer, especially with how the season ended last year,” Fraser said. “It’s a clean slate from last year. I wanted to come in and not just earn a spot, but make a statement with this team and the management, the coaches and ultimately the players in the room. I feel like I’ve made a statement to some extent, but there’s still a lot of work left to do.”
The entire Bruins organization is pumped for Robins. A career minor leaguer who has spent nearly a decade riding buses all over the world, he has earned his spot on the Bruins’ roster and will finally make his NHL debut.
Julien played only 14 games in the NHL during his playing career, spending parts of 15 seasons in the minors. He understands the sacrifices Robins, 32, has made to reach this point and the coach is thrilled. Yes, Robins can drop the gloves and handle himself well in that aspect of the game, but his relentless style of play will fit in well for the Bruins.
“He fits that mold really well. I don’t want people thinking the only reason he’s here is that he’s not afraid to drop the gloves,” Julien said. “I think there’s a lot more to him and the part I haven’t talked about either is the fact that’s he’s a great individual that’s very well liked already in our dressing room. He’s fit in well.”
Having a dependable fourth line is important to a team’s success, especially in the playoffs. Since the Bruins’ famous Merlot Line is no longer intact, with Shawn Thornton now playing for the Florida Panthers and Campbell currently on IR with a mid-core injury, fellow energy line member Daniel Paille will be used in different ways. But once Campbell returns, Robins would fit well on the team’s fourth line.
When the Bruins drafted Spooner in the second round (No. 45 overall) in the 2010 draft, the organization knew he possessed great speed and scoring ability. After the draft, he continued to hone his skills in the OHL and he now enters his third pro season, spending the last two with the P-Bruins. He’s played a total of 27 games for the Bruins and has shown glimpses of his abilities translating to the NHL level.
When training camp opened last month, the Bruins had wanted Spooner to perform to earn one of those spots.
The Bruins weren’t happy with Spooner’s inconsistencies. A few times, Julien criticized Spooner for not taking advantage of his opportunity. The team sent a clear message when it released Spooner from camp and sent him to Providence. To see how he would respond to the adversity, the Bruins recalled him to play in the final two preseason games.
He finally proved himself and now he’s on the Bruins’ roster to start the season.
“He did come back and played those last two games and played well,” Julien said. “That’s why we have him on our team. We like him a lot.
“I don’t want people to get confused with him being in Providence thinking ‘they have no time for him.’ We like him a lot. He’s an exciting player, he’s got good speed and he’s got a lot of things, but we all know that in this league, if you’re a liability it’s hard for any coach in this league to be able to have confidence in putting him on the ice.
“Sometimes you have to learn your trade in the minors when you don’t get it. Right now I think he’s got it. How much he can have of it and if he can hold onto it, we’re going to have a great player. He has great potential but again, there comes a time where it’s in his court and he’s got to take advantage of it. We’re giving him that opportunity right now.”
Spooner admits it was disappointing to hear the criticism. He says he knows what he needs to do in order to remain in Boston, and it all comes down to consistency. If he slips in that area at any point, the Bruins will not hesitate to send him back to Providence.
“It’s a good league. I’ve played there for two seasons now and I’ve played well there,” Spooner said. “Now it’s time for me to come up here play and kind of learn here and kind of go with it. That being said, I know it’s in my hands and I have to play well. It’s up to me now.”