Hall of Fame defenseman Brad Park believes his former team, the Boston Bruins, have a strong nucleus that could keep the club among the top teams for years to come. But in the salary cap era, with a lower-than-expected cap for the 2014-15 season, the Bruins are feeling the crunch.
The constraints they face forced the club to part ways with veteran forward Jarome Iginla, who tied for the team lead with 30 goals last season. The 37-year-old instead signed with the Colorado Avalanche in July.
Park believes that type of offensive production will be hard to replace.
“I think they have a very strong nucleus,” Park told ESPN.com in a recent phone conversation. “I think they’ll probably lose some offensive power with Iginla not coming back. I don’t think they have somebody capable of scoring, on a regular basis, 25-to-30 goals. Offensively, that hurts them.”
The Bruins, who recently signed key performer David Krejci to a six-year deal worth $43.5 million, have approximately $69.8 million committed for next season (the cap has been set at $69 million), according to Capgeek.com, and that is with restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug still unsigned.
Considering the obstacle that faces general manager Peter Chiarelli, many believe the Bruins will have to trade one of their defensemen. Boston currently has a glut of blueliners as they head into training camp later this month.
Park thinks the Bruins’ back end is particularly solid, and should be a strength for the club, especially if they can stay healthy.
“Defensively, they’re very sound, with [captain Zdeno] Chara, but the guy they missed the most was [Denis] Seidenberg, who is a stalwart defenseman for them,” Park said of the 33-year-old German, who missed much of the season and the entire playoffs with a knee injury. “They had to rely on Zdeno a lot. He looked a little tired and he also had that broken finger, which hindered him in the playoffs.”
As for Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask, Park still thinks the Finnish netminder has another gear to reach despite being regarded as one of the league’s best.
Though Rask was sensational last season, posting a 36-15-6 record with a .930 save percentage and a 2.04 goals-against average, Park wants to see him completely take over a game.
“I think Tuukka is still establishing a reputation. I don’t think he’s there yet,” Park said. “I only say that because it never looked like he was capable of winning a game all by himself. He is a very good goaltender, but the great goalies in the game, they’re capable of winning games all by themselves.”
If there is one thing Park would like to see from the Bruins -- and from practically the entire league -- is an increased emphasis on offense.
Park, who accrued 896 points in 1113 career NHL games, said he doesn’t feel there is enough attention to that these days.
“The one thing the league has to do or other teams have to do is really teach more offense,” Park said. "My opinion is that puck control creates consistent offense, whereas dump and chase does not. That came into the game with [the Philadelphia Flyers] because they were afraid of turnovers.
“I look around the league and exactly who's teaching offense? I don’t see a lot of offensive guys coaching offensive skills.”
Park actually pointed to another one of his former teams, the New York Rangers, as a prime example of what an emphasis on offense can bring.
Though the Bruins were considered the team to beat in the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, they made a surprising exit in the second round. Meanwhile, the Rangers knocked off the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals and advanced to the Stanley Cup finals in their first season under new coach Alain Vigneault.
“There was a dramatic improvement with the Rangers under Vigneault," Park said. "The Rangers had some latitude last year for offense, which under [former coach John Tortorella] they didn’t have that same latitude. It really helped their performance when they weren’t held to such strict guidelines.”
Park still follows both the Rangers and Bruins and, though he has long lived in the Boston area (he and his wife are currently in the process of moving to a warmer locale), Park doesn’t attend many Bruins games in person.
He’s enjoying “semi-retirement,” which includes making appearances, speaking engagements, golf outings and the like. If he were to be at every game, he’d find himself nit-picking and he knows that wouldn’t be too enjoyable.
“When I watch, I critique it,” Park said. “A lot of ex-players go [to games] and critique. I try to stay away from that.”