It might not feel like it outside where the temperature remains in the 70s and 80s all around New England but hockey season is almost here. The Bruins have been holding informal captains’ practices for a few weeks, many of their rookies took part in a competition last weekend in Buffalo and training camp officially begins for the entire team (not counting the guys competing at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto) on Thursday. Besides the team’s brand-new state of the art training facility-Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, next to New Balance’s headquarters-the roster should look somewhat different when the regular season begins on Oct.13 (7, NESN) in Columbus against the Blue Jackets. Loui Eriksson signed with Vancouver, Dennis Seidenberg’s contract was bought out and David Backes inked a huge five-year deal worth $30 million. Those are the most notable moves from an unexpectedly quiet offseason for the Black and Gold.
There is no hiding from the fact that the team is coming off two very disappointing campaigns in a row, missing out on a playoff spot by losing their final contest in each of the last two seasons. Playoffs or bust should be the unofficial mantra of this year’s edition since head coach Claude Julien, general manager Don Sweeney, president Cam Neely not to mention numerous key players could be fired and/or traded if it looks like another spring will be devoid of playoff hockey. As always, there are plenty of intriguing storylines coming into the season: coming off a career-year, Brad Marchand (team-high 37 goals, 24 assists, team-high plus-21 in 2015-16) is expected to get rewarded with a big pay-day any day now as he’s entering the final year of his current contract (he’ll earn $4.5 million this season and become an unrestricted free agent next summer). Entering his third NHL season but still only 20 years old, much is expected of enigmatic young winger David Pastrnak (15 goals, 11 assists in 51 games last season). He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer so no doubt the B’s will want to see continued improvement from the Czech. Finally, defenseman Torey Krug received a generous four-year deal this summer worth $21 million. There will always be some holes in his game but at the moment, he’s Boston’s most dependable defenseman which speaks to their endless question marks on the back line.
The World Cup pushed the start of the NHL regular season schedule back a week with the preseason starting next week: Boston hosts Columbus on Monday at TD Garden and Detroit on Wednesday, their first two games of six (3 home, 3 away) that don’t count. Their first three regular season games are all on the road (also Toronto and Winnipeg), meaning that their home opener isn’t until Oct. 20 vs. New Jersey (7, NESN). The Red Sox look destined to be in the playoffs and the Patriots always dominate the airwaves but soon enough, the Bruins will come into much sharper focus.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate