It begins anew.
The 2019-20 Bruins, minus key young defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, will flood the ice Friday morning at Warrior/Brighton for the first time since sweeping up the splinters of their shattered souls from Causeway St. in June followi ng their Game 7 loss to the Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.
Are they over it?
“I don’t think you’ll ever be over it,” offered veteran defenseman Torey Krug. “It’s something that will sting forever . . . the what-ifs, the questions. It’s a tough pill to swallow. I don’t know if you can ever get over it. But you to have find a way to move on. It can serve as motivation. It can still sting, still hurt, whatever, but we have games to play in the near future and you have to prepare for it.”
Closing in on their 100-year anniversary (good seats still available for the 2024-25 season), the Bruins enter the new season still nursing the Game 7 hangover. It is but one story line, one possibly that will linger, perhaps depending on how they come out of the gate in October.
One way to shed a persistent, nagging memory is to pile up some W’s, bank some points in what again looks to be a very competitive Eastern Conference.
From a management and coaching perspective, the message to the troops has been made clear about how last season concluded: foggettaboutit.
“We talked about it today,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “It’s time to turn the page. It’s time to move on. And I hope they feel the same way. You look at our veteran group, right? We’ve got Stanley Cup champions in there . . . gold medalists . . . guys that have been captains in the National Hockey League . . . future Hall of Famers. I think they’re hockey players and they know what’s at stake when the puck drops and when we get ready to go [Friday]. Listen, a lot of good things last year, but we didn’t reach our ultimate goal.”
With the subject of the Game 7 hangover as the backdrop, here are some of the other important story lines as workouts get underway starting at 10 a.m. Friday:
■ David Backes is still here.
Despite countless rumors over the summer that the $30 million forward would be headed to a new port o’ call for 2019-20, he’ll be in his familiar No. 42 sweater to start camp.
Looking lean and fit and sounding as sincere as ever, the 35-year-old center/wing says he’s all in — until or unless he hears differently.
“I’ve got plenty of fuel burning inside of me,” said Backes, “and a fire.”
Backes confirmed he turned over his eight-team trade list at the end of the season, and now will direct his attention on trying to find a roster fit.
“I know that I need to be a functional athlete to do what I do,” he said, “and that’s play on the ice and contribute to winning hockey. We’ve done a pretty good job of that and I want to continue that this year.”
Cassidy likes Backes, respects him as a person and veteran, but it’s the coach’s business to win — be it with or without him in the mix.
“We’ve learned to have a professional relationship about it,” said Cassidy, noting the unsavory aspect of sitting veteran players. “I like David as a person. When he’s in the lineup, he always brings intangibles. When I have to tell him he is out, like I said, I never enjoy that part of it. But if that is the road we have to take to put the best team on the ice, then well that’s just what you have to do.”
■ David Krejci needs help.
Sound familiar? The team’s highest-paid player again will enter a new season with his linemates unknown. He likely again will have Jake DeBrusk on his left side, and then . . . ?
Karson Kuhlman is one candidate for the right side. Ditto for the oft-injured Anders Bjork (who looked strong in rookie camp). Backes does not have the foot speed to play there regularly. Perhaps Charlie Coyle will get another look there, although the Bruins prefer him as the No. 3 pivot.
“If he goes to the right side,” Cassidy said, noting what a move of Coyle to right wing could mean for Backes fitting in somewhere, “then it gets even more gummy.”
■ The McAvoy/Carlo contract situation.
No news here, folks, on these budding multimillionaires. They could both sign Friday morning. They could both opt to run out the clock (Dec. 1) and not be seen in the NHL this season.
Over the weekend, another high-profile RFA defenseman, Zach Werenski, signed a three-year deal for $15 million. At the moment, it doesn’t look like his pact serves as any sort of a template for Boston’s two premier RFAs.
■ Will there be carry through among the kids?
Top centers Patrice Bergeron and Krejci both are working with high odometers. They’ll be the two key pivots when it comes to the offense this season. But odometers don’t run in reverse. The Bruins need kids such as DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, perhaps Bjork and Kuhlman, or anyone, to show they can get the motor running and keep it running.
“It’s a lot tougher going through playoff time when you are dealing with a room full of 20-year-olds versus 30-year-olds who’ve been through it all,” said Brad Marchand, reflecting on the bigger picture of playoff hockey. “So I guess that is the give-and-take to it all. You want to incorporate young guys, but you still need that veteran presence.”
It all begins now, all of three months after the abrupt, jarring ending that was the 4-1 loss on June 12.
“We’re all in the same position, every team,” said Bergeron. “We have to climb that mountain all the way back up all over again — a lot of work, a great challenge, I’m just happy to back with the guys.”