After what was a successful centennial season, the work for the Boston Bruins is only just beginning. General manager Don Sweeney has numerous key decisions to make and how he wants to go about constructing the roster for the 2024-25 season. 

Sweeney and Cam Neely spoke to the media and addressed things they are seeking this summer. Sweeney said that he wants to look for players that can come in and provide secondary scoring. Furthermore, Neely identified adding more speed to the lineup. He went on to say what he wants to see out of this team next season, “But, yeah, maybe a little faster and we’d like to see a little bit more 50/50 puck battle wins. That’s an area where you have to want the puck more than the other team.” That’s a start with identifying the needs and what appears to be the focal point of the offseason. However, there is another area that could in fact be addressed.

The center position saw tremendous growth for the Bruins, as Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha both rose to the occasion. Together, they combined for 117 points and both set career highs for themselves. However, the team could look to upgrade and get a boost down the middle of the ice. Elliotte Friedman on the 32 Thoughts Podcast mentioned that the Bruins could look to bring in Vancouver Canucks center Elias Lindholm. Lindholm is a pending free agent and a player the Bruins could have interest in. But does it make sense and why is there a need for a center? 

Bruins Needing Center Depth 

There’s nothing but great things you can say about what Coyle and Zacha achieved this season. Filling the shoes of Patrice Bergeron, who likely will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and David Krejci, who is a franchise icon, is not an easy task. But they did it and did it effectively. But the Bruins could use more depth. Coyle eluded to what they could look to add and the type of player that would be a good addition saying, 

“I mean, we pride ourselves on being two-way players. That’s what I strive to be. That’s what we’ve had here [with] Bergeron, Krejci, those guys. That’s what you want. You know, someone who’s played both ends of the ice, produces, meshes well, and is a good team guy. You can always add in that department and make it better. If that’s the plan, we’ll welcome a guy like that with open arms.”

During the postseason run, Zacha moved to the winger position and Morgan Geekie was bumped to the top two lines. Not to mention Matthew Poitras‘ injury was a big blow to the team’s depth. Aside from just a depth standpoint, there is one factor that plays into needing a center. 

Faceoffs are key and can help lead to puck possession. Also, having a player that can win a crucial faceoff in the dying stages of the game is important. The days of Bergeron taking those important draws are out the window, so having someone crucial for those moments is missing. During the regular season, things did go well, as Zacha, Coyle, and fourth-line center John Beecher finished above 50% for a success rate. However, the playoffs were an entirely different story, which leads us to this conversation. In the playoffs, here’s how things went in the faceoff circle: 

  • Zacha: 47.37%
  • Coyle: 47.98%
  • Beecher: 46.15%
  • Geekie: 45.77%
  • Frederic: 36.67%

Safe to say, the Bruins could use help in this regard, which precisely leads up to Lindholm. 

Elias Lindholm Filling a Void

You can make a case that the Bruins don’t have a true number-one center. Lindholm is a player who has centered the top line in his career and has had overall success. 

Dakota Joshua, Elias Lindholm, and Conor Garland of the Vancouver Canucks (Photo by Ethan Cairns/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Lindholm has shown to bring offense to his game. He is a player that has always hovered around the 40-50 point range, but popped off for a career-high 82 points in 82 regular season games during the 2021-22 season. Also, he was flanked by Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, who finished with over 100 points each. Lindholm is a three-time 20-goal scorer and has reached the 40-goal mark once. But he is much more than his offensive game, which makes him a fit for the Bruins. 

Related: 4 Bruins’ Offseason Targets to Address Goal-Scoring Struggles

Lindholm is responsible defensively and plays a strong two-way game. In fact, he finished second behind Bergeron for the Selke Trophy in 2022, so he does have that added element. He finished that season with 55 takeaways and a 52.9% success rate on his faceoffs. In the 2023-24 season, he was just as successful, as he finished with 40 takeaways and a 56.4% success rate on his faceoffs. That’s the most intriguing part because he would be an immediate upgrade over what’s already in place. 

Also, Lindholm brings immediate depth to the Bruins. He can play in all situations and also be a player that can come onto the ice in crucial situations. If there is one thing the Bruins showed is they are okay down the middle, but could use a boost. Friedman mentioned Lindholm, but there are other names the Bruins can turn to if he chooses to sign elsewhere. 

Plucking Chandler Stephenson From Vegas 

Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy has some stellar depth down the middle of the ice. Star center Jack Eichel mans the top line and acquiring Tomas Hertl at the trade deadline gives them a solid 1-2 punch. However, the price to pay for that is potentially losing center Chandler Stephenson, who has been an effective player for the Golden Knights. 

Chandler Stephenson Vegas Golden Knights
Chandler Stephenson, Vegas Golden Knights (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

His career started slow with the Washington Capitals, but took off once he landed in Sin City. Since the 2019-20 season, Stephenson has seen his game progress and evolve. He has surpassed the 20-point mark in every season and has even reached the 20-goal mark once. This player is increasingly intriguing for the Bruins, as he has had two 60-point seasons (2021-22, 2022-23) and is coming off a 51-point season during the 2023-24 campaign. But the element to his game is what the Bruins need and is much like Lindholm. 

Faceoffs, faceoffs, and more faceoffs. Stephenson is another player that can come in and excel in the faceoff circle. From the 2021-22 season until this season, he has a 54.23% faceoff win percentage. Like most centers that are in the fold for the Bruins, they can play the wing position, so Stephenson would fit in nicely. He would give the Bruins depth and versatility and would be a huge boost down the middle of the ice. 

Newcomers Would Fit in With the Group 

Even with a successful season, there is always room to add and upgrade. For the Bruins, there are key aspects of the roster that could use a boost and one of those happens to be the center position. Lindholm and Stephenson would be perfect additions to what is an already good hockey team. In fact, players on the roster would welcome those additions with open arms, especially noted by Coyle. 

Bruins reporter Ty Anderson asked him how he would be recruiting players to come play in Boston and he said, 

“You want guys to come here who are gonna help, be good team guys, and fit in. But usually when you come in here, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to fit in because you just get ingrained in the culture and how it is here. And there’s no other way. You’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t mesh in here and that’s just how it is.”

Safe to say, any player that comes to play for Boston and represents the Black and Gold will be welcomed in with open arms and these two players would fit like a glove.

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