Somewhat like the Stanley Cup, the Boston Bruins came out of the summer with a dent, but nothing that can't be easily repaired.
Unlike the Chicago Blackhawks, the previous NHL champs, the Bruins will be returning just about all the contributors who won the franchise╣s first Stanley Cup since 1972. The 'Hawks ended a 49-year drought when they won the Cup in 2010, but then-GM Stan Bowman was forced to dismantle the team because of salary cap restrictions.
The revamped 'Hawks saw their title defence end in Game 7 of the first round against the Vancouver Canucks.
No team has repeated as Stanley Cup champions in the post-salary cap era (though the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins made it to consecutive finals, each winning one). You have to go back to the Wings in
1997 and 1998 for the last time a team lifted the Cup in consecutive summers.
So, could the Boston Bruins do it this season?
They have a lot going for them.
The B's will defend the Cup with virtually the same lineup, minus a couple of key components. Chemistry can be a fleeting thing. Even the loss of a couple of players can effect the sum of the whole, but the Bruins look to be in a position to compensate adequately.
"We want to do as much as we can to get ourselves back to that point where we were having fun playing with one another, playing with that team chemistry that we had," Bruins forward Milan Lucic told reporters at the B's annual golf tournament. "I think that's our main focus in training camp. Get ourselves back into shape, but also create that team chemistry we had last year that was so great."
Veteran Mark Recchi, who was a stabilizing presence and played on the second line, retired.
Winger Michael Ryder, a third-liner, left as a free agent. So did defenceman Tomas Kaberle, who was expected to do big things in Beantown, but never delivered. He wound up playing in the Bruins' third defence pair through the playoffs.
There are capable replacements, though.
Rookie Tyler Seguin had some big moments in the playoffs and could join the top-six group this season. Benoit Pouliot was signed as a free agent and Jordan Caron could finally stick up front (the B's also have Ryan Spooner and Jamie Arniel in the pipeline).
Defenceman Joe Corvo was brought in as a free agent and Steven Kampfer, who was injured last season, also provides depth.
So, it looks like the Bruins could absorb the losses.
It also looks like there is room for growth and improvement from within the lineup, as well.
The forward group, for the most part, is young and has not reached its prime yet.
The oldest guy on the first line is Nathan Horton at 26. Lucic is 23 and David Krejci is 25.
Second-line centre Patrice Bergeron is 26 and winger Brad Marchand, who signed a two-year deal Wednesday, is 23. It's conceivable Seguin, 19, could round out the top six. That's an average age of less than 24 years for your front-line guys.
That youthful energy will be valuable in overcoming a Stanley Cup hangover.
The blue line has veterans Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Corvo, and some youth with Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Kampfer.
Goaltender Tim Thomas, only the second guy to win the Vezina, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup in the same year, will be 38 by next spring, but with his work ethic, he should have another good run in him. Backup Tuukka Rask is capable of playing more to take some of the load off Thomas, if required.
Adding to the Bruins' chances of repeating is the uncertain landscape of the Eastern Conference. Without knowing when Sidney Crosby might play again, what do you make of the Pittsburgh Penguins? A good team that could be great.
Can the Washington Capitals ever figure out what it takes to win in the playoffs?
The Philadelphia Flyers blew up their core, shipping out Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Can Jaromir Jagr be a star again?The other four teams that made the playoffs in the East last year -- the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers -- really need something special to happen if they hope to win the Cup.
Also helping the Bruins this year is the schedule.
They've traded in pre-season trips to Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic for Halifax and Ottawa.
They ease into the schedule with 13 of their first 17 games at home.
Another duckboat parade in Beantown in June?
I'd say the odds are pretty good.