If the 2021 preseason taught me anything, it’s that if you wanna get the masses fired up, you talk about Jack Studnicka.
Considered the top prospect in the Bruins organization for what feels like three years now, the 22-year-old Studnicka put forth his best attempt to make the NHL roster this training camp. In action for four games this preseason, Studnicka led the Bruins in goals (two), points (four), and shots (16). Studnicka even thrived as a crash test dummy, as his 10 hits taken were also tied for tops among all Boston skaters (Jesper Froden also absorbed 10 knocks during the preseason).
But when the Bruins finalized their initial roster for the 2021-22 season by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, Studnicka’s name was not included, and it was off to Providence.
Now, the fact that the Bruins did this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to any of us. They repeatedly dropped hints that this was going to happen throughout the preseason, even as Studnicka did his absolute (and undeniable) best to force some uncomfortable conversations.
When Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was first asked if Studnicka was making it difficult to deny him a spot, Cassidy made it clear that Studnicka was basically going to have to outperform Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, and Erik Haula to win a spot on this roster. That confirmed that the Bruins weren’t interested in slotting Studnicka out of his comfort zone on the fourth line, and that the short-lived 2021 season experiment with Studnicka on the wing was likely over.
As important as it is for the Bruins to get Studnicka’s NHL game on a fast track before the proverbial banana turns gross (why are bananas only good for a 15-minute window at 3:35 a.m. and then black as a My Chem parade by the morning?), it was equally important to do it in the proper role. Cassidy alluded to the ‘problem’ with putting young players in ill-fitting roles earlier in training camp, too.
And as it relates to the guys that Studnicka had to bump, Haula is actually one of two skaters who matched Studnicka in points during the preseason (Brad Marchand was the other), and Haula did it in 48:43 compared to Studnicka’s 67:04. Coyle, meanwhile, squashed any idea of a competition when he jumped into the mix in preseason game No. 6 and recorded a goal and assist in just 16:40. I mean, it honestly may have been over as soon as Coyle scored in the first period really.
It was as bad a beat as Studnicka could’ve been dealt.
But that’s, and I cannot stress this enough, fine right now.
Even with Curtis Lazar out, theres no sense in playing Studnicka out of his comfort zone as a fourth-line right wing. You’d just get pissed at the lack of minutes and development in the spot he needs to develop in to be a piece of the Bruins’ future. He’s also a suboptimal 13th forward skater option compared to the Opening Night rostered Anton Blidh. Studnicka watching from six floors doesn’t do anything for anybody, and it could arguably derail his momentum more than a demotion to the AHL.
There’s also nothing that says Studnicka will not get his shot in 2021-22. Like Kanye said, you can live through anything if John Moore was on the waiver wire and then on the Bruins’ Opening Night roster in a span of 53 hours.
No, but really, you simply can’t lose sight of the fact that the Bruins went out and signed Haula and Tomas Nosek to multi-year contracts on the first day of free agency, and that they both told the Bruins their preference is to play their natural center positions. And after building lines and chemistry with that in mind for four weeks, it would’ve made little sense to essentially blow it up and totally reconfigure the bottom-six forward grouping five days before the start of the season to fit in a player who still doesn’t require waivers to be sent down to the minors (where he’ll play 20 minutes a night and in all situations).
It’s only natural for the Bruins to want to use their first month of an 82-game marathon (much different than last year’s 56-game sprint with little practice time) to see what they have with their new toys and lines before making the call for backup.
And if Studnicka is as good as the Bruins hope he can be, then this trip to the minors will be a short-but-productive one, as his push will continue and ultimately lead him to where he can truly be most effective for the Big B’s.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.