With the 2018-19 season coming to a close, the Bears may be feeling a bit of disappointment. Being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs during the 80th anniversary season was not a result that many people wanted. Despite the dark moments during this season, however, the Bears still have a lot to be optimistic about for next season. There’s always room for improvement, and the Bears look to be taking steps in the right direction. Here are a few things to look forward to next season.
- Chris Bourque
Despite the Bears’ struggles this season, Chris Bourque continued to produce at his usual pace. With four games to go, Bourque currently sits at 50 points in 59 games, making this his 9th 50+ point season in his career. Despite getting older and constantly having line mates shuffled around, Bourque has shown no signs of slowing down. The Bears can count on him to help lead the team again next year… but, hopefully this time, he’ll lead them back into the Calder Cup Playoffs.
- The Goaltending Tandem
When taking a look at both goalies’ numbers for the Bears this season, they seem underwhelming. However, statistics don’t tell the whole story in this situation. Defensive struggles have been common, so mediocre goalie numbers are partially a product of that. All season long, both Pheonix Copley and Vitek Vanecek have provided steady play in net for the Bears. Copley started 39 games, posting 15 wins, 16 losses, and six overtime losses, with a 2.86 GAA and a .897 save percentage. Vanecek started 28 games, posting 11 wins, 10 losses, and 2 overtime losses, with a 2.98 GAA and a save percentage of .890. Although both goalies had their struggles throughout the season, play from both of them was generally solid; they gave the Bears a chance to win nearly every night. I was particularly impressed by Vanecek as the season went on. If given the chance, I feel like he could definitely step into the starting goalie role for the Bears next season.
- Lucas Johansen
I’ve written a lot about Lucas Johansen this season, and with good reason. I have been continually impressed by him. Again, stats don’t tell the whole story of Johansen. He’s recorded six goals and 20 assists this season, for a total of 26 points. He’s recorded all of those points while playing minimal time on the second powerplay unit, and has also shown strong defensive play. His skating ability is strong and smooth, and he’s always able to exit his zone with the puck on his stick. He shows great defensive reads and is in good position almost all the time. His knowledge of the game will just continue to get better as he plays professionally, and that is great news for Bears fans, because they could be looking at the future number one defenseman of their team.