Let’s get this part out of the way right now - this team will not go very far with the stars not playing well. In that sense, depth decisions are not the problem and “fixing the depth” will not “fix the team”.
That said, there seems to be a portion of the fan base that is under the belief that because the big problem is at the top end, depth issues don’t matter.
Statistically, changing a team’s goal differential by three has typically been shown to be worth about a point in the standings. That’s a league average and can end up varying from team to team based on when those goals do or don’t happen, but it’s a decent baseline to work from as teams don’t stray too much from it over a full season.
It’s difficult to say just how many goals could have been scored (or saved) with better depth choices, but how many goals would have been saved or scored by keeping Chris DiDomenico in the lineup over claiming Gabriel Dumont? Or calling up Colin White instead of giving Dumont regular shifts with Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau in recent games? Not putting Tom Pyatt on the ice to start (or anytime during) overtime? Alexandre Burrows on the power play? Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf out for yet another defensive zone start that leads to the team getting hemmed in for an extended stretch?
Want a more concrete and recent example? Just look to Ben Harpur getting walked for the first goal in LA on Thursday. He was out of his depth, and would not have been in that position if he was not paired with Erik Karlsson.
It’s not hard to see how a few better depth decisions would have resulted in at least a handful more goals for and fewer against. If the impact so far this season were six goals - that’s an extra goal scored or saved every five games or so, which may be a bit conservative - it could add two points to the standings so far.
Two points isn’t very much, but like I said - this isn’t going to make or break the season. So what good are two extra points when you’re sitting at 29th in the league?
Fun fact: The Bruins are currently third in the Atlantic division, the spot the Senators need to catch, and are seven points up on Ottawa. The Senators play the Bruins four times this season, all yet to come. If the Sens were to sweep that season series in regulation (yes, a very tall order - but something they’ve got some measure of control over) and earn the same number of points as the Bruins for the rest of the remaining games, Ottawa finishes ahead of Boston by a single point, likely passing the rest of the divisional bubble in the process. The margin for this to happen without requiring the B’s to pick up a few extra losses is razor thin at this point (we already have to hope they lose their game in hand), but it’s there.
Two more points and we don’t need to rely on Boston losing that game in hand. Three points, maybe one of those head to heads goes to overtime. Four points and there’s room for an extra loss while the players at the top of the roster get their games together.
Getting the stars going again is absolutely the most important thing for this team’s success. But better depth choices this season could be buying more time for that to happen.