Last season, things did not go as planned for some members of the Boston Bruins. Whether it was because of an injury, a disappointing season, or being squeezed out by the numbers, there is room for improvement for some players as they look ahead to the 2021-22 season.
With changes to the roster from goaltending all the way out to the forwards, there will be some new names in new places when the Black and Gold gather in mid-September at Warrior Ice Arena for training camp. Here are three Bruins’ that could use a bounce-back season this upcoming campaign.
Yes, I know, I’m not breaking any news here, but it can’t possibly get any worse in 2021-22 than it did in the 56-game shortened season of 2020-21 for DeBrusk, can it? In 2017-18 as a rookie, the Edmonton, Alberta native scored 16 goals and then followed up in 2018-19 with 27. In 2019-20, he was on his way to a second consecutive season of 20 goals with 19 when the season was paused with 12 games remaining on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the Toronto playoff bubble last summer, DeBrusk was a free agent and hit the open market in October, but got no interest from other teams. In November, he re-signed with the Bruins for two years and $7.35 million with an average annual value (AAV) of $3.765 million. It was a bridge deal that was good for the player and good for the team, but things did not go as planned in the first year of the deal.
In 41 regular-season games, DeBrusk had just five goals and nine assists. He ended up in coach Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse and was a healthy scratch multiple times during the season. He ended up bouncing back and forth on the third and fourth lines late in the season and in the playoffs. Things didn’t get any better in the postseason as the 24-year-old had just two goals and an assist in 10 games. He was a healthy scratch in Game 5 against the New York Islanders in the second round.
DeBrusk was the topic of trade discussions this summer, but general manager Don Sweeney and the team have so far held onto him, with plans for him to return as a bottom-six forward this season. It would benefit both DeBrusk, who will be a restricted free agent next summer, and the Bruins if he can have a bounce-back season in 2021-22.
Carlo only played in 27 games in 2020-21, but it was not his fault. On March 5, he was on the receiving end of a high hit from Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals, which resulted in a concussion for the Bruins’ fifth-year defensemen. It also resulted in a seven-game suspension for Wilson. After missing nearly a month, he returned on March 30, but his return lasted just four periods as he left his second game back against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 2 with an upper-body injury, which turned out to be an oblique injury.
After missing nearly another month, Carlo returned at the end of the regular season and played in the first round of the playoffs against the Capitals, before getting injured in Game 4 of the second-round series against the Islanders when he took a hit from Cal Clutterbuck and missed the rest of the series.
When healthy, Carlo is a big part of the Bruins defense, which was hit hard with injuries last season. He is a key penalty killer, as well as a shutdown defensemen with his long reach that can frustrate opponents. He signed a four-year, $24.6 million contract in July, and if he can stay healthy, that would go a long way in Carlo having a bounce-back season for the Black and Gold on the blueline.
Again, I know, not a lot was expected from Frederic in 2020-21, but when he was in the lineup, he brought toughness, energy and was fun to watch. He’s not afraid to back down from some of the tough guys in the league, but this season would be a good time for him to show that Sweeney made the right move in selecting him late in the first round, 29th overall, in the 2016 Entry Draft.
Now, let’s get one thing straight, I’m not saying that the standard should be set high in terms of production, but he signed a two-year, $2.1 million contract in June that carries a cap hit of $1.05 million and he was one of the players that made it on the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft protection list in July by Boston. By protecting him, it tells him that the team sees him as a part of the future and there’s no question that he could play center or left wing on the fourth line this season for the Black and Gold. The opportunity for Frederic to make more of an impact than he did in the 42 games he played in the regular season last season is there in 2021-22.
Another Bounce-Back Candidate
These are not the only players that could use a bounce-back season for the Bruins. My colleague Claire Mezzina in June wrote about Charlie Coyle needing a bounce-back season and in reality, he might be at the top of everyone’s list in terms of a better 2021-22 season. However, it would be beneficial for DeBrusk, Carlo, and Frederic to bounce back in a productive, healthy, and a more impactful way this winter.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma, Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.