3 Bruins Bounceback Candidates for 2022-23

The Boston Bruins are entering the 2022-23 season with a strong roster on paper, but the problem is that they also have numerous injuries to key players. As a result, they will need some players who had down seasons to rebound this year. In my opinion, three players stand out the most as bounce-back candidates, and here’s why.

Nick Foligno

Nick Foligno is heading into the 2022-23 season with a lot to prove. After signing a two-year, $7.6 million contract last offseason, the 34-year-old struggled immensely during his first season as a Bruin. In 64 games, he had two goals, 11 assists, and a team-worst minus-13 rating. His failure to produce offensively resulted in him being demoted to the fourth line and that naturally did not do him any favors. Now, it’s time for the Buffalo native to turn things around and show that he can still make an impact at the NHL level. If not, players like A.J. Greer and Mason McLaughlin may take his spot.

Nick Foligno Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The importance of Foligno bouncing back is also heightened by the Bruins’ injury trouble at left wing. Things were already bad enough when it was announced that Brad Marchand would be out until at least November, but another massive blow has also been dealt to the Bruins. Taylor Hall suffered an upper-body injury during the Bruins’ last preseason tilt against the Philadelphia Flyers and has been deemed as being week-to-week. Thus, there are now two major holes in the Bruins’ lineup, and that could result in Foligno getting top-nine minutes again while they are out of the lineup.

So, what would be a successful season for Foligno? That’s certainly in the eye of the beholder, but if he can hit 25-to-30 points this season, I’d classify that as a bounce-back year. The Bruins need all of the secondary scoring they can get, and if the veteran can provide that with his already excellent physical play, it could be enough to salvage his tenure in Boston.

Mike Reilly

The 2021-22 season was a year to forget for Mike Reilly. He was healthy scratched several times during the season, and it seemed that he had lost former head coach Bruce Cassidy’s trust. As a result, his offensive totals were noticeably lower on the year, as he had just three goals and 17 points in 70 games. Yet, the new campaign offers a fresh start for the 29-year-old defenseman, and he will be aiming to take advantage of that entirely.

Related: Bruins: 3 Players With Most to Prove in 2022-23

With both Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk out for the start of the season, Reilly should be given a larger role in their lineup. At a minimum, he should see power-play time due to his strong passing ability, but he also could play in their top four if he impresses head coach Jim Montgomery with his play. Of course, that is probable to change once McAvoy and Grzelcyk both return to the lineup, but even if so, we could see Reilly’s offensive totals go back up this season.

When Reilly was first traded to Boston, he made an immediate impact. In 15 games with the club in 2020-21, he recorded eight assists, and that’s a major reason why general manager (GM) Don Sweeney re-signed him to a three-year, $9 million contract that following season. If Reilly can produce at a similar pace again in 2022-23, it would provide the Bruins with a much-needed boost.

Pavel Zacha

The Bruins made a pretty notable move when they traded Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Pavel Zacha. Haula just put together one of the best years of his career during his lone season as a Bruin, while Zacha had a bit of a down season for his standards. Although 15 goals and 36 points in 70 games is nothing to scoff about, it’s important to note that Zacha recorded 35 points in only 50 games the season before. Thus, he has shown in the past that he can produce more often offensively, and that’s something we could see occur again in 2022-23.

Pavel Zacha New Jersey Devils
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As noted above, the Bruins will be starting the season without Brad Marchand at least. This already heightened the possibility of Zacha playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and if Hall has to miss the season opener, there’s no question that we will see him at first-line left wing. With that, Zacha will also likely see time on their first power-play unit, and that should do wonders for him offensively.

At the end of the day, Zacha will still be a good addition to the Bruins if he produces at the same pace as last season. Yet, there’s reason to believe that he can bring even more to the table, and if he does just that, the Bruins will be in very good shape. This is especially true once they are fully healthy, of course.

Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to see if these three players can rebound. Out of the trio, the most pressure is on Foligno, but it’s still quite important for Reilly and Zacha to also find their old forms. Alas, here’s to hoping that a bounce-back season for all three of these players comes to fruition from here.

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