It was certainly an up and down 2021-22 season for the Boston Bruins. They started the season slow, but once the calendar turned to 2022, they were one of the best teams in the NHL. They ended up with the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, in which all eight playoff teams finished with over 100 points.
As the dust settles following the First Round elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games, it’s time to turn our attention to the offseason that has a lot of questions surrounding it for the Bruins and general manager (GM) Don Sweeney. Before we embark on a big offseason for the Black and Gold, let’s take one last look back at 2021-22 with some player grades by position. First up are the left wings.
Over the last couple of seasons, the Bruins’ first-line left wing has been much better behaved in staying out of the limelight with the NHL Department of Player Safety and letting his talking and actions be centered around his game. Not so much this past season.
Marchand was suspended twice for a total of eight games. He was suspended in November for slew-footing Vancouver Canucks defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson, then he was hit with a six-game ban in February for punching and waving his stick in the face of Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. Despite the suspensions, Marchand finished the regular season with 32 goals and a team-high 48 assists, despite going through a lengthy scoring slump in April. He also collected a team-high 80 points and a team-high 27 power play points on seven goals and 20 assists. He was also valuable once again on the penalty kill and the first man-advantage unit. He had four goals, seven assists, and 11 points in the playoffs against the Hurricanes, which again, were team highs.
At 34 years old, he certainly is on the backside of his career, but he is continuing to put up impressive numbers as each season passes. He is the leading candidate to be the Bruins’ next captain if Patrice Bergeron ends up retiring this offseason.
After acquiring him at the trade deadline in April of 2021, the Bruins re-signed Hall last summer, and this season, he primarily played on the second line, but his season took off as well as Boston’s when coach Bruce Cassidy dropped David Pastrnak down as the right wing on his line and Erik Haula was bumped up as the center. Hall finished with 20 goals and 41 assists, but like most of his teammates, he struggled in the playoffs with two goals, four points, and a plus/minus of minus-6.
The Bruins could have used more consistent scoring from the former Hart Trophy winner this season, especially in the postseason. Nothing against Charlie Coyle or Haula, but Hall seems to thrive better when he has a play-making center next to him. You saw the difference in his play when he was up on the top line with Bergeron this season when Marchand was suspended.
It was not the best start to the season for the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft, but what a finish to the season for the 25-year-old. He was moved up to the first line with Marchand and Bergeron and played very well.
He recorded his first career hat trick against the Los Angeles Kings in February and finished the season with 25 goals, two shy of his career-high. He struggled in the playoffs and was bounced around by coach Bruce Cassidy as he tried mixing and matching lines to generate a spark. His trade request from November is still believed to be on the table, despite signing a two-year extension in March for $8 million. It would be surprising to see him in training camp in September, but you never know.
This season, there were times when the 29th overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft looked like he was finally finding his game, but then there were other times, like in the playoffs, where he reverted back to the young immature forward. Mostly positioned on the third line, he had eight goals and 18 points, with a lot of that coming after Jan. 1 when Coyle and Craig Smith were his linemates.
The playoffs, however, were a different story as he was scratched for three games and collected 16 penalty minutes in the four games he played in. Moving forward, if he’s going to be part of the Bruins, he needs to cut down on his penalties and make more of an impact offensively, something that might be asking a lot for someone who was drafted higher than expected.
Final Grade: C+
One of three bottom-six forwards brought in to remake the bottom-six forward grouping, things did not go as planned for Foligno or the Bruins. He made his presence felt opening night when he set up DeBrusk for the game-winning goal in a 3-1 victory over the Dallas Stars. After that, it was tough sledding for the 34-year-old veteran.
He finished with two goals and 13 points, with his best contributions mostly coming on the penalty kill. A well-liked player in the locker room, he is going to enter the second year of a two-year, $7.6 million contract next season. A $3.8 million cap hit is an expensive hit for another season of Foligno, which makes you wonder if there will be a buyout this summer or if Sweeney brings him back hoping for the best in 2022-23.
The spunky bottom-six wing brought a lot of grit and can be a pest to play against. He played in 32 games with two goals and nine points, but entering free agency this summer, he made his feelings known about how this season played out and what his future might hold.
“Some days I’d rather be in the AHL, to be honest with you,” said Blidh. “I did not sign here to just sit in the ninth floor of the press box. I signed here to play hockey. It’s the NHL, my goal is to play up here.”
There is no doubt that Blidh is looking for a more permanent role somewhere next season and it most likely won’t be in Boston.
That wraps up the first round of grades for the 2021-22 season for the Bruins. Do you agree with these grades or not? Leave a comment below. We will be releasing more grades for the Black and Gold with the centers being up next.
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.