Bruins Should Benefit from Foligno’s Leadership & Consistency

Last week, I looked back at Erik Haula’s career up to this point and what he is bringing to the Boston Bruins this season. Now, it is time to take a look at the 33-year-old American, Nick Foligno.

Similar to Haula, The former captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets was signed on the first day of free agency. He signed a two-year deal worth $7.6 million with an average annual value (AAV) of $3.8 million. The deal includes a no-move clause in the first year and a modified no-trade clause that includes a 16 team no-trade list.

Nick Foligno Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Foligno, formerly of the Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After his signing, Foligno spoke about what drew him to Boston. His daughter Milana has had life-saving surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, and the family was interested in being near the hospital again as well as giving back to the city. He had the following to say:

“Boston has a very special place in our heart because of that. I think it was – my wife said, serendipitous in a way, of coming back to a place that gave us a chance to be a family in the first place. We’re really looking forward to that bond that was created. We love the doctors and the people in that hospital. We’re looking forward to playing in front of them, having them cheer us on. I think they were secretly cheering me on from afar, but now they’ll really have a reason to cheer from me, which will be great. And probably even more so to see how well Milana is doing for them, to see her on a more day-to-day basis, will be really special. We’re pretty excited about being back in Boston for that reason.”

Vautor, Matt. “For Bruins forward Nick Foligno, the draw to sign in Boston was about more than just hockey.” Mass Live. July 29. 2021.

While Foligno is getting older and is not the same player he was a few years ago, he still brings important depth on offense, a scoring touch that was missing last season, and leadership to the Bruins’ roster.

Road to the NHL

Foligno was born on October 31, 1987 in Buffalo, New York. His father is Mike Foligno, a former NHL player who had over 1000 career games. His brother, Marcus Foligno, is also a professional hockey player who plays for the Minnesota Wild. He spent large portions of his childhood in Pennsylvania, playing for the Hershey Jr. Bears and later Hershey High School.

Foligno carries both Canadian and American citizenship since his parents are Canadian, but he was born in the United States. For international play, he decided to play for the United States, while his brother opted for Team Canada. He spent the 2003-04 season playing in the United States Development Program on the US National U17 team with teammates that included future NHLers Phil Kessel, Jack Johnson, and Kyle Okposo. He only played four games with the U18 team before being drafted into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) by the Sudbury Wolves in the 20o4-05 season. He had 38 points in 65 games. 

In his draft year, Foligno had 24 goals and 70 points in 65 games, exploding onto the scene at the right time. He was invited to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) top prospects game. On June 24, 2006 in Vancouver, he was drafted in the first round, 28th overall, to the Ottawa Senators. 

Foligno didn’t take long to start playing in the NHL. He played another full season for the Wolves, serving as an alternate captain and scoring 88 points in 66 games and an additional 29 points in 21 playoff games. He made his NHL debut in the 2007-08 season, playing 45 games in Ottawa and 28 games for the Binghamton Senators in the AHL. In 45 NHL games, he had only six goals and nine points.

Finding his Footing in Ottawa

When most people think of Foligno, they associate him with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But many forget the team did not draft him and that he spent his first five seasons in the league playing in Ottawa. It was there that he began to find his footing in the NHL and learned to be a professional hockey player. 

After splitting the 2007-08 season between the NHL and the AHL, Foligno played his first full NHL season in 2008-09. In 81 games, he had 17 goals and 32 points. He was limited to only 61 games the following season and had 26 points. The following two seasons, he played in all 82 games and had 34 and 47 points. 

On July 1, 2012, Foligno was traded from Ottawa to the Blue Jackets for Marc Methot. While his time as a Senator wasn’t the most remarkable, he showed flashes of what he was going to become. He was a consistent goal scorer, and while he didn’t hit 20 goals in a single season, it was the beginning of a solid career.

The Captain

After developing his game in Ottawa, Foligno hit his stride in Columbus. He had a bit of an adjustment season in 2012-13, but he then had 39 points, including 18 goals, in 70 games in 2013-14. That was good for 0.56 points per game, nearly matching his 0.57 from his 2011-12 season. 

The best season of his career came the following year. In 2014-15, he had 73 points in 79 games, including 31 goals. He completely smashed his previous career-high of 18 goals in a season. That year, he was also a plus-16 and had a 17 percent shooting percentage, which was good enough for ninth in the league that year. He also had his first career hat trick that season. 

In May of 2015, after his career year, Foligno was named the sixth captain in the history of the Blue Jackets franchise. They had been without one for the three prior seasons after their previous captains, Adam Foote and Rick Nash, requested trades to leave the team. The 27-year-old was ready for the assignment with his exemplary play on the ice and maturity off it.

Nick Foligno, Alexandre Texier, Scott Harrington
Former Columbus Blue Jackets’ Captain, Nick Foligno celebrates his goal with center Alexandre Texier and defenseman Scott Harrington (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Chris O’Meara)

In 2017, Foligno was awarded both the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the Mark Messier Leadership Award. He won both awards after leading Columbus to their best season in franchise history, finishing 50-24-8 in only his second season as captain. Off the ice, he and his wife committed $1 million in support of pediatric congenital heart care in honor of their daughter. The donation was split between Nationwide and Boston Children’s Hospitals.

In his nine years playing for the Blue Jackets, Foligno was part of many of the young franchise’s iconic moments. From his trophy wins to the team’s surprise sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2019 Playoffs, he endeared himself to the fans and community. From 2013 to 2020, he contributed over 30 points a season to the team, including 51 points in 2016-17. 

Foligno was part of a three-team trade at the 2021 Trade Deadline that sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played seven games for them and only had four assists. 

Nick Foligno Morgan Rielly Mitchell Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Nick Foligno, Morgan Rielly and Mitch Marner with the Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

What He Brings to Boston

The Bruins are not getting the guy who had 73 points in 82 games, but they are still getting a good player in Foligno. The 33-year-old has been consistent throughout his career, and even though there was a slight dropoff in production (20 points and only seven goals in 49 games), he is still a pretty great upgrade to the Bruins’ bottom six.

If he had been with the Bruins last season, he would have finished tied for eighth in overall points on the team with Matt Grzelcyk. He would have come in ahead of Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Jake DeBrusk, who all had dips in their production last season. Kuraly signed with Columbus in the offseason, but Coyle, Wagner, and DeBrusk should all be looking to bounce back in big ways this season.

All three of the Bruins’ forward signings this offseason have greatly improved the bottom six, which was a real weak spot for the team in the 2020-21 season. Between a struggling bottom six and a defensive core that lacked an offensive punch, the team couldn’t seem to find the back of the net on some nights. Bringing in Foligno, who has been a consistent goal scorer in his career, and Haula with his quick skating and playmaking abilities could really be a big boost to the team’s offensive might in the 2021-22 season.

Foligno also brings the intangibles to the Bruins. He wasn’t a captain for six seasons for no reason. He was the heart and soul of the Blue Jackets for so many years, through many highs and lows. For all the good he did on the ice, he also did an incredible amount for the Columbus community as a whole.

As mentioned above, Foligno won the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2017. The yearly award is given “to the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice, during the regular season and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey” (NHL Records). The winner each year is selected by Messier himself, who solicits suggestions from team and league personnel. The most recent winner is now fellow Bruin, Patrice Bergeron.

In the last year, the Bruins have lost important cornerstones of the team on both the ice and in the locker room in Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, and David Krejci. Bringing in someone like Foligno as another great character guy will help in addition to everything he can do to help on the ice. We saw with the Montreal Canadiens’ run in this year’s playoffs how important it is to have a good group, not just on the ice, but off of it too.

While Foligno still has plenty left to contribute on the ice, his leadership and mentorship skills definitely won’t hurt either, particularly as the Bruins continue to try and bring younger players onto the roster. What do you think of this signing? Where will he end up on the depth chart? Comment below and share your thoughts with us!

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