One of the goals of general manager (GM) Don Sweeney in the summer of 2021 was to give the Boston Bruins‘ bottom six a new look. In an attempt to add some depth with some veterans, Sweeney signed Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek each to two-year contracts. It ended up being a case of the good, bad, and ugly from the trio.
Haula ended up being the good of the group as he was moved to the second line on Jan. 1 between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak and they connected quickly and became an offensive-producing line. Nosek was the bad of the group as he settled in on the fourth line with three goals and 14 assists, but a plus/minus of minus-9 after a career season in 2020-21 with eight goals and 10 assists in just 38 games for the Vegas Golden Knights. The ugly? That was Foligno.
Foligno’s Struggles in 2021-22
To say that Foligno struggled last season would be a severe understatement. He started the year with Jake DeBrusk and Haula on the third line and he even set up DeBrusk for a game-winning goal in a 2-1 season-opening victory over the Dallas Stars. From that night on, it got worse and worse for the 34-year-old.
Yes, he was forced to play most of the season at right wing, his off wing, but he has done that before in previous seasons without an issue. He eventually was dropped to the fourth-line on Jan. 1. There were times when former coach Bruce Cassidy tried to get him going by putting him on the power play as a net-front presence, while he did make an impact killing penalties. He finished the season with two goals and 11 assists with a minus-13 while averaging just 12:28 of time on ice a night.
Bruins and Montgomery Have Plans for Foligno in 2022-23
Following the season, the Bruins knew they are going to be on the hook for $3.8 million this season for Foligno. Sweeney had options this offseason to buy out the 28th overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators or look to find a team to take him in a trade to free up some much-needed cap space. He decided to stand pat and keep Foligno and it appears that first-year coach Jim Montgomery has plans for him in the lineup once the season begins on Oct. 12 against the Washington Capitals.
“And then our fourth line, which I see Foligno being a leader of, if he’s not on the third line, being an important momentum line. Getting us right back into the other team’s end and gaining momentum for the other lines and wearing teams down so we can change on the fly and throw out whoever Pasta’s playing with to get us a goal.”Jim Montgomery (from ‘A wide-ranging interview with Bruins coach Jim Montgomery,’ Boston Globe, Aug. 28, 2022)
He is right, your fourth line is generally your momentum line, but it’s hard to envision Foligno being the spark at the bottom of the lineup they need. The top-nine will be set once fully healthy when Brad Marchand returns and Foligno will most likely be relegated to fourth-line duty full-time if he’s not there already. Depending on how things go with Trent Frederic in training camp, there is a case to be made that Foligno might even find himself in the top nine, but if that’s the case, the Montgomery and the Black and Gold will be in trouble.
It is easy to say that Foligno will have a bounce-back season and be a leader of the bottom six as he has been a leader in each stop during his 15-year career with stops with the Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins are going to need him to be more than a leader, but making an impact on a nightly basis no matter where he is in the lineup. It’s easy to say that he will have a bounce-back season, but it’s harder to go out and do it. Paying him $3.8 million is a lot of money for someone who had the 2021-22 season Foligno had, and it’s hard to envision him turning it around this upcoming season. If anything, he’ll be blocking a prospect from getting ice time in the bottom-six if he goes down the route he went last season.
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.