When July 1st hit last summer, the Boston Bruins went out and signed free agent forward, Matt Beleskey, to a five-year $19 million deal. The signing ended up being their biggest move of the summer, with high expectations considering the money and term that Beleskey pulled in.
Beleskey had just come off of a career year in Anaheim, scoring 22 goals and 32 points in 65 games. What caught the attention of the B’s and other pursuing teams was the postseason he had just months before. He scored eight goals in 16 games, most of the goals coming at very clutch moments. He had also shown good postseason composure the year before with the Ducks.
Beleskey’s First Season on the B’s
The Beleskey the Bruins ended up getting scored only 15 goals and 37 points in 80 games. It was the most points that he scored in his career but it was still a pretty flat season, and there was a slight feeling the Bruins got gypped. When you sign a forward to that long of a contract at that amount of money, the player should be producing at least 20 goals. Beleskey played every game except for two last season
and ended with only 15. He has shown signs of being able to score goals, it just didn’t happen in his first season on the Bruins.
A reason why Beleskey could have had trouble scoring last season was the inconsistency of his line pairings. When you look at the lineups from each game last season you will notice he spent time with almost every teammate and participated on every combo, one through four. He just couldn’t find a great fit. In February he got a little something going on the third line playing with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes. It seemed promising but the combo came to an end like every other line Beleskey has been on during his short time in Boston.
Similarities to David Backes
This summer, forward David Backes was the Bruins’ ‘big fish’ signing, as was Beleskey last summer. Backes has many more years of NHL experience but both of them play a similar style of game. A hard working, gritty player that should be able to score goals on a regular basis. On paper, Backes and Beleskey seem like the perfect pair. Backes will probably be paired up with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the first line to start the season, unless coach Claude Julien decides to promote David Pastrnak to the top line. So it might take a little while to see the two pair up.
The Bruins are stacked with young forwards including Spooner and Frank Vatrano. Spooner broke out last season and showed he is now a full-time NHLer. Beleskey has to keep up with these guys in order to not get stuck in the bottom-six. Unless he finds a good combo in the bottom-six, he does not want to get stuck there. This will be key at the beginning and during the whole season. Who’s the best left-wing behind Marchand? Beleskey will be fighting for that title.
Where Does He Fit?
Even though Beleskey has the potential to play in the top six, he will end up playing on line three most of the season. That is where he seems to be most comfortable on this team, and maybe that is where he ultimately belongs. Expect to see Beleskey on a line with newcomer Riley Nash and Jimmy Hayes. The combination that would benefit Beleskey the most would be a Backes-Bergeron pairing. This will not be happening, barring any injuries, because Marchand and Bergeron are the staple of the top line, the best combination on the team, one of the best in the league.
Wherever Beleskey ends up on the team, he will be able to score 20+ goals. The adjustable first season is over and he knows what is expected in Boston now, and how to play in Julien’s system. Hopefully, he will find his place.