Four Boston Bruins Who Have Underachieved This Season

Jake DeBrusk of the Boston Bruins Dave Sandford/NHLI

Coming into the 2023-24 season, the Boston Bruins knew they would need contributions from many sources. Don Sweeney gets a lot of criticism for his handling of the roster and the salary cap, but I think he did a commendable job working the free-agent market this past summer to fill the many holes in the roster. After many years of chasing a Cup with deadline deals and giving up draft picks and prospects for rental players, the cupboard was increasingly bare. This team needed help from veteran players. In a few cases, the results have been disappointing. I have four players that I want to single out as underachievers.

The first choice is obvious, but his performance isn’t as bad as some would have you believe. Jake DeBrusk is in a contract year and is on a pace to set a career low in points. He’s one assist ahead of Danton Heinen, having played seven more games. However, beyond putting the puck in the net, Jake is doing everything expected of him, such as playing defense and using his evident skating skills as an asset. DeBrusk had chemistry with Patrice Bergeron and more so with David Krejci. It can take some time to develop that with new linemates. Historically, Jake has been a streaky scorer. It may be just a matter of time before the goals come, but in the meantime, someone the Bruins are desperately counting on for offense isn’t providing it. One play against Minnesota on December 18 exemplifies how most Bruins fans feel about his contributions this season. The game had gone to three versus three overtime. This should be an advantage for Jake due to his incredible speed. However, Jake decided to shoot, and his shot missed wide on the opposite side of the ice. During five versus five play, this can be dangerous as it can lead to a breakout for the opposing team. That’s precisely what happened this time, with fewer players and thus more open space. Not only did Minnesota score on the ensuing rush to win the game, but DeBrusk failed to hustle back to contest the play. Bruins fans will forgive results sometimes, but never lack of effort.

Milan Lucic returned to the Bruins on July 1 after signing a one-year contract for one million dollars with incentives that could earn him another five hundred thousand dollars. This marked the return to Boston of a fan favorite eight years after he had been traded to the LA Kings, someone with leadership skills who is good in the locker room. Lucic brings a level of physicality the Bruins have been missing for some time and could be played on any of the four forward lines, depending upon the circumstances, despite being past his prime years. Milan was penciled in as the fourth-line left wing and produced two assists in four games. I do not wish to get into the details of the incident in this article, but he was involved in a domestic incident that not only put him into the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program but may have also ended his Bruins and NHL career at the age of thirty-five. Let’s hope everyone involved in this incident can continue without carrying too much emotional or physical baggage. The Bruins are being manhandled too much this season; Milan Lucic could have helped.

Matt Grzelcyk is another player in the last year of his contract. Matt, one of the three former Boston University Terriers guarding the Bruins’ blue line, needs to contribute offensively to be a productive player. Grzelcyk is injury-prone. In five full NHL seasons, he’s played over seventy games twice, had two seasons in the sixties, and one season of thirty-seven games. He missed practice on December 21 and has missed ten games this season. In addition, he was injured during the 2021-22 first-round playoff loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Playing defense at 5’10” and 180 pounds, his injuries tend to be upper body injuries as he isn’t well equipped to handle the rigors of NHL hockey. Defensively, he can cheat, as he’s typically paired with defensive defenseman Brandon Carlo. In the twenty games that Grzelcyk has appeared in this season, he has scored exactly one point, a goal against the Anaheim Ducks on October 26, just days before his most recent injury. This is not enough for someone on the ice due to his offensive prowess. Kevin Shattenkirk appears to have passed Grzelcyk in the pecking order for offense from the blue line for Boston.  

Hampus Lindholm was the most challenging choice to make for this list. He’s a highly skilled defenseman with a high hockey IQ. In terms of time on ice, Hampus is a workhorse; he and Charlie McAvoy are playing more than a period a game. It’s hard to pinpoint what’s wrong with Lindholm’s game this year; he appears to be off. His defensive reads are a bit off; his passes aren’t as crisp, and as far as a glaring result, Lindholm is not providing the offense seen during the 2022-23 season. Might it be that he’s feeling lingering effects from playing on a broken foot at the tail end of last season? His struggles during last year’s playoffs seem to be continuing. The Bruins’ best hope is that Lindholm can play through this slight downturn and return to form sooner rather than later.

Having lost so many roster players from the 2022-23 lineup, the Bruins need contributions from veteran players. I wanted to identify four players who have struggled, three of whom were easy to choose. This team struggles to score and does not have the assets to acquire a scorer from outside the organization. Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, and Hampus Lindholm must provide more offense. Milan Lucic could have provided a much-needed physical presence to the Bruins and possibly helped on the power play, but that isn’t going to happen.

Season 3. Episode 43. Goal Scorers and A-Holes Bruins Benders Podcast

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  1. Season 3. Episode 43. Goal Scorers and A-Holes
  2. Season 3. Episode 42. Long Off-season Week 2
  3. Season 3. Episode 41. Long Off-Season Week 1
  4. Season 3. Episode 40. There’s Always Next Year
  5. Bruins Benders Postgame Live. Game 6 Recap

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