Looking back and ahead: Milan Lucic
|04.30.12 at 6:14 pm ET|
With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.
2011-12 stats: 81 games played, 26 goals, 35 assists (career-high), 61 points, plus-7
Contract status: $4.083 million cap hit in 2012-13, restricted free agent next summer
Looking back: In the regular season, Lucic was more or less the same regular-season player as he was in the 2010-11 season. His 61 points fell just short of his career-best 62 two seasons ago, and he once again stayed healthy for a full season (Lucic’s only game missed was due to suspension). Lucic was one of the Bruins’ six 20-goal scorers, and he did nothing during the regular season to suggest he isn’t one of the game’s best power forwards.
Then the playoffs happened. For the second straight postseason, Lucic was a ghost, and he finished the first round with three assists. Unlike last postseason, one in which he was dealing with a sinus infection and a broken toe, injury wasn’t an excuse this time.
Looking ahead: The last reputation a player wants to develop is that of a guy who disappears when it matters the most, especially when Lucic once showed he could do it (18 points in 23 postseason games from 2009-10). He’s entering the last year of his contract, and with David Krejci signed for big bucks ($5.25 million a year for the next three seasons), and guys like Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin also coming up at the end of the next year, the team will need to assess whether he’ll be worth committing significant dollars to going forward.
One thing to watch with Lucic is that he’s certainly on the list of Bruins being watched by Brendan Shanahan. By the time Lucic received his first regular-season suspension, it seemed pretty clear that the act — a hit on Flyers’ forward Zac Rinaldo — wasn’t as bad as past indiscretions, but that his reputation had finally caught up to him.
A lot of what Lucic can do also depends on whether Nathan Horton is healthy. When Lucic and Horton are playing together, it makes for a very powerful line that wears defenders down. Without Horton, Lucic needs to make his presence felt even more from a physical standpoint in order to make the line as tough as it used to be.
Lucic has established himself as one of the best power forwards in the game, and the Bruins should be able to count on him for no less than 60 points a season as long as he remains healthy. What has haunted him of late has been the postseason, and with the team expected to make deep playoff runs each year, that’s something that needs to change.