Looking back and ahead: Benoit Pouliot
|05.11.12 at 4:51 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: 74 games played, 16 goals, 16 assists, 32 points (career-high), plus-18 (career-high)
Contract status: Restricted free agent ($1.1 million cap hit in 2011-12)
Looking back: Pouliot was a healthy scratch for the season-opener against the Flyers, and though he got into the lineup for the second game of the season, he was as quiet as any of the struggling Bruins in the month of October. He finished his first month as a Bruin with zero points and a minus-3 rating.
The former fourth overall pick certainly had some growing pains as he got into the swing of things with Boston. His propensity to take bad penalties in the offensive zone reared its ugly head, but Pouliot started producing as his line with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly began to click. He scored seven goals over November and December, four of which were game-winners. It didn’t qualify as a game-winning goal, but Pouliot also gave the Bruins a victory with the deciding goal in a Nov. 23 shootout against the Sabres.
Pouliot totaled only 16 goals with the Bruins, but plenty of them were highlight-reel quality. Take this Dec. 23 goal, for example. After the Nathan Horton concussion and the trade deadline, Pouliot ended up developing a nice rapport on the slightly altered third line with Kelly and Brian Rolston.
Like the rest of the Bruins’ offense, Pouliot was quiet in the team’s seven-game quarterfinals series against the Capitals. He totaled a goal and an assist — which actually tied his career total for playoff points in 22 previous postseason games — but also took third-period penalties in Games 5 and 6, both of which were tied. The Capitals scored the game-winning goal on the power play that followed his slashing penalty with 2:50 left in Game 5.
Looking ahead: For the second straight year, Pouliot is set to become a restricted free agent. While the Canadiens decided to non-tender him after the 2010-11 season, the Bruins will have a much tougher choice to make.
If the B’s can get him back at a similar price (or even somewhere around $2 million for a year), they would be wise to do so. They probably wouldn’t go much higher than that, as the only reason they signed Pouliot in the first place was because they were unwilling to pay the vastly superior Michael Ryder.
The B’s have a lot of free agent forwards (Kelly, Daniel Paille, Rolston, Gregory Campbell), a question mark with one of their top wingers (Horton), and no youngsters guaranteed to seize a job in training camp (Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight would be the best contenders). Jordan Caron should be given a full-time job on the team next season, but if Pouliot can be had for relatively low money, he’s a body worth keeping around for both the depth chart’s sake and the off-chance that he can one day get more out of his obvious talent.
Pouliot said prior to the season that he wants to return to the Bruins. He’s had some rough stops in his NHL career (a bust in Minnesota, and a frequent occupant of Jacques Martin‘s doghouse in Montreal), and he feels he’s finally found something good in Boston. Whether or not the Bruins decide to keep him around will reflect whether the feeling is mutual.