Hannable: Appreciate Bennett, Long for leaving New England the right way
by: Ty Anderson on Fri, 03/17/2017 - 7:34am
But that decision was not up to him, and that hope was moved to Hollywood quicker than a ‘Fast and Furious’ sequel when he was traded to the Kings at the 2015 NHL draft for goaltender Martin Jones, prospect Colin Miller, and a first-round pick in that year’s draft (which was used to nab Jakub Zboril).
Given the fact that Lucic went on to spend just one season in L.A. while the trade has grown another tree for the Bruins -- Jones was shipped to the Sharks in exchange for prospect Sean Kuraly and a 2016 first-round draft pick used on Trent Frederic (15 goals and 33 points in 28 games as a freshman at the University of Wisconsin this year) -- the trade should go down as one of then-rookie general manager Don Sweeney’s best. It was the perfect sell of a free agent to be, and one that helped them address both the present (Miller addressed a serious need for a right-shot defender with some offensive upside), the future (the Bruins successfully flipped one year of Lucic for the Kings into two first-round draft picks in different years), and also cleared some cap space even with salary retention.
Oh, and there’s the fact that the Black and Gold don’t really miss Lucic all that much.
Largely a non-factor in his fourth head-to-head against the Bruins since the trade that took him out of the Hub -- though he was credited with a power-play goal that banged off his skate and through Anton Khudobin to make it 7-3 for the Oilers in the second period of a 7-4 final -- Lucic finished the night with a minus-2 rating, four hits, and two shots on goal in 15:55 of time on ice. You hardly noticed him out there. And that’s sort of been par for the course in the first year of a seven-year, $42 million contract former B’s general manager and current Edmonton boss Peter Chiarelli signed Lucic to last summer.
Although Lucic ranks fourth among Oiler skaters in goals (16) and points (41), the bulk of his damage has been done on the club’s vaunted power play, where Lucic has scored eight of his 16 goals and totaled 20 points in total. He’s by all means become a power-play specialist for an Edmonton club that doesn’t really need to shell out $6 million per season for one of those. Of course, that's the nice way of saying that Lucic has been particularly brutal this season when it comes to five-on-five play. In over 978 minutes of five-on-five action (the 30th-most among forwards this year), Lucic's 19 points rank him 181st among NHL forwards with at least 500 minutes of five-on-five time on ice this season, and his 5.95 shots per 60 minutes of time on ice rank 234th out of 328 forwards in that group. Lucic has also averaged just 1.17 points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, too, which is tied with B’s fourth-liner Dominic Moore for the 251st-most in the NHL among those 500-minute skaters. (Lucic’s worst year as a top-liner in Boston in that regard came in his final year in town, and even then he finished 67th among NHL forwards, with 1.69 points per 60 minutes.) Perhaps most telling has been Lucic’s failure to ride shotgun to Connor McDavid’s left, which was the hope for Chiarelli’s Oilers when they signed him, which has left him to instead ride on the club’s middle lines.
But forget about the declining numbers and seemingly poor statistical and stylistic fit in Edmonton.
What if Lucic never left?
If Lucic is here, does left-winger and potential Hart Trophy nominee Brad Marchand become the 35-goal talent he is today? Perhaps. But I know that Marchand is not your first-line winger if that’s the case, as the love affair with Lucic as the club’s top-line left winger was real and far too established to ever change without a dispute of sorts. Lucic had averaged more even-strength time on ice per game in all but one of five years with Marchand as an NHL regular. And Marchand is definitely not on your first power-play unit -- where he’s scored eight goals and totaled 21 points in all this season -- as a different sort of net-front presence, as that is and was 100 percent Lucic’s role during his run in town.
So, in other words, no. There's the chance that Marchand flirts with 30 goals, much like he did in 2011-12, but the opportunity to become a household name and MVP candidate is not there if he's jostling with Lucic for the same minutes and premier scoring role.
And let’s say Lucic re-signed with the Bruins. It’s not for the $6 million per season tag that the Oilers inked him to. That was already his pay during his final few seasons in Boston and he was not taking a paycut. So, you’re talking about $6.5 to maybe even $7 million per year for a player whose skill-set was unlikely to age well, and with numbers that were beginning to slip in a game that was becoming faster. It was a price that the Black and Gold were probably willing to meet, too, given what Lucic meant to the fanbase and his status as a major cash-cow for the organization because of his style. And that’s before you even get into Chiarelli’s penchant for overpaying ‘his guys’ and core members of his 2011 Stanley Cup team well before they had a chance to test the market or see if the open market actually helped them save the money they were always so desperately strapped for on a yearly basis.
That's a hard pass for a team that made Salary Cap Hell their bi-yearly vacation spot.
At the same time, though, I’d be lying if I said that there’s not a part of me that misses Lucic.
Never before had I seen a player instill the fear that Lucic did in defensemen on a regular basis when he came in on the forecheck. These were grown men -- often around the same size as Lucic -- that wanted absolutely nothing to do with him. He also had this switch that would just snap at any moment and send him into a berserker rage that I had only previously seen from Wolverine in X-Men comics. And as much as it was a danger to the Bruins at certain points in a game, it was a psychological edge that benefitted the Bruins on numerous occasions and turning points, especially when at the Garden. And I will go to my grave saying that the B’s Game 7 comeback against the Leafs in 2013 truly began when Lucic absolutely plastered Carl Gunnarsson in the corner with about four minutes left in the third period. Seriously, from that point on in that game nobody in a Leafs jersey wanted a thing to do with No. 17. Lucic was also one of the better locker room presences that the B’s had during the height of their Stanley Cup window (then again, it was hard to find a bad guy in that room during that era), and was never short on a quote, or a stat that you thought players simply didn’t care to know.
But those memories and intangibles come with a price.
One that the Bruins have to be increasingly happy that they did not pay.