During the massive free agent spending spree that was July 1st 2011, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Bruins for the most part stood idly by despite having a favorable salary cap situation. The one signing they DID make seemed like a curious one, inking former Hab, Wild, and Jack Edwards punching bag Benoit Pouliot to a 1 year, $1.1m deal. On the surface, it looked like GM Peter Chiarelli taking a flyer on a former high pick, that he could have easily sent through waivers and/or onto Providence if the need arose. But was there more to it than signing a player who always had the size and speed, but hadn't put it all together?
Last season with the Habs, Pouliot scored .86 goals per 60 minutes of even strength ice time. Which was good for 94th in the league. That may not seem so impressive on the surface, but Phil Kessel was at .87 and Ilya Kovalchuk was at .84. This season, he has 1.04 Goals per 60 minutes (good for 7th on the Bruins). Two seasons ago, he was at 1.13 which was good for 2nd on the Habs behind Mike Cammalleri. Pouliot seems to be the type of player with the ability to make the most of limited minutes and little/no power play time, which makes him an almost perfect fit with a time that is very conservative with rationing out minutes and does a fantastic job of scoring 5 on 5.
Pouliot's CORSI Rel Qoc, is 6th on the team. Behind the top pairing of Chara/Boychuk and the elite top line of Bergeron/Seguin/Marchand. This is about to become very handy for the Bruins, who are going to play their next 5 games against Eastern Conference foes, and they're going to do so without the services of Brad Marchand. It also comes at a time when Pouliot is playing some of his best hockey, as he is 3-6-9 in his last 10 games, including a 3 assist effort filling in for Marchand against Calgary.
Pouliot's contributions are a huge part of the depth up front that will allow the Bruins to slide him nearly seamlessly onto the top line, and move Zach Hamill (he of the team leading 2.4 penalties draw per 60 and career +8 in 13 games) onto the 3rd line. As we approach the halfway point of the season, a player who many fans were down on going into the season has become a solid contributor at a bargain basement price. He also comes with the added bonus of still being an RFA when the 1 year contract runs out, keeping him under team control going into the offseason. Thus far, it looks like another instance of Peter Chiarelli playing chess while everyone else plays checkers.