Maxime Talbot came to the Bruins in March 2015 as a last-ditch effort by GM Peter Chiarelli to inject some "grit" and "veteran presence" into what became a Close Encounter of the First Kind with the playoffs. The departure of Shawn Thornton (tears) left a massive crack in the Bruins' grit wall, and Talbot was supposed to be the mortar that saved the '14-'15 season. Acquired from Colorado for Jordan Caron, Talbot had two assists in his first three games with the Bruins. That is the only points streak Talbot has had in his time with the B's.
Julien's Bruins are most comfortable (and not to mention successful) when they run a four-line team, with depth in scoring. The fourth line, while not relied on to win games with points, are expected to win board battles and faceoffs in the offensive zone to pin down an opponent, and chip in a few points a week. A big part of this is hits - not just stick checks, but real, registered Hits. As the energy line, you've got to rack up a few more than other players because - SURPRISE - that's your contribution to the team's success. Talbot was brought in to be the not-quite-old-but-quite-grizzled veteran (he's only 32 years old) and Cup winner that shows the incoming youth how to be a professional Hitman. How did he do?
The Fall Hit Line
Talbot played in just 2 games in October, for 2 hits and -1; either he wasn't in good enough condition or Julien got the mandate from GM Don Sweeney to play the youth early in the season. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt for October; and, with the team winning 6 of 7 to end the month, the youth experiment appeared to continue into November. Talbot scores nothing in November and dropped to -3, but registers 4 hits in his 5 games this month.
Looking for some consistency going into the New Year, Talbot suited up in 8 of 14 games, his TOI jumped to average in the double-digit minutes, and he notched 14 hits and one goal before December 20th. His energy started to push the youth, and the team, forward. Then, this happened, and he sat for two games.
Talbot bounced back from his suspension with three hits and two assists to round out the year, to bring his +/- to even.
The New Year Hits Back... Hard.
Talbot played every game in January, once Julien got back to his trusted formula of veteran depth. What a month. The B's won just 6 of 13, and while Talbot contributed in his role, rising to 25 hits and 2 points (G, A), he was also a -8. Just in January. That's the exact opposite of pinning an opponent in the offensive zone.
The team fared a bit better in February, but Talbot had already lost his mojo. Just 15 hits (back to roughly 1 per game) and a waning TOI towards the end of the month showed us that Julien was losing faith. Who knows who made the call, Julien or Sweeney, but they deserve credit for making the right one. To wrap up an already low year, Talbot spent 21 games in the minors, playing all of March in the AHL only to return to the lineup for the last two games of the season. Another last-ditch effort to inject some experience and "grit" in the lineup.
There's no denying that Talbot has heart; he embraced his role and accepted the demotion to Providence. He did have a pretty lob-assist in the final game against Ottawa, but registered just 2 hits in 10 minutes of playing time - too low for the veteran/grit forward in a must-win game and a microcosm of his season as a whole. It's impossible to lay the season on Talbot alone, but Sweeney and Julien hoped that Talbot would be the glue again, and when it didn't work they sent him down only to call him up with just days to go. Too little, too late once again, and from an inconsistent veteran, it just wasn't enough.
At least we have this as what is likely to be our last point from Max Talbot as a Bruin. Best of luck as a free agent, sir.