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2017 is a year of redemption for a trio of Bruins Forwards

2017’s Boston Bruins brings three players that need to prove something. Can they bring fans and pundits back around to them?

NHL: Florida Panthers at Boston Bruins Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Boston has a lot of interesting prospects and youth in the system that will be competing for a spot in the NHL come Thursday. It’ll be a time for many of these players to show us what they’re made of, and how close to the NHL they are. A select few might go all the way to the big dance. Some will have to return home.

However, they’re not the only ones trying to prove themselves in 2017-18, three players that are more or less guaranteed spots on the team need to make a big improvement on their previous year.

They are Beleskey, Backes, and Spooner. And here is why they’re looking for it.

Matt Beleskey:

Why he’s looking for Redemption: Beleskey got dealt a crappy hand last year, dealing with injury is never good as a forward, since even the smallest one can effect how comfortable a player is on the ice. Especially crappy for players like Beleskey whose shifts are about 90% effort and getting in the opponent’s face.

That said, 2016 was bad for him, even by injured player standards.

Los Angeles Kings v Boston Bruins
Valiant efforts of physicality abound, but Beleskey’s gonna need to improve his point total if he wants to justify his contract.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Beleskey’s brutal 3 goal and 8 point half-season was every worse case scenario on a player like him: it really did look like the Bruins bought too high on a player riding the best shooting percentage of his life, and he crashed back to earth with all the things that made people like him being mere shells of themselves. It got to the point that even rookies and Providence players were starting to look more offensively dangerous than he did.

Why he might get redemption: Matt Beleskey finished his season with a respectable 53.5% in CF%, so if nothing else, he did keep his head above water and at least tried to keep driving play. On top of that, Beleskey’s season was a special kind of bad that kind of gives the impression that it was almost supernaturally bad, like he was cursed or something. It would require him to practically come into camp a very different kind of player in order to end up with the same amount of goals as last year.

Ryan Spooner:

Why he’s looking for Redemption: The third line last year was dreadful. This can be chalked up to many...many...many factors...

...but the one constant throughout last year for that line was Ryan Spooner, the center who everyone has an opinion on. Spooner’s year was not helped by chaos in the lineup but he did himself no favors by being a pretty pedestrian at 5on5 play, struggling at the faceoff dot, being fairly inactive on defense, and in general not getting in to the good graces of fans to the point that many were actively calling for the team to not sign him after the Bruins first trip to the postseason in awhile and being effectively benched for the final game.

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
While 39 points is pretty good for depth forwards, when well over half of them come on the power play you might need to diversify your point total a bit.
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Narrowly avoiding arbitration, Spooner now commands a 2.8 million dollar contract for the next year. After that, he’s an RFA...again. Many fans probably didn’t like the idea, especially not after being so eye-test unfriendly. I for one was surprised he was even able to get that much, given how much he was singled out for his struggles. He’s going to have to put in work to become the player worth such a contract and yet another arbitration hearing if he really wants to continue to be a Boston Bruin...which he does seem to indicate he’d like to be.

Why he might get redemption: Spooner is not going to play the kind of “BURLY. POWER FORWARDS. HITS. GET INTO THE PAINT.” brand of hockey and has shown no indication that he’d even be good at it, one thing he still knows how to do is run an effective power play and be an effect skill player in the offensive zone. He passes well, he creates quality assists, he’s a fast little skater that makes defending him deceptively difficult, and has definitely shown to benefit from stability on his line, which last year did not afford him at all due to the constant swapping of players. If his line (and more importantly, he himself) can stay healthy and intact, and he improves his faceoff-% by even a little bit, it might boost him back to the realm of almost 50 points that year one of full-time Spooner suggested.

David Backes:

Why he’s looking for redemption: While he seems like a gift from on-high for those who prefer Bruins hockey to be “on-brand”, with his high impact style, willingness to get into the thick of play, and clear, concise leadership style...there’s clearly a lot of baggage from playing that style nearly his entire adult life. And Boston paid a lot of money for it.

Boston Bruins v Montreal Canadiens
Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

While he was certainly the kind of power forward fans liked to see, his results didn’t always match the effort he put in, or put effort to. And unlike Spooner, he didn’t have the luxury of playing with plugs and Providence players to explain away his issues. No, he was usually found either playing with David Krejci, who can still be a major force of offensive good for the Black and gold...and Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, two premiere players of the sport if not the premiere players of the sport. Even on a down year shooting and scoring-wise, you’d he’d be able to summon at least two or three more points than the third line center everyone was down on? Especially in a division where the average point total for players like him on the 2nd line was, oh...something around 43? 44?

You’d especially wanna summon at least more points than the third line center everybody’s dumping on? Even if you missed St. Louis that much?

Why he might get redemption: Well for one thing, he’s likely settled into being in Boston, that’s for sure. Backes has stated his goals this offseason were to improve his skating and acceleration, among other things. The team itself had a down year in shooting across the board, so improving in the goals or assist columns might be in the cards for him, as stuff like that tends to rebound. On top of that, like the third line, inconsistency with who was playing on his line probably made making chemistry a nightmare. With a stable lineup, Backes might be able to erase any doubt and bring back a bit of the Backes’ everyone loves, with the point total to match.