SCoC average rating: 7.8
On paper, Matt Grzelcyk essentially repeated his freshman season, notching a few more assists and seeing a slight dip in his possession metrics. He looked a bit more strategic in his placement of hits, and was always good for a few blocked shots over the course of a week’s games. He first received time as a depth-paired defenseman, and over his second regular season, we saw more of the same - except, maybe, for an increase of about 250 minutes - more than three and a half minutes more per game - put Griz in the top three defenders on the team in even-strength time on ice... and narrowly ahead of Torey Krug.
Now, Krug had an additional 100+ minutes of PP time above Griz, so let’s not get crazy with the depth chart adjustments. Grzelcyk is solid, but saw few shifts on the penalty kill, and they were often for a faceoff outside the defensive zone. Come playoff season, he was a bit more relied-upon, being only one of four defensemen in double-digit PK minutes (total) across the four series; risking defensive play for offensive success worked quite well for Boston in the playoffs, and Griz’s breakout talent was not overlooked by Cassidy and his staff. Taking this at face value, Griz has earned immense trust from the coaching staff and should be dependable for another season of good depth defense.
From the fan perspective, though, I see it this way: the Bruins had loaded up on some aging but capable defense (see Kevan Miller, Steve Kampfer and McQuaid before him). John Moore was probably meant to be a regular, at least until the Providence prospects grew up a bit more. For a gap year in prospect growth with glimpses of Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, Grzelcyk in his second season was an excellent option for top-four in the face of injuries. Without discounting Connor Clifton’s late-season success, it would simply have not been possible without having Grzelcyk to rely upon in typical even-strength play.
What might have happened otherwise? Again, Miller, Moore and Kampfer are stopgaps but not solutions, and might adequately fill in on the depth chart but are on the wrong end of the age curve and have not been noted for offensive contributions. Moore and Kampfer are decent skaters but do not have the outlet pass that Griz does. Between some rejuvenation of youth and an affinity for breakouts, Griz has been a pleasant if not outstanding surprise for the Bruins, in the near and long term.
Griz was sorely missed in the Cup Finals, without a doubt. It was impossible to not see the void he left; after playing over 18 minutes in the first two ECF games, he played a bit less in three and four, possibly an attempt at rest. The hit from Sundqvist in Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues kept his quick feet and snap passes out of the series until Game 7, and his late goal was just that: too late, and through no fault of his own. His performance across all 82 games played showed above-replacement defense, and at above his contract value.
While we look forward to Grzelcyk 3.0, we hope you enjoy these clips from last season!!
Importance-wise, it might have to peak at the second game of the ECF, where Griz scored twice and was generally a menace against the Carolina Hurricanes.
(Plus, these long highlight reels are a great way to beat the summer doldrums of no g’dang hockey, anywhere.)
It’s unfortunate that there are not more highlights of Grzelcyk’s overall play, but you’d probably get bored of him stifling scoring chances, so maybe it’s not so unfortunate?
Is it hockey season yet?
Here are some #fancystats, illustrating how Grzelcyk was generally decent at defense, though what you could call a ‘tertiary-assist’ and/or playoff performance is not reflected here, so weigh it as you see fit: