Reader Rating: 6.9 (Nice)
Writer Rating: 6
I must make this point abundantly clear before I go anywhere: Erik Haula still has value as an NHL player in 2022. He still has something to give to the league as a player. He is from all accounts a perfectly nice dude, and deserves his success.
Now having said all that...Erik Haula isn’t a second line center in the modern NHL. Nor really much of a third line center. And was grossly miscast in both of those roles in 2021-22 for the Boston Bruins as part of what ended up being a fairly misguided belief that they could promote a player into those positions by committee, given the talent available to them.
Haula started his year on the third line, with DeBrusk and Curtis Lazar. To the shock of nobody, this line struggled mightily once again, and Haula seemed to be struggling with even basic parts of hockey while that cobbled together line tried...just about anything. Then they moved him to the second line...and he did better! He was the responsible, less explosive, but more sane player between two wildly creative players.
But he wasn’t the guy driving play on that line. Not even a little bit.
If you want to be mean about it, one could say Taylor Hall had a bigger impact shift-to-shift on the 2nd line than Haula did. Because sticking him between Pasta and Hall gave him a better chance to show his defensive capabilities, it also deeply exposed the gap in talent between the three: he was almost always the last guy on the play, he was usually the player still trying to make something happen but too behind to do so. Sometimes it worked to his advantage! He was within spitting distance of 20 goals this year!
But more often than not, he was mostly struggling to keep up. And Bruce did not care for that. He bounced around a lot. He got scratched for some of his worst performances. He got some goals and definitely managed to get some plays made...but it wasn’t enough. Not even close. The playoffs came and went, and he had roughly the same problems. Those same problems made all the worse now that he was counted on to do so much more and couldn’t reach that level.
Haula was traded to the Devils for Pavel Zacha this offseason, and while expectations are tempered, I think we all agree a split for the B’s and Haula was probably for the best, especially now that they’ve decided to run it back with David Krejci.
Good luck to wherever your journey leads, Erik.
I feel like I should make this clear that playing with Hall and Pasta did improve his game a little bit, because at the halfway point of the season he was quickly becoming a detriment to the team.