Matt Grzelcyk in 2022
Key stats: 73 GP, 4G, 20A, 24PTS
Other stats: 18:44 ATOI, 55.9% CF (5v5), 58.3% oZS (5v5)
Reader rating: 5.7
Writer rating: 6.3
When you think about it, it’s been a tough couple of years injury-wise for Matt Grzelcyk.
A cheap hit took him out of most of the 2019 Final. He bounced back to play 68 games in 2019-2020, then was limited to just 37 games the following season.
Last year, Grzelcyk suffered a separated shoulder in January, and estimated that he played 50-something games dealing with the injury.
I suppose the point here isn’t necessarily to make excuses, but to provide some context: Grzelcyk certainly wasn’t at his best last season, but you can’t help but wonder how much of that was due to a shoulder that “would keep popping in and out.”
It’s no secret that for many of you regular commenters, Grzelcyk’s play was a sore spot at times this season, particularly down the stretch and in the Carolina series.
The skating, the offensive instincts, the slipperiness that make him effective as a mobile defenseman didn’t completely disappear, but were often overshadowed by inconsistency or (in some cases) glaring errors.
In addition, Grzelcyk would be given nights off every now and then to get some relief from that painful shoulder, which prevented him from developing any sort of rhythm.
To be fair, however, Grzelcyk was far from a disaster this season.
He had the second-best 5v5 CF% of his career, the most points, and the highest Expected +/-; we can argue about the merits of the standard +/- stat too, but that +22 mark was the highest of his career as well.
Still, the shoulder injury was clearly causing him problems — it seems dumb to phrase it this way, but Grzelcyk just didn’t look right for stretches last season.
Ultimately, his nagging injuries led to him sitting out the team’s final two games against Carolina.
Bruce Cassidy alluded to Grzelcyk playing through some things at the time, a quiet acknowledgement of both injuries and the resulting dip in quality.
Fortunately for Grzelcyk, he had a chance to get that injury addressed this summer. While no one wants to miss the opening month or so of the season, giving Grzelcyk a chance to get fully healthy will only benefit the team.
Grzelcyk has two years left on his current contract, which carries a cap hit of $3,687,500.
At his best, he remains an effective player, and has been a good complement to Brandon Carlo on the second pairing in the past.
Given what he was dealing with for the vast majority of last season, it would be a little unfair to write Grzelcyk off as a player in decline.
Instead, here’s to hoping a fully healthy Grzelcyk can regain his pre-injury 2020-2021 form.