New year, new expectations for Lucic

475529.jpg

New year, new expectations for Lucic

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Milan Lucic spent his first three seasons with the Bruins awash in potential, and showered in comparisons to power forwards with gaudy offensive totals.

Last season, the potential was realized as Lucic stepped into the offensive breach to post a 30-goal season. He nearly doubled his previous high in shots on goal by firing 179 shots on net and still maintained a 17 percent shooting percentage, thanks to his quick release, true aim for the scoring areas that he carved out around the cage with his big body.

Thats a gargantuan step up for a big lug of a forward that had previously popped in a career high of 17 goals, and was coming off an injury plagued season of finger and foot problems.

But will this be a case of Be careful what you ask for, because you just mightget it?Because, after all, everyone will expect Lucic to at least match the 30 goals, 60 points and plus-28 he posted last year.

Lucic knows that the expectations are there for him to match it moving forward. No matter what he does offensively over the rest of his NHL career, Lucic will always be looked at as a potential 30-goal scorer and expected to be a key offensive contributor for the Bruins. Its something hes acknowledged heading into the new season, but its also a thought that could get him into trouble if he dwells on it a little too much.

Ill tell you one thing: it was hard to get to that level last year, but I think its going to be even harder to match it again this season, said Lucic. Clearly I set the bar for myself and its going to be a challenge to get back to that mark. But if you start thinking about scoring goals and thats all that youre worried about thats when you start getting frustrated, forcing things and making uncharacteristic plays that you dont usually make.

Lucic can get into trouble when he strays too far away from the punishing forechecking, immovable puck possession and high effort formula that hes become renowned for around the NHL,

I know Ive got to remember those little things and those simple things like being strong up and down the walls that make me so successful, said Lucic. My focus is between the ears and getting my feet moving, and everything else usually tends to take care of itself.

What will be fascinating is if the goal-scoring and 16:35 of ice time per game expected out of Lucic mean that his gloves will be fastened to his hands in a decidedly non-fighting fashion. Lucic has become valuable enough to the Bruins that its counter-productive to have him loitering in the penalty box or banged up from battling the Colton Orr-types of the NHL world, but a good hockey brawl also helps fire up the forwards competitive embers when things get a little too quiet.

One thing is for certain: the career path and expectations of a player with such a unique combination of punishing brute strength and hockey skills wont necessarily go in a straight line.

The effort and will are always going to be there for No. 17, and the results along with some league accolades should start to follow.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Backes: Most of the talk has me playing center for Bruins

Backes: Most of the talk has me playing center for Bruins

David Backes on the Felger and Mazz show on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and simulcast on CSN, tells fill-in hosts Jim Murray and Greg Dickerson there has also been some discussion with the Bruins of putting him on the wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

Watch the video above for more. 

Bruins lose Stempniak, Eriksson, others in free agency

bruins-eriksson-gallery.jpg

Bruins lose Stempniak, Eriksson, others in free agency

The Bruins lost a number of free agents on after the market opened at noontime. None bigger than Loui Eriksson signing a six-year, $36 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks to play with the Sedin Twins.

It’s the exact level of term and salary that Eriksson said he was looking for from the Bruins in contract negotiations around the trade deadline, but the Bruins never really moved from their offer of a four-year deal at comparable money.

The Bruins will miss the 30-goal production and solid all-around, two-way play from Eriksson as he heads to the West Coast, but they also traded in a passive player in Eriksson for an in-your-face, physical leader in David Backes on a five-year deal. 

Backes is much more of a Bruins-style player than Eriksson could have ever hoped to have been. That part of it is a win for a Bruins fan base that wants intensity and physicality from their players.

The Bruins also watched Jonas Gustavsson sign a one-year, $800,000 contract with Peter Chiarelli and the Edmonton Oilers, Brett Connolly sign a one-year deal for $850,000 with the Washington Capitals, Zach Trotman signs a one-year deal for $950,000 and Lee Stempniak ink a two-year, $5 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes after being a non-contract training camp invite with New Jersey last season.

Sweeney had maintained as late as Thursday that he was still keeping ties with many of Boston’s free agents prior to the noon opening of the free agent market, but clearly that’s changed.

“We’ll continue to have talks and sort of figure out where things may go. We’ve had talks with a number of players to see what they would like to see as the opportunity here or what we see as a fit,” said Sweeney on the Torey Krug conference call on Thursday night. “I haven’t ruled absolutely any of that out; just haven’t found common ground and obviously it gets harder and harder as we go further along in the process.”