By Mike Miccoli
Leading up to the start of the season, New England Hockey Journal will be taking a look ahead to 2013-14 with a series of Bruins player previews throughout September. Today, we're looking at what comes next for Milan Lucic after an up-and-down 2013 season.
MILAN LUCIC | #17 | Left Wing
HEIGHT: 6’4” WEIGHT: 220 SHOOTS: Left
BORN: June 7, 1988 – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
DRAFT: 2006 – 2nd round (50th Overall) by the Boston Bruins
CONTRACT STATUS: Signed through 2015-16 ($6 million cap hit)
2012-13 STATISTICS: 7 goals, 20 assists, 27 points, plus-8 in 46 games
LOOKING BACK ON 2013
Figuratively speaking, Milan Lucic had two, very contrasting seasons in 2013. The first was during the regular season, where he often looked unmotivated, slow, and almost entirely ineffective while the second came during the postseason where Lucic’s powerful play was a difference-maker for the Bruins. Usually a lock for the top-line along with David Krejci, Lucic spent some time moving up and down the lineup throughout the season as Bruins’ coach Claude Julien tried to find a spark for the big left-winger. In fact, Lucic was a healthy scratch for the first time since his rookie campaign for a late-in-the-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But the regular season wasn’t completely bad for Lucic. The British Columbia native did have some games where he was his usual, hard-hitting self, making plays in the corners and winning puck battles in all three zones. Notably, his passing improved, often making highlight reel feeds to his linemates down low in the offensive zone. However, the goals weren’t coming for Lucic because the shots weren’t being taken. Held without a shot in six of his 46 games, Lucic was 7th out of all Bruins’ forwards in shots, registering 79 pucks on goal. He matched his regular season goal total of seven in the postseason in 24 fewer games.
Lucic’s postseason play was drastically different, much to the delight of black and gold supporters who saw him struggle in the regular season. All elements of Lucic’s game improved and he ended the season on a brighter note than it could have if he continued in his slump. One of his more impressive games came in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, scoring two goals and assisting on another, all while being second amongst forwards with 38:14 on ice. Once he gets going, Lucic remains one of the most valuable forwards on the Bruins, using his skill and size to be a game-changer.
1. Milan Lucic’s fierce rivalry with former division rival Mike Komisarek is well-documented, but #17 has had the same amount of fights against Brandon Prust and Chris Neil as he did against the now Carolina Hurricane.
2. Fair or not, there’ll always be comparisons to Cam Neely. One connection that is pretty accurate is the fact that the Neely trade is what ultimately brought Lucic to Boston, twenty years later. Seriously.
3. Lucic was teammates with Bruins’ prospect Craig Cunningham in his final season with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. It was the first for Cunningham.
4. The top two left wings on the Bruins’ depth chart were the team’s consecutive picks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. No, not Yuri Alexandrov and Lucic, but Lucic and Brad Marchand.
5. Out of the players that were Bruins’ draft picks on the current roster, Lucic is the only forward to have not played with the AHL-affiliate Providence Bruins. Dougie Hamilton (so far) is the other.
LOOKING AHEAD TO 2013-14
The Bruins’ top-line will certainly have a different look with Nathan Horton gone. Indications from training camp have Jarome Iginla taking Horton’s place, but another option for Lucic and Krejci could be newly-acquired Loui Eriksson. While Horton was a solid player and a huge factor in the Bruins’ success, having a consistent forward on the right wing of that line should take some pressure off of Lucic. That could also mean less goal-production and more assists for Lucic now that Krejci could have a bona-fide shoot-first winger on the right side.
Coming into training camp, Lucic is in shape and ready to carry over the production from the playoffs and into the 2013-14 regular season. With the addition of Iginla, expect more accountability from Lucic. When Horton was inconsistent, we saw Lucic start to slip as well. This season could be the opposite since Iginla is a consistent player.
PREDICTION FOR 2013-14
Lucic has the chance to be on a line where his primary responsibilities are to create space for Krejci to make plays or create traffic in front of the net and clean up any loose rebounds. While it’s not out of the ordinary to believe that Lucic will score more than what I project here, 23 goals seems like a reasonable amount for a player who will have an almost-identical counterpart across the ice from him. With Iginla as a linemate, Lucic won’t see as many passes and will have to rely on taking a shot if he has it. Whereas he wasn’t successful during the regular season, he was able to capitalize on his chances in the playoffs.
Lucic can be one of the most important Bruins on the ice at any given time. Once he gets the ball rolling, the difference can be seen both on and off the scoresheet. This upcoming season however, you’ll notice him a bit more on paper.
PREDICTION: 23 goals, 38 assists, 61 points, plus-10 in 75 games.