In the wake of what’s been called the “tamest” season of his career, Boston forward Milan Lucic said he needs to reconnect with his wild side.
“I need to find that physicality, that presence and that force that I’m known to bring,” he said, per CSNNE. “I need to find that again this summer.”
Few NHLers face a bigger career crossroads. To hear Lucic explain it, his missing snarl stems from stinging criticism following last year’s playoffs — all of which reached a fever pitch after the infamous handshake line against Montreal. The big power forward said the criticism affected him mentally which, in turn, affected his play on the ice.
“It was hard on me at the start,” Lucic said, per the Globe. “It was. I shouldn’t have let it be as hard on me as it was. I was mad, I was angry, I was bitter we lost, everything just piled up into one big thing. It took me too long to get over it is the best way to put it.”
Lucic says this was the reason for his lackluster year. Lucic says he knows how to fix it. Lucic says he’ll be better next season, and Lucic says he wants to be a Bruin for life.
But that’s what Lucic says.
Nobody knows what Boston will say, but it’s entirely possible the organization isn’t in lockstep with Lucic’s proclamation. Consider:
• Lucic is 27 in June and has already played more than 650 games (regular season and playoffs combined). Power forwards don’t usually get better — or, healthier — with age, and few have played with Lucic’s regularity over the last five seasons, during which he’s only missed six contests.
• Lucic has one year remaining on a deal that pays $6 million annually. He’s coming off a mediocre campaign. Everything points to a potential “contract year”-type performance in 2015-16, at which time the B’s will be forced to decide if they want to re-up with Lucic, or let him test free agency.
Or maybe they explore a trade now.
On July 1, 2016, Lucic will be 28 years old. A long-term extension would be a risky play because of Lucic’s job description and mileage. Power forwards do not age well. Anything beyond a three-year extension would invite the uncertain. Another team desperate for Lucic’s presence may be willing to sacrifice long-term uncertainty for short-term results. Players such as Lucic are in high demand and low supply.
Lucic will enter the final season of his three-year, $18 million contract. It will be the Bruins’ opportunity to acquire assets for a player who might walk for nothing at the end of 2015-16.
It’ll be interesting to see how much faith Boston has in No. 17. GM Peter Chiarelli has traditionally been proactive about locking in core guys — think Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron following the ’13 Cup Final run — but for that to happen here, Chiarelli will need to place a fairly high level of trust in Lucic’s ability to rediscover the physical, punishing game that made him so effective.
At least we know one thing’s for certain: Lucic wants to rediscover that snarl in Boston. Nowhere else.
“It would be really, really hard to see myself in different colors or in a different jersey or in a different city in a different organization,” Lucic said. “I hope to continue being a Bruin.”