By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
There’s been a lot of talk in our country about “the forgotten man.”READ MORE: Mac Jones Makes History By Attempting Just One Pass In First Half Of Patriots-Bills
The Bruins have their own forgotten man of sorts heading into this season, because this player is coming off the type of year no one would want to remember and few are giving him chance to make a big impact in the upcoming season.
Forward Matt Beleskey had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 49 games last season. That led to speculation over the summer Beleskey would be traded, taken by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, or bought out. Two weeks before the start of training camp, none of those things happened.
Instead Beleskey, who is entering the third season of a five-year contract worth $3.8 million against the NHL salary cap each season, has been skating with several Bruins teammates at Warrior Ice Arena.
“I’m not surprised [to be back],” Beleskey said this week. “I talked to [general manager] Don Sweeney and they made a commitment to me as I made a commitment to the city here. They stuck to it. I don’t know if that was their plan all the time but that’s how it worked out and we’re happy to be here.”
The Bruins’ depth has come a long way since July 1, 2015, when they dove into the free agent pool to sign Beleskey, who had just scored 22 goals in 65 games for Anaheim. As far as NHL-ready players, it could be argued the Bruins currently have more prospects at forward than defense.
Although the Bruins might be eager for their younger players to take the next step, Beleskey believes the organization is going to give him an opportunity to prove he can bounce back from his lousy season.
“I hope so. I don’t think they’re going to pay me 4 million bucks to sit on the bench,” he said.READ MORE: Damien Harris Gives Patriots An Early Lead Over Bills With 64-Yard Touchdown Run
When it was pointed out that there are a lot of kids coming to camp intent on taking his spot, Beleskey responded: “There’s not a lot of kids that played 10 years in the league either. So, yeah, I think there’s an opportunity to play.”
Beleskey had 15 goals in 80 games his first season with Boston in 2015-16. He started slow (2-3-5 in 24 games) last season when he was injured and missed the next 23 games. From there, his season was basically lost.
Once a postseason standout with the Ducks (eight goals in 15 playoff games in 2015), Beleskey only cracked the Bruins’ lineup three times in the six-game first-round loss to Ottawa. Coach Bruce Cassidy just couldn’t trust that he’d ever get what he needed from Beleskey.
This summer, Beleskey rededicated himself to being a better player and getting back in Cassidy’s good graces. The 29-year-old described an off-season regimen that included different workouts, breathing exercises and a change in diet. He’s a few pounds lighter than last season and he’s in a different frame of mind since the birth of his daughter in March.
Beleskey didn’t want to blame his injury for his disastrous season, but he admitted that when he started his summer workouts his knee was still sore from the season. Now he’s feeling healthy and believes he’s ready to give the Bruins what they want from him.
“Just got to have some confidence, stick with my game,” he said. “I don’t think you lose your hockey playing ability in one year. I came off my best year of my career the year before that, so it’s just going to be getting some bounces, using my confidence and my skill and work hard.”
Whether they keep him or move him, Beleskey will only be an asset to the Bruins if he proves that last season was an anomaly. At least as far as the work he’s put in since April, Beleskey has shown the right attitude. Now we’ll see if his approach translates to positive results on the ice.MORE NEWS: Jake Bailey Is No Match For Windy Conditions In Buffalo
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.