( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya )

By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26

Entering the 2022-23 season, the Bruins will be without two key pieces on the blue line in Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. While Grzelcyk has been skating at Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, Massachusetts, McAvoy has yet to hit the ice alongside his teammates. Both d-men will need time to recover from their offseason surgery as the season gets underway on October 12th. With the timetables of the two defensemen still uncertain, other defensemen will need to take on a more significant role on the backend. Brandon Carlo, in particular, will be given a more prominent role as Boston’s top right-shot defenseman.

Carlo had what many felt was a disappointing season as he struggled at certain junctures through the 2021-22 campaign. The six-foot-six defensive defenseman recorded six goals and nine assists in 79 games for Boston. Carlo has yet to eclipse the career-high point total he reached in his rookie year in 2016-17, when he scored six goals and ten assists. Not only has he yet to pass that point total from his rookie year, but he also hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and he has only played one entire 82-game season which came in his rookie year.

As a defensive defenseman, he is heavily relied on in the d-zone zone as 62.6% of his shifts start in the defensive end. He was second in total time on ice shorthanded behind Derek Forbort (234:01) with 216:04, per Natural Stat Trick, and was often matched up against the opposition’s top offensive threats.

Not only did the six-year NHL veteran’s numbers slightly dip for Boston, but he also battled with the mental side of the game. In The Athletic’s senior writer Fluto Shinzawa’s recent article, Shinzawa wrote about Carlo’s experience playing last year.

“Last year I had some mental battles for sure,” Carlo noted. “Struggled at times with focusing too much on the wrong things: maybe what people viewed of me or the mistakes I was making. I was focusing too much on those rather than the positives. I feel like with the experience I have in the league up to this point, last year was probably the most influential year on my mental side of things.”

Communication and understanding are the keys to long-term success in any relationship in life, including a player’s and coach’s relationship. This is one of the reasons why former Bruins’ head coach, Bruce Cassidy, was relieved of his duties as head coach of the team. Like other players’ relationships with Cassidy, Carlo’s and Cassidy’s relationship had rocky moments that led to Carlo being sidelined and disciplined.

With the new hiring of Jim Montgomery behind the Bruins’ bench, there is plenty of hope that the defenseman can return to his confident self. The two have already begun a dialogue discussing how the defenseman can improve his game. While not known for his offense, Carlo has been encouraged by his teammates and coaches to be more active in the offensive zone and to play up on the rush. Carlo is a gifted skater despite his large frame, and because of his skating ability, he has the opportunity to jump up on fast breaks and get back defensively when needed. Both Carlo and Montgomery will be working together to grow this aspect of Carlo’s game through post-game video, discussion, and practice as the 2022-23 season progresses.

With McAvoy out for the foreseeable future, Carlo will likely be paired on the top-line with Hampus Lindholm to start the year. The two have previously been paired up with one another at different moments last season, depending upon matchups. The two played a total of 20:25 of ice-time and looked shaky in their time together. The pairing only recorded six shots on goals when the two were on the ice and allowed 17 shots against and two goals against. On the other hand, Lindholm was still adjusting to the Bruins’ defensive systems at the time, which impacted the chemistry between Lindholm and Carlo.

Despite last season, Carlo is ready to turn the page, and he is focused on how he can personally improve and help this team compete in the top-heavy Atlantic division. With Boston hiring Jim Montgomery and Carlo’s increased role in the absence of McAvoy, Carlo has never been more important to his team than now.