By: Cam Manning | Follow me on Twitter @Cam_Manning133
We knew change was coming when the Boston Bruins got bounced in the first round by the Carolina Hurricanes in last year’s playoffs. There were a lot of unanswered questions with the Bruins team heading into the offseason of 2022. Would Bergeron retire? How would the Bruins address their secondary scoring needs? What would the team look like heading into the 2022-2023 season?
Don Sweeney answered many of those questions and was busy during the offseason, firing head coach Bruce Cassidy, bringing in Jim Montgomery, and inking long-time Bruins Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to one-year deals. However, Sweeney didn’t stop there. He traded veteran forward Erik Haula for former sixth overall pick Pavel Zacha, and it is safe to say the trade has paid massive dividends for the Bruins.
Pavel Zacha was originally a New Jersey Devil first-round draft selection back in 2015 and posted 179 points in his first seven seasons with the Devils. Even though he did not necessarily live up to the hype of a sixth-overall pick, he established himself as a reliable two-way centerman who could put up 35-40 points each season. Zacha has spent most of his time on the second line this season for the Bruins and has posted 22 points in 35 games with the Bruins (5 goals, 17 assists). Even though Zacha hasn’t blown up the stat sheet this year, he has stayed consistent and, most notably, healthy this season.
Haula for the Devils this season has not been too shabby, either. Haula has posted 14 points (2 goals, 14 assists) and is a plus-eight in 34 games for the former second-place New Jersey Devils. However, from a pure impact standpoint, Zacha is on pace to smash his career high in points and is on track to post his first plus season in his NHL career.
Zacha, in a recent game versus the Senators, potted his fourth goal of the season and the 200th point of his NHL career. He helped the Bruins secure a point against a high-flying Senators team that has handed the Bruins two losses out of the seven they have suffered all season. But, Zacha did not stop there. He also added the cherry on top empty netter against his former team in the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the Devils, and had his back-checking game and defensive stick working for him all night long.
Not only is Zacha helping this season we also have to recognize that Zacha is also considerably younger (25) than Haula (31), and the Bruins needed an infusion of youth or younger roster players to complement the elite veteran presence on the team (Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci). Zacha’s size and skillset were the lures to bring him to Boston, and when Sweeney pulled the trigger on the deal, many were scratching their heads. Haula was coming off a solid season and produced the second-most points in his career. However, Sweeney saw the untapped potential in Zacha and thought a change of scenery could boost Zacha’s confidence and prove to Boston fans why he was a top-ten draft selection. While he hasn’t been the catalyst for the Bruins’ historic season, he has undoubtedly been steady and played well in his role.
Zacha’s versatility has proven valuable to Jim Montgomery as well. Whether he is featured on the “Czech Line” with Krejci and Pastrnak or on the third line with Coyle, Zacha has played solid minutes. He has added depth and a scoring touch that will continue to be showcased throughout the 2022-2023 season. Zacha has been one of the Bruins’ most consistent 5v5 scorers, which at times last season, haunted the Bruins.
The flexibility of Zacha has undoubtedly been a bonus for the Bruins. However, the Devils have gotten a lot of benefits from Haula as well. It is hard to determine a clear-cut winner through the first 35 games of the season. Zacha and Haula have proven valuable to their respective teams this season, and time will tell who “won” the trade.
With a new set of teammates and a new coach, plus a new system Zacha has undoubtedly been as advertised and has a chance to make a more significant impact as the season continues.