Noel Acciari recorded hat tricks in consecutive games. Do the Boston Bruins miss him on the fourth line this season?
After last season’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Boston Bruins came back this year to try to finish the job with pretty much the same roster. There were some changes, however, including the departure of Noel Acciari.
Acciari took his strong finish to last season and turned it into a multiyear extension with the Florida Panthers. He signed for three years and $5 million total.
The Bruins, given their cap crunch, chose not to match that deal. Now, almost half way through the year, does Boston regret that decision?
Noel Acciari already surpassed his career high in goals for the Panthers
We ask this question now because Acciari is in the middle of the best offensive season of his career. He recorded hat tricks in consecutive games last week, something that is extremely rare in the NHL.
These were the first hat tricks of Acciari’s career, and this made the occurrence borderline freakish. He’s only the eighth player in the modern era to score his first two hat tricks in back-to-back games.
With these two hat tricks under his belt, Acciari now has 11 goals and three assists in 31 games this year. His previous career high for goals was 10.
In addition to his offensive production, Acciari averages almost two minutes more per game for Florida than he ever did for Boston. He also plays his usual brand of physical hockey.
Boston’s fourth line can’t match last season’s production
The Bruins meanwhile struggle to get much production of out their fourth line this season. Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner only combined for six goals and 12 assists for Boston this year. Joakim Nordstrom, their usual linemate on the fourth line, has three goals and one assist.
Last season, Kuraly and Wagner had career years with Acciari on their right wing. Wagner scored 12 goals, and Kuraly had 21 total points. This year, they both are well off last year’s pace.
Production aside, what was most noteworthy with the fourth line last year was how Bruce Cassidy felt comfortable with it in any situation. He often had that Kuraly line start games, even deep into the playoffs.
That isn’t the case with the fourth line this year. In fact, Kuraly and Wagner both average slightly less time on ice per game than they did last season.
No guarantee Acciari matches his production with the Bruins
Nonetheless, even when you compare last season to this season, the Bruins don’t really miss Noel Acciari. First, his cap hit is $1.56 million this year and the next two. Kuraly and Wagner have cap hits over $1 million. In this day and age of the hard cap, teams can’t commit that much of the cap to the fourth line.
Plus, we must realize that Acciari’s production this season isn’t sustainable. Two straight hat tricks is fluky for any player, especially a fourth liner. His current shooting percentage is 23.4%, which certainly will go down.
If the Bruins re-signed Acciari, there’s no guarantee his production would be the same as it is in Florida this year. It likely wouldn’t be anywhere close.
Fans love to question whenever a team lets a player go to free agency. These questions only get louder once that player has any success with his new teams.
The Bruins don’t always make the best decisions in free agency, but they were right to let Acciari go to Florida. That doesn’t mean Acciari isn’t a good player; he’s just more valuable to Florida than he would be to Boston.