BRIGHTON, Mass – At the end of a frustratingly tough season last spring, it was obvious to Matt Beleskey he needed to make some changes.
So the hard-nosed winger did something about it. Beleskey stuck around Boston for most of the summer offseason, worked out with the Bruins training staff and has now put himself in the best position to bounce back from a truly disappointing second campaign with the Bruins. Beleskey has dropped a few pounds after never really getting up to speed last season through injuries and inconsistency, and fully acknowledges he’s trying to keep up with the ever-growing speed within the NHL just like everybody else.
“I tried to change a lot of aspects in my training. I tried some new stuff with my diet and I hope it’s going to pay off here. Nutrition-wise I just tried to simplify what I eat and really stick with it. Seven or eight years ago you might have needed a couple of extra pounds, but not anymore,” said Beleskey. “The team showed confidence in me this summer, so I just need to repay that confidence and keep working hard.
“I talked to Don Sweeney and they made a commitment to me just like I made a commitment to this city here. They stuck with it. I don’t know if that was their plan all the time, but that’s the way it worked out. We’re happy to be here.”
It’s not to say that the 29-year-old isn’t going to stray too far away from the physicality and hard-hitting that’s always been a staple of his game. Clearly, Beleskey knows it simply comes down to being better than he was last season when he finished with three goals and eight points in 49 games, or he might not be in Boston much longer. The Bruins left Beleskey unprotected in the expansion draft and the trade rumors were certainly out there last spring prior to the trade deadline, but for now the former Anaheim Ducks grinder gets another chance in Boston.
Certainly nothing is going to be handed to Beleskey despite his contract and 10-year career in the NHL, and he’ll be in direct competition with young forward prospects like Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork that are coming up through the ranks.
It’s simply about turning things around and posting something a lot closer to the 15 goals and 37 points that he posted in his first season in Boston when he provided an effective mix of punishing hits and solid secondary offense.
“It’s not what I wanted last year and I’m really ready to get things going,” said Beleskey, who still has three years remaining on his contract at $3.8 million per season. “I just need to have some confidence and stick with my game. I don’t think you lose your hockey-playing ability in one year. I came off the best year of my hockey career the year before, so I just need to get some bounces, use my confidence and skill and work hard. It’s the first I really experienced [a down season], so I just need to keep working through it.”
The belief at this address is that a knee injury and perhaps a touch of complacency really buried Beleskey last season after a solid first year in Boston. There isn’t likely to be a repeat of that from a proud, fiery competitor that’s still on the right side of 30 years old, and instead last season should look more like an outlier lost season once Beleskey gets it going this year. If that’s the case then the Bruins will simply have another hard-working, hard-to-play-against veteran on a Boston roster that is going to skew very, very young this season.