Brandon Carlo performed admirably during his rookie campaign in 2016-17, despite being forced into early action due to injuries and departures.
Yet in his sophomore season, Carlo had zero goals and just six assists in 76 games before fracturing his left fibula in a March 31 game against the Florida Panthers. Some were calling for the head of the 21-year-old defenseman, but Bruce Cassidy continued to trot him out there every night, alongside Torey Krug on the second line of defense.
Typically following a disappointing season to the extent of Carlo’s, the argument would be made for him to either be demoted or flat out left off the opening night roster. However, pairing him with Zdeno Chara could, and should do wonders for the 37th overall pick in 2015.
In 82 games in 2016-17, Carlo played predominantly alongside the ageless wonder from Slovakia and despite the typical rookie struggles for young defensemen, his performance garnered lofty expectations for his second NHL season. He just didn’t live up to them, which is perfectly fine for a 21-year-old still trying to find his bearings at the NHL level.
But in order to maximize the potential, and the level of play of the now third-year player he needs to be playing on the same line as Chara. Whether that means extending Carlo’s minutes or limiting Chara’s, those two need to be a pairing.
Rewind back to November 22, 2016—the Boston Bruins are hosting the St. Louis Blues at TD Garden, and Carlo is in the starting lineup on the same line as Chara. In the second period, the Bruins were shorthanded on the bench due to the captain going down with a lower-body injury. Thus forcing Brandon Carlo into a line pairing with somebody he wasn’t familiar with. The Bruins lost 4-2, and Carlo was a -2 including a handful of mental and physical errors that lead to St. Louis scoring chances.
Even when he was performing at a satisfactory level for the Bruins, he still struggled without Chara on the opposite point. Naturally, the result of pairing Carlo with Torey Krug in 2017-18 was a failure—not only did he fail to score, but he only contributed six assists. While still a +10, something was blatantly wrong with Carlo, and it seems more than likely that not having Chara with him was the main cause for the struggles.