Horton/By S. Bradley

Maybe looking back at Nathan Horton’s 2011-12 season is a meaningless exercise.

After all, the only thing that matters when it comes to Horton and the Bruins is the future – and whether the star forward has one on the ice.

It took the better part of a couple months to “feel himself” at the outset of the season, as he was still trying to return from the concussion he suffered in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. He actually was on pace to reach or pass his ’10-11 goal total, but then Philadelphia’s Tom Sestito struck Jan. 22 in Philadelphia. And along came another concussion.

After the Bruins’ shootout win that day in Philly, Horton wasn’t seen on the ice again except for a brief turn in an early-February attempt to make a comeback. Prior to the Bruins’ playoff series with Washington, general manager Peter Chiarelli announced the Horton was done for the year.

Ever since then, Chiarelli has voiced confidence that Horton will be back next season. But, of course, no one knows how he’ll respond. In addition to the uncertainty that comes with these types of injuries, the longer Horton is out of action the longer it will take him to be able to play at all, let alone play at the high level expected of Boston’s best goal-scorer.

The Nathan Horton story so far has unfolded as another cautionary tale about blows to the head. The Bruins hope it will take a turn for the better. We’ll see.


Regular season: 46GP, 17-15-32, Even

Playoffs: DNP

Contract status: Signed through 2012-13 at a cap hit of $4 million

Regular season recap

Highlight: The Bruins slaughtered Calgary, 9-0, Jan. 5, and Horton was front and center in the carnage. He scored two goals and added an assist during a plus-3 night that showed he could again be one of the league’s premier power forwards.

Lowlight: Although it’s difficult to have a worse day than the one Horton had in Philly when he was knocked out for the season, Horton truly screwed up an early-season game against Carolina for the Bruins Oct. 18. Not only did Horton fail to record a point in 12:52 of ice time (he landed just one shot on goal), the winger took a double minor for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct in an attempt to fight Tim Gleason in the third period. The Bruins had just cut the Hurricanes’ lead to 2-1 and went on to lose 4-1.

Playoff recap: Horton was shut down before the start of the postseason, and watched the games for the press box with the rest of the scratches.

Grade: B. Despite his slow start, Horton was back on pace to score more than 25 goals before his season was ended. The Bruins need him to not only get back healthy but be that same player in the near future.

Carnac predicts … as they’ve learned the do, the Bruins will continue to be cautious with Horton. Assuming he’s ready to start the season, they’ll also monitor him closely and if the Bruins can at least get 15, 20 goals out of him that will suffice.