• 2022 is coming to an end, and with it, a wild roller coaster-type year for sports in Boston and New England as a whole. What will be the most remembered storylines of this year in Boston sports?

    Keep in mind, this is a list of the ‘biggest’ not ‘best’ storylines. There were high highs to match low lows, with both happening nearly simultaneously at times, and we’re talking them all into account.

    So, what stood out the most in 2022? Let’s get started…

  • Honorable mentions

    -Patriots blown out in playoff game in Buffalo

    -David Ortiz elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

    -Patrice Bergeron re-signs with Bruins

    -Patriots lose on lateral play to Raiders

  • 10. Chris Sale’s injuries

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 17: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the field with a dislocated pinky finger after getting hit by a line drive from Aaron Hicks of the New York Yankees in the first inning at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 17: Chris Sale #41 of the Boston Red Sox leaves the field with a dislocated pinky finger after getting hit by a line drive from Aaron Hicks of the New York Yankees in the first inning at Yankee Stadium on July 17, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    After making nine starts down the stretch in the 2021 season and pitching relatively well, Sale was projected to once again be a factor for the Red Sox in 2022. However, that never came to fruition as Sale dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout the year.

    In fact, Sale’s injury issues began before the season even officially started. During a February workout put together by Red Sox players because of the MLB work stoppage, Sale sustained a right rib stress fracture while throwing batting practice. He wouldn’t get back on a mound in game action until he began making rehab starts in early July. Two weeks later he made his season debut, throwing a promising five scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays.

    That outing proved to be the highpoint of Sale’s season. In his next start against the Yankees a batted ball struck his throwing hand, breaking his pinky finger. There was initially hope Sale would return at the end of the season to help the Red Sox make a playoff push. That didn’t happen though, as in early August he broke his right wrist in a bike accident while going to pick up lunch.

    With multiple departures in the starting rotation this offseason, Sale is once again projected to be in a contributor role for the Red Sox in 2023. He’s projected to be ready to start the season, but will we see more of him in 2023?

  • 9. Home Garden Advantage

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MARCH 12: A view outside of TD Garden, the venue that hosts the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics on March 12, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MARCH 12: A view outside of TD Garden, the venue that hosts the Boston Bruins and Boston Celtics on March 12, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Heading into the 2022-2023 NBA and NHL seasons, both teams that call TD Garden home were facing questions. The Celtics were coming off of a Finals run, but just weeks before the start of the season head coach Ime Udoka was suspended and center Robert Williams underwent knee surgery. Across the hall, the Bruins appeared to be in ‘Last Dance’ mode with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci returning. It’s not that the expectations were low for either team, but there certainly was an element of uncertainty with both.

    Even the most optimistic fan couldn’t have predicted what happened next. Two-plus months into both seasons, the Celtics and Bruins both have the best record in their respective leagues. Not only are they in first place, but have multi-game leads on the next-closest teams.

    They’re not just winning, but demolishing teams. The Celtics have an NBA-best scoring margin of plus-6.8 points per game, while the Bruins’ plus-58 goal differential is 28 goals larger than the next closest team.

    The dominance of both teams has only increased when they step inside TD Garden. The Bruins are 18-0-2 in the building this season, including a stretch that saw them win their first 14 home games of the season, setting a new NHL record. Meanwhile the Celtics are 15-5. Those records combine for a winning percentage of 82.5 percent.

    If they’ve been so dominant, why isn’t this storyline higher on the list? Simple – it’s still early in the respective seasons. We’ll see what these starts end up resulting in in 2023.

  • 8. Tuukka Rask returns, then retires

    Jan 18, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) tends the goal during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 18, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) tends the goal during the first period against the Carolina Hurricanes at TD Garden. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    For over a decade, Tuukka Rask was one of the faces of Boston sports. He also may have been one of the most polarizing, and most discussed athletes in the city during that time. Whatever was said about him though, it’s undeniable he was a core member of the organization for a generation of fans, and brought the Bruins stability at the goalie position that is generally one of the most unstable in all of sports.

    A player like that walking away is a big deal in its own right, but the nature in which Rask retired added a level to the story. He began the 2021-2022 season unsigned but still an active player, and acknowledged he didn’t want to play anywhere other than Boston. He ended up re-joining the Bruins in mid-January, making his debut after COVID-19 derailed plans for warm-up games in Providence.

    Rask looked excellent in his first start, especially given the circumstances. He made 25 saves on 27 shots against the Philadelphia Flyers, leading the B’s to a 3-2 win. Following that game he made three more starts but struggled, allowing a total of 12 goals while posting an 81 save percentage. In early February he was placed on the injured list, then shortly after officially announced his retirement.

    At the time of his retirement, Rask was the winningest goalie in Bruins franchise history, with 308 wins. He was also third in league history in save percentage (92.1 percent) as well as goals against average (2.28) among modern era goalies. Both of those are also bests in the salary cap era.

  • 7. Bruins make a coaching change

    May 10, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy reacts against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    May 10, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy reacts against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period in game five of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    Sticking with the Bruins here, they made another major change in the offseason. Bruce Cassidy, who had been with the team since 2016 and was the second-longest tenured coach in Boston, was let go in early June. The move came after the Bruins were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.

    Cassidy’s firing was met with a range of reactions. On one hand, he won 245 games as head coach of the Bruins, the third most in the league in that span. The team reached the postseason in each of his six seasons behind the bench. At the same time, they only advanced past the second round of the playoffs just once in those six years, when they lost the Cup Final in 2019. There was also speculation that some in the locker room may have pushed for the change.

    To fill Cassidy’s job, the Bruins hired St. Louis Blues assistant coach Jim Montgomery. As much as the entirety of the move was second-guessed at the time, so far it’s proven to be effective given the Bruins’ start to this season.

  • 6. Zappe Fever

    Oct 9, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) throws a pass during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) throws a pass during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Did you find yourself coming down with a case of Zappe Fever back in October? If so, you weren’t alone.

    In late September, the Patriots’ season appeared to be hanging on by a thread. The team was 1-2, and starting quarterback Mac Jones suffered a high-ankle sprain late in the fourth quarter of the team’s Week 3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The next week, backup Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion, thrusting rookie third-string fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe into the spotlight as the team fell to 1-3.

    Zappe was able to turn things around though, winning over New England in the process. Zappe won both of his starts, throwing for a combined 497 yards with three touchdowns with just one interception while completing 74.5 percent of his passes against the Lions and Browns. Teammates praised Zappe’s poise and ability to quickly adapt to new situations. The team was back at .500, and the team appeared to have a quarterback controversy on its hands.

    Over the three weeks he was out, the speculation didn’t stop about Jones making an early return. Less than a week after his injury he was spotted back at practice, although he didn’t move much. This was all looming as Zappe was winning games.

    In Week 7, Jones returned and was returned to the starting role for a Monday Night game against the Chicago Bears. However he struggled early and was pulled in favor of Zappe after throwing an interception on this third drive. In the second quarter, Zappe erased a 10-0 deficit and it looked as though things may really be changes for the Patriots’ quarterback situation.

    That moment didn’t last long though. Zappe struggled in the second half, throwing a pair of picks. Jones was against reaffirmed as the starter the next week, and the Patriots went on to win three games in a row and four of their next six with Jones at the helm. Zappe hasn’t played since, but has still had his name chanted at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots’ offense has struggled in the second half of the season. Expect to continue to hear his name as the NFL offseason gets underway.

  • 5. Ime Udoka suspended

    MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 29: Head Coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics points against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 29: Head Coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics points against the Miami Heat during the second quarter in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Finals at FTX Arena on May 29, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    This one really came out of nowhere. At 10:35 p.m. on a Wednesday night with just a week to go until the Celtics opened training camp, Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that “Ime Udoka is facing possible disciplinary action – including a significant suspension – for an unspecified violation of organizational guidelines. Discussions are ongoing within the Celtics on a final determination.”

    That vague tweet gave way to rampant speculation. Over the following few weeks the details started to fill in – Udoka had what was described as an improper intimate relationship with a Celtics staff member – although the full extent of what went on still isn’t known.

    Joe Mazzulla was quickly named the interim head coach, and the team began its hot start with him at the helm, but Udoka still technically employed by the franchise. That nearly changed in early November, when the Nets fired Steve Nash and reportedly wanted to hire Udoka to replace him. Despite both Wojnarowski and Shams Charania – the two top NBA insiders – reporting the two sides had already begun contract negotiations, the Nets reversed course a little over a week later and named Jacque Vaughn to the job.

    Since then, Udoka remains employed by the Celtics and suspended, and the team has continued to succeed with Mazzulla as the interim head coach. It appears that this story is destined to carry over into 2023.

  • 4. Bill Russell passes away

    Former Boston Celtic Bill Russell waves to the cheering fans in the first quarter as the Boston Celtics take on the Detroit Pistons on February 15, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Former Boston Celtic Bill Russell waves to the cheering fans in the first quarter as the Boston Celtics take on the Detroit Pistons on February 15, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    The Celtics, the city of Boston, the NBA, and the sports world a a whole lost an icon when Bill Russell passed away on July 31 at the age of 88.

    Russell played 13 seasons in the NBA all with the Celtics from 1956-1969. He is an 11-time NBA champion, a 12-time All-Star, five-time MVP. Prior to joining the Celtics, he won two NCAA national championships at the University of San Francisco, as well as a Gold Medal at the 1956 Olympics.

    Towards the end of his career, Russell was named as a player-coach of the Celtics. That made him the first Black head coach in American professional sports, and the first to win a championship when the team did so in 1968, his second season on the job (they’d win again the next year as well).

    In addition to his contributions to the game of basketball on the floor, Russell was also incredibly influential in fighting for civil rights. In 2010, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama for his lifelong commitment to social justice.

    Both the Celtics and NBA have had numerous tributes to Russell throughout this season. The Celtics have his No. 6 painted into the key at TD Garden, and the league announced it will be retired Russell’s number league-wide, making him just the third athlete in North American sports to receive that honor.

  • 3. The Red Sox lose Xander Bogaerts

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 01: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first to force out Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Fenway Park on June 01, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 01: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the Boston Red Sox throws to first to force out Nick Senzel #15 of the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at Fenway Park on June 01, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Another year, another Red Sox star making his way out of Boston. Two years after the Red Sox told fans they needed to trade Mookie Betts to keep stars like Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers in town, they let Bogaerts walk to the San Diego Padres in free agency.

    The entire saga was dragged out for weeks, with the Red Sox letting it be known Bogaerts was their “top priority” as reports came out that Bogaerts had distanced himself from the team. Later, it came out that even the Red Sox final offer wasn’t close to what the Padres and other teams offered Bogaerts on the open market, never mind what they offered during the exclusive negotiating window.

    In all, this process likely felt a bit repetitive for Red Sox fans, who had watched the team lowball stars in both Betts and Jon Lester in recent years, while also selling short on other young prospects like Andrew Benintendi. Through it all, Rafael Devers’ contract situation looms, and one way or the other seems destined to end up high on our 2023 storylines list.

    Meanwhile, Bogaerts wasn’t the only star to leave town. J.D. Martinez and Nathan Eovaldi also signed elsewhere in free agency, and long-time catcher Christian Vazquez was traded at the deadline. Yet despite these departures and the financial flexibility supposedly afforded by not signing Bogaerts to a long-term deal, the Red Sox did little to replenish the roster. Their biggest free agency signing was 29-year-old Japanese outfielder Masataka Yoshida. Most high-profile MLB veterans they’ve signed are players well into their 30s including 38-year-old Justin Turner, 35-year-old Kenly Jansen, and 36-year-old Corey Kluber.

  • 2. The Patriots’ offensive disfunction

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: Coach Matt Patricia and Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots react during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – DECEMBER 18: Coach Matt Patricia
    and Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots react during the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on December 18, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    In 2021, with a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones under center, the Patriots averaged 27.2 points per game. That ranked sixth in the NFL, and was enough to help the team return to the playoffs. A year later, things have changed.

    Through 15 games, the Patriots are averaging a touchdown less per game, at 21.2 points per game. That ranks 16th in the NFL. Keep in mind that number is lifted by the Patriots’ seven defensive and special teams touchdowns – the most in the NFL. On points only scored on offensive drives, the 2021 Patriots averaged 25.9 a game to the 2022 Patriots’ 17.9 points per game.

    What changed? Personnel-wise, not much? The Patriots did lose both starting guards in the offseason, but replaced one spot with another starting caliber player in Michael Onwenu, and used their first-round pick to fill the other spot. In addition to that, DeVante Parker – acquired in a trade in April – replaced N’Keal Harry as the team’s big body boundary receiver. That’s pretty much it.

    Most of the scrutiny has falling on the coaching staff. Matt Patricia was moved from his front office role to be the offensive play-caller and offensive line coach, with Joe Judge being hired as the quarterbacks coach after being fired from the Giants’ head coaching job. The whole setup seemed odd at the time, given neither coach had much experience on the offensive side of the ball.

    As it turned out, the early prognostications second-guessing the moves were right. From Day 1 of training camp the Patriots offense struggled to match what it looked like in 2021, a problem that has persisted throughout the season. Patricia’s job was already in question by mid-season, with those calls only getting louder over the final few months. The entre saga even led some to take a second look at Belichick’s status.

    The overall regression has been the biggest storyline surrounding the team this season. Whoever gets the call to turn things back around – whether it’s Patricia, Judge, Bill O’Brien, or someone else – will get plenty of attention in 2023.

  • 1. The Celtics’ run to the Finals

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 10: Jaylen Brown #7 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics react during team introductions prior to Game Four of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at TD Garden on June 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 10: Jaylen Brown #7 and Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics react during team introductions prior to Game Four of the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at TD Garden on June 10, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    When 2022 began, the Celtics didn’t seem to have much going there way. They were 17-19 at New Year’s, and a few days later would fall a season-worst three games under .500. Jayson Tatum was hurt, Jaylen Brown was struggling, they kept blowing leads left and right. It seemed as though Ime Udoka’s first season would be a lost one.

    As the calendar flipped though, so did the Celtics. They went 10-6 in January, with the last two wins of the month kicking off what became a nine-game winning streak. From New Year’s through the regular season, they went 34-12 and climbed all the way up to the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

    During that time, they were led by their stars. Tatum averaged 27.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game during that portion of the regular season, and ended up being named First-Team All-NBA. Brown was right there with him, averaging 23.9 points per game and shooting a highly efficient 48.9 percent from the floor.

    Even with all that success, there were still questions as the Celtics prepared to face their rival, the Brooklyn Nets, in the first round. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving having only played intermittently during the season, the Nets were the seven seed but still a contender. Those questions proved to be unneeded though, as the Celtics sept the Nets, boosted by Robert Williams returning from an early spring injury during the season.

    Up next for the Celtics was the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. That was a back-and-forth series highlighted by questionable officiating both ways. The Bucks picked up a 12-point win in Game 1, with the Celtics responding via a 23-point blowout victory in Game 2. Games 3-5 were all close, but the Celtics dropped two of them setting up a win-or-go-home Game 6 on the road. The Celtics won both Games 6 and 7 in blowout fashion, punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals.

    That next series, this time against the Miami Heat, again went seven games. Once again, the Celtics needed to win a crucial game on the road, with Game 7 taking place in Miami after the Celtics dropped Game 6 at home. They’d rise to the occasion again, nearly blowing a 17-point lead but hanging on to win 100-96 to clinch a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.

    In the Finals, going up against the Golden State Warriors, it looked early on like the Celtics might finish the job. They split the first two games in San Francisco, then blew out the Warriors in Game 3 back in Boston. They even had an early lead in Game 4, but couldn’t hang on after a rough third quarter – something that had been a theme throughout the playoffs. The Warriors ended up winning three games in a row to close the series out in six games, lifting the Larry O’Brien at TD Garden.

    While the run didn’t ultimately end with a title, it was a massive accomplishment for a team that seemed to be on the brink to start the year, with regular talk about splitting up the duo of Tatum and Brown. As the Celtics head into 2023, they’ll look to finish what they started in 2022.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.