By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
It’s been a pretty great year for the Boston Bruins.
With 2011 winding down, it’s time to reflect on the calendar year that saw Boston capture it’s first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years.
In the spirit of the holidays, let’s take a look at things Boston fans can be thankful for. While there is most certainly no shortage, here are the top five:
5) Jack Edwards
The only way the Bruins/Canucks Cup Final could have been more entertaining was if Jack Edwards had the call.
The most common criticism against Edwards is his unabashed “homerism”. However, it also happens to be his greatest asset. It would be one thing if Edwards was screaming “GET UP!” at Roman Hamrlik on a national telecast, but this is a guy announcing for his hometown team on a local sports network.
Many of the most memorable moments in the Bruins resurgence were accompanied by the unfiltered hilarity of Jack Edwards, and who would want to rob the world of that?
In the Salary Cap era of the NHL, how a team’s front office performs is just as important as the on-ice product.
While there have certainly been some missteps (Derek Morris, Patrick Eaves buyout), general manager Peter Chiarelli and company have done an extraordinary job of not only turning the Bruins’ franchise around, but also ensuring that the Bruins will be a sustained presence at the top of the NHL standings for years to come.
3) Claude Julien
Okay, admit it, you like Claude Julien now.
The coach has taken his fair share of criticism since joining the franchise in 2007, but his defensive system was a huge part of the Bruins’ re-building process, culminating in the Stanley Cup victory last June.
In just 13 months Julien went from being the coach for “that team who blew the 3-0 series lead”, to being a revered bench boss in Beantown.
2) Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask wasn’t the first goalie to believe he had dethroned Tim Thomas from the role of starting goaltender. Manny Fernandez was brought in before the 2007 season for the same purpose. And before Fernandez, it was Hannu Toivonen who was believed to be the Bruins’ “goalie of the future”.
But it’s only fitting that Thomas was able to overcome the odds in every one of these instances. While his 2010-2011 season will go down as one of the greatest netminder performances of all-time, his encore performance hasn’t been too shabby thus far.
Is it possible for Thomas to backstop the Bruins to a seventh championship? Maybe. Regardless, Bruins fans have to be thankful that they’ve been able to watch this legendary player not only find a place in the league, but quite possibly into the hall of fame.
1) The Stanley Cup
There’s no way this list could end with anything else.
An entire generation of loyal fans were finally able to experience a Boston Stanley Cup championship when the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in an unforgettable seven game series.
There had been great Bruins teams in the past that failed to capture the Cup, but last year’s team proved to have all the necessary ingredients for success. And with much of the core still intact, it’s quite possible that the Bruins’ new years resolution could come to fruition in June.