The Boston Bruins have come a long way in the last decade.
A team that finished the 2005-06 season near the bottom of the League finished atop the League summit just five years later to deliver a long-awaited Stanley Cup to hockey-crazed fans around New England.
Five years on, the new regime of general manager Don Sweeney has been pegged with the responsibility to take Boston back to the Promised Land. The rookie GM has already made his impact on the club with some controversial moves last summer that you probably know about by now.
However, his latest challenge is yet to come. Sweeney is set to go through his first NHL Trade Deadline as the head honcho on February 29. It’s bound to be must-see TV in Boston as the Bruins sit in second-place of the Atlantic Division with defensive issues to address and pending free agent Loui Eriksson as their prized asset.
Regardless of whether they are buyers or sellers, the Black and Gold have a group of what we’d call “core” players; long-term assets that Sweeney and the brass will want to build around to construct the next Cup contender.
So, who are Boston’s “core four”?
Bold prediction: Patrice Bergeron is the Bruins’ future captain. Shocking, right?
Boston’s second-round pick in 2003 started his career as a baby-faced 18-year-old and has evolved into one of the elite two-way forwards in the game today. He was their star attraction between 2005 and 2007 when the Black and Gold were an afterthought in the Boston sports landscape.
Bergeron has been one of the architects of the first rebuild under old GM Peter Chiarelli thanks to his steady play in all three zones of the ice.
If there was a perfect hockey player, it would be Patrice Bergeron. #Bruins
— Frank Pimentel (@FrankBostonTank) February 12, 2016
The 12-year veteran has quietly amassed an impressive career with the Bruins. Bergeron has averaged .75 points/game in his career as he approaches 800 career games with the B’s and has led the team in goals, assists and points since his rookie season in 2003-04.
Furthermore, his career 57.1-percent Corsi-For (CF) numbers are impressive enough when you factor in the 55-percent of his career shifts that have originated from the defensive zone. Maybe that’s why he’s a three-time Selke Trophy winner and a perennial nominee for the prestigious honor, fancy stats or otherwise.
He wins faceoffs, is defensively sound, tough (exhibit A: 2013 Stanley Cup Finals) and can put the biscuit in the basket. That’s a recipe for a franchise player to build around.
The Bruins resurrection into the Boston sports scene began in the 2007-08 season. Coincidentally, that was young David Krejci’s first year in the League.
The 29-year-old center has been one of the Bruins’ more offensively gifted playmakers over the years and is a slick of a puck mover as they come. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that his 454 points in 598 career games with the Black and Gold have led the club since his rookie year in the NHL. Defensively, Krejci is no slouch as he sports a respectable 53-percent CF rating during his nine-year career with Boston.
However, the Czech center has proved his worth when it counts the most. During the Bruins’ Cup runs in 2011 and 2013, Krejci led the club in points and scored several clutch goals along the way.
Anyone that watches the franchise on a regular will notice a massive difference between when their second-round pick in 2004 is in the lineup and when he’s out. Just watch a replay of the 2016 Winter Classic if you don’t believe me.
Krejci is the de-facto playmaker on the B’s and has a proven track record of playoff success. What team wouldn’t want that?
Ask anyone outside of New England to describe Brad Marchand and they’ll probably give you some not-so-friendly adjectives to describe him.
Bruins fans have watched the evolution of their 5’9 agitator throughout the past six seasons from a mere pest to a budding sniper. Marchand has been a model of consistency in Boston scoring more than 20 goals in all five of his full 82-game seasons.
In the lockout-shortened campaign of 2013, he scored 18 in 45 games. On average, the third-round pick in 2006 has scored a goal every three games in his NHL career.
Since his rookie season in 2010-11, Marchand leads the club in a slew of offensive categories including goals (144), plus-minus (139), shorthanded goals (19), shorthanded points (25), overtime goals (5) and is tied with Bergeron for game-winning goals (25).
Simply put, the little guy has a knack for scoring big goals.
This season has seen Marchand take the next step in his development into a bona fide goal-scorer. The 27-year-old is bound to reach the 30-goal mark for the first time in his career and is on pace to flirt with 40 for the first time since Bill Guerin did it for the Bruins back in 2002. Oh, and he is making a case for Hart Trophy consideration.
Marchand is due to become an unrestricted free agent next summer but should receive the theoretical long-term deal that Eriksson, a UFA this summer, would likely demand. His performance this year should ease any lingering fears that the “Nose Face Killah” will be leaving town after next year.
Tuukka Rask may be one of the biggest steals in Bruins franchise history.
Acquired via trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs in June 2006, the Finnish netminder has morphed into Boston’s latest franchise goaltender. He has amassed an impressive record of 156-97-40 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with 30 shutouts in his six years with the Bruins.
Since his debut in 2009, Rask has the second best GAA and save percentage in the NHL among goaltenders with more than 100 appearances behind Cory Schneider.
In addition, the 28-year-old Rask is the franchise’s current leader in save percentage and second Tiny Thompson in goals-against. He’s also a Vezina Trophy winner in 2013-14 after backstopping the B’s to the Presidents Trophy.
And to think it only cost them Andrew Raycroft to acquire him. Talk about a steal.
Tuukka Rask wanted to remind you he's still REALLY good.
He might as well be the first star this game. Penalty Killed.
— Stanley Cup of Chowder (@cupofchowdah) February 17, 2016
However, he’s also been the subject of harsh criticism from fans and has been a popular figure at the center of trade requests from fans. If you look at what they have in the farm system currently, Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre aren’t NHL ready and the Bruins aren’t willing to waste the prime years of Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand. So for those of you who want Rask gone, it’s not going to happen.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW