Terry O’Reilly, Raymond Bourque, Gord Kluzak, Barry Pederson, Norm Leveille, Craig Janney, Glen Wesley, Bryan Smolinski, Glen Murray, Kyle McLaren, Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov, Nick Boynton, Mark Stuart, Matt Lashoff, Phil Kessel, Zach Hamill, Joe Colbourne, Jordan Caron, and now Tyler Seguin…all young players burdened with the expectations from the proud fan base of a storied franchise. O’Reilly’s #24 hangs from the rafters, as does Bourque’s #77. Kluzak seemingly spent more time under the knife than on the Bruins’ blue line as knee injuries plagued the young defenseman who never was able to fulfill his promise. Leveille’s promising sparkle in Boston was dimmed by a tragic brain aneurysm leading to a legacy unfulfilled. Wesley, Janney, Smolinski, and Murray were a part of the Bruins’ early 90’s success, including the Bruins’ deepest run in the playoffs since lifting the Cup in ’72. McLaren wilted under the pressure of becoming the “next Bourque”, imagine if he was expected to be the next Orr?? Thornton was crushed under the expectations which come from wearing the letter “C” in Beantown, and Samsonov while talented was missing the grit required for success in Boston. Boynton, evolved into a seasoned journeyman and was a key late season acquisition for the Blackhawks last season, becoming an important cog in their Stanley Cup final triumph. Lashoff was leveraged and in return brought the Bruins Mark Recchi. Kessel’s scoring prowess and fickle temperament were traded to Toronto, bringing the B’s the current savior, Seguin.
The three most recent Bruins’ top picks, Seguin, Caron, and Colbourne now lace up their skates under the watchful eyes of a Cup starved fan base. Some fans are more wary of the weighty expectations on the youngsters, others fully expecting one or more to step into the white hot spotlight and deliver as the Bruins’ golden children of a happier time, Orr, Sanderson, Marcotte, Hodge, and Cashman. Regardless of being among the cautiously optimistic, or the highly demanding, it is impossible to deny the Great Expectations of the Bruins fanbase for their young guns. Crowds which outdrew the regular season attendance for some teams rocked the TD Garden for rookie games with the Islanders. 14,000 plus fans flocked to see a glimpse of what many hope will be the keys to the return of the Cup to Boston.
As a member of the “cautiously optimistic” group it seems both worthy and necessary to note that the Bruins will likely need more than merely the spark from young talent to ignite the fire necessary to withstand the charge of 29 other teams with eyes trained on the NHL’s singular prize. It will take resiliency, perseverance, and patience to forge young players into key assets over the long 82 game campaign. It is folly for fans, or players themselves, to expect that the addition of one player alone will turn a team into a champion. However, perhaps the competitive spirit, the hunger, and the desire which often is deep supply among young players will become contagious among the Bruins. It was a palpable lack of grit and determination which doomed the Bruins to a season of malcontent and to a painful wilting in the post season.
Perhaps with the weight of Bruins faithful riding on the shoulders of the youngsters the time is right time for players such as Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, and Mark Stuart to do as John Bucyk, Phil Esposito, John McKenzie, Ed Westfall, Dallas Smith, and Gary Doak did for the Bruins back in their days of Orr. Those players, stars and role players were the foundation which allowed the young players to learn, develop and shine. The Bruins need a healthy dose of unselfish players who demonstrate nightly the hate to lose mentality and display they are willing to play any role necessary to ensure the team’s success. Does anyone remember who served as the Bruins’ captain when they won the Cup in 69-70 or in 71-72?? Answer: trick question, the Bruins did not have a singular captain either time; in 69-70 they had three alternate captains (Bucyk, Espo, and Westfall) and in 71-72 four alternate captains (Bucyk, Espo, D. Smith, and McKenzie). Leadership by committee and expectation to play and lead by example, no one can deny those teams were truly united and unique. If the Bruins are to erase the failure of last season’s promise the team will need to employ a similar model of joint leadership, united effort, and exhibit a resiliency to overcome any obstacle along the winding path to the Stanley Cup.
There are a great many similarities between the 2010-11 Bruins and the Big Bad Bruins of the ‘70’s, an experienced core, talented youth, and ferocity bubbling beneath the surface. Only one question remains to be answered, will they wait for destiny to shine upon them, or will they seize the opportunity presented to them, melding the youthful promise of Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci with the poise and experience of Bergeron and Recchi and the toughness of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Stuart, and Chara? The answer to this question will be unveiled in June, and only time will tell if the Bruins are ready to fulfill their Great Expectations.
About the Author: NHL Blogger, a fan of the Boston Bruins for 40 years, mom to the famous/notorious Bruins dog blogger, The Pup. The Pup is a savvy hockey dog in search of cookies (the jar is on the top shelf).