Make no mistake, with Zdeno Chara leaving the Boston Bruins to sign with the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, this is now Patrice Bergeron’s team!
“Absolutely, no question — Patrice is going to be the next captain of the Boston Bruins,” Zdeno Chara said of Bergeron, his teammate since the 2006-07 season when Chara came in as an unrestricted free agent and was given the ‘C’. “He’s going to be an unbelievable captain and leader. I can’t imagine anyone else being captain. I can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done.”
On Thursday, Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney confirmed as much but out of respect for Chara, wouldn’t officially name Bergeron the Boston Bruins’ 18th captain for what will be the franchise’s 96th season in the NHL. Chara has been the Bruins’ captain for the last 14 seasons and Sweeney believes out of respect for Chara and his former teammates, it’s best to let his departure via unrestricted free agency settle in before they officially out the ‘C’ on Bergeron’s jersey and replace the ‘A’ for the alternate captain that’s been there since the 2008-09 season.
“Yes, we expect to have a captain,” Sweeney told the media Thursday. “We will allow this some time to breathe for Zdeno and his decision. We’ll make a decision moving forward, I think it’s an obvious decision and one that we’ll make in a respectful manner at an appropriate time. But I think it is important to allow this moment, as raw as it is, to let it playout for the time being as we get on the doorstep to training camp. But we will do that in the right and appropriate manner.”
No one expects Bergeron alone, to fill the leadership void that Chara has left in the Boston Bruins dressing room but the fact that he, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci has been part of the leadership core for so long and that players like Charlie Coyle are emerging as leaders, should ease the transition a bit.
“It’s a little bit to be determined,” Sweeney acknowledged when asked who will step up as leaders. “I do believe we have a strong leadership core still in place and we have other players that would like to assume a larger responsibility in that, on and off the ice. And they have to grow into that. You have to – that’s learned, that’s not a born ability in my opinion. And we’re going to allow for some of that latitude.
But we have a lot of strong guys that are looking to continue the success they’ve previously had, pass it on to the next cast of players that we hope to become core, integral parts of this hockey club, and we’ll move forward. A player like Craig Smith, coming from another organization, things that he can bring to the table that hopefully, our club can continue to improve upon.”
Bergeron was drafted in the second round (45th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and then made the Bruins roster as an 18-year-old out of training camp for the 2003-04 season. By the end of his second NHL season in 2005-06, Bergeron had already cracked the 30-goal plateau with a 31-goal campaign. He wouldn’t do that again until the 2013-14 season and has done so five times since, but from 2008-09 straight through to the present he has become the league’s premier two-way player and won the Selke Trophy four times.
However, Bergeron has made just as much, if not a more important imprint on the Bruins with his leadership and class and as Chara put it Thursday, “an ambassador” of the Boston Bruins franchise. Now he is about to become the captain and replace one of the best captains not only the Boston Bruins have had but any Boston pro sports team.