Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is more than confident that Bruins superstar winger David Pastrnak is ready to take the leadership torch from captain Patrice Bergeron, center David Krejci, and winger Brad Marchand.
In each of his media sessions since the Boston Bruins lost Game 7 to the Florida Panthers, Sweeney – mostly unprompted – has made it clear that the time has come for the team’s second tier of leadership to transition to the top tier. That means Linus Ullmark, Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm, Brandon Carlo, Charlie Coyle, Pavel Zacha, and David Pastrnak. Sweeney is hoping that the leadership core can channel the sting of the stunning loss to the Panthers, the same way the 2010-2011 emerging leadership core, led by Bergeron, did after their team blew a 3-0 series and Game 7 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010.
“I mean, 2010 goes against Philadelphia, lose, and turn around and win the next year,” Sweeney recalled. “The core guys here have taken to heart that they feel like we had a historic regular season, but we had a failure in the playoffs. We have to learn and grow. And that next core, as we would call them, they have to take that, take umbrage with the disappointment and drive. They have to drive from this team going forward. That’s just a fact, and they are excited about that challenge.”
To Sweeney, Pastrnak can lead the way on that front. Despite the fact he was coming off a record-breaking 61-goal season in which he cracked the 100-point plateau with 113, Pastrnak remained a lightning rod for criticism as the Bruins’ 3-1 series lead over the Panthers dissipated. Not even five goals in seven games – including one in Game 7 – on a bum shoulder could silence the critics of the 2023 Hart and Ted Lindsay Awards runner-up. That happens when you’re the highest-paid player on your team and sixth-highest in the NHL at $11.5 million against the salary cap.
“David is a great indication and a lot of rhetoric about what David is going to do,” Sweeney said of his highest-paid player. “David’s heart has been in Boston, and he wanted to be part of this year, you know, a transition, likely coming within the next eight years of his career. He’s now part of leadership. He’s talked about learning from people. I think it’s a great indication of, and you put ‘March’ [Brad Marchand] and ‘Pasta,’ you know, [Charlie] Coyle, and [Pavel] Zacha and [Hampus] Lindholm, [Charlie] McAvoy and the goaltending situation and of the other guys. That’s the next core for the Boston Bruins, and we’re excited about that.”