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Assembling the All-Time Modern Era Bruins Roster

August 28, 2015, 4:02 PM ET [34 Comments]
Ty Anderson
Boston Bruins Blogger •Bruins Feature Columnist • RSSArchiveCONTACT
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The month of August has always been a dreadfully silent month in terms of hockey news. Like, to the point where I question what I’m even doing when I open my laptop in search of something new. (At one point, I swear to you that I saw a tumbleweed blow across the NHL.com homepage.) That’s why I’ve decided to try something semi-new, and make August a reader-request month of sorts. If it’s about the Bruins, hockey, or the NHL, and you wanna read it-- tweet it at me (@_TyAnderson), email me ([email protected]), send a private message, or comment it in the boards of a blog.

Today’s blog idea comes from an idea floated to me via email from Dave C., who wants to see what a Modern Era All-Time Boston Bruins roster would look like.


From reading your articles on Hockeybuzz, I'm curious to see who would make your modern era Bruins fantasy roster. Here is mine. I'm not married to this roster, as I found this a very difficult exercise. The lines are in no particular order or combination. Again, just putting who I think would fit roles and be a solid lineup top to bottom:

Goalies:

Tim Thomas
Tuukka Rask

Honorable Mention: Andy Moog, Bill Ranford

Defense:

Ray Bourque Zdeno Chara
Johnny Boychuck Torey Krug
Don Sweeney Hal Gill

Honorable Mention: Dennis Wideman, Dennis Seidenberg, Kyle McLaren

Forwards:

Milan Lucic Patrice Bergeron Tyler Seguin
Brian Rolston Adam Oates Cam Neely
Sergei Samsonov Joe Thornton Jarome Iginla
PJ Axelson Jason Allison Glen Murray

Honorable Mentions: Marc Savard, Bill Guerin, Phil Kessel, David Krejci


Although there’s not a set date on it, let’s just go ahead and say that ‘Modern Era’ is within the last 25 years or so. That will make our lives a whole lot easier, to be honest. With that in mind, I’d be lying if I tried to deny that recency will play a huge factor in all of this when it comes to my selections.

But let’s try it.

First Line: Joe Juneau - Adam Oates - Cam Neely

This one’s relatively easy, you’d think. You could make the argument that there wasn’t a one-two punch more dominant in the history of the Bruins than Adam Oates and Cam Neely. Oates was the slick passer, and Neely was the finisher. This led to three 50-goal seasons from Neely -- including a downright ridiculous 50-goal in 49-game campaign in ‘93-94 -- while Oates put up 142 goals and 499 points in just 368 games with the Black and Gold. That 499-point marker puts Oates No. 12 on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list (he was only in town for six seasons, six!) while Neely ranks ninth.

For their winger, it seemed like Joe Juneau was the perfect fit. Although they didn’t spend too, too much time together (Neely’s knee problems were to blame for that), Juneau was an efficient talent during his brief three-year tenure in the Hub. Skating to Oates’ left, Juneau put up 51 goals and 193 points in 161 games (and six goals and 18 points in 19 postseason contests).

If only they had more healthy time together…

Second Line: Milan Lucic - David Krejci - Nathan Horton

They were often maddening during the regular season, but when the stakes were at their highest from 2010 to 2013, the Bruins could rely on their first line of Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton. They successfully led the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in 2011 and nearly did the same in 2013 before falling short to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.

With Krejci as his center and Horton on the right, Lucic’s goal-scoring came took off, with 30 goals and 62 points in 2011 and 26 goals and 61 points the following season. (Lucic did, however, have one poor season with this line, recording just seven goals and 27 points in 46 games in 2012-13.) Like Lucic, Krejci twice hit the 60-point mark during this three-year run, while Horton scored 56 goals and tallied up 107 points in 169 games over that stretch. Again, it wasn’t the regular seasons that the B’s loved.

In the 2011 postseason, Horton was King Clutch. He scored the series-shifting Game 5 double-overtime goal in the first round against Montreal, and then the Game 7 overtime dagger two tilts later. He also scored the lone goal in Boston’s 1-0, Game 7 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round, and finished his first Stanley Cup Playoffs with eight goals and 17 points in 21 games before a vicious cheapshot from Vancouver’s Aaron Rome in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals put an end to his run.

And after missing the 2012 postseason with a concussion, Horton’s return to hockey’s biggest stage in 2013 came with familiar success, as No. 18 put up seven goals and 19 points in 22 games this time around. In total, the Welland, Ont. native put up 15 goals and 36 points in just 43 playoff affairs. Huge.

Oh, Krejci? Only led the playoffs in scoring in both ‘11 and ‘13, with a combined 49 points in 47 games.

A return to the glory days of Cup contention would not have come without the impact of that line.

Third Line: Mike Knuble - Joe Thornton - Glen Murray

Nicknamed the 700-pound line by (oddly enough) then-Montreal coach Claude Julien, my team would have to pay a slight homage to the early-2000s Bruins squads with a third line featuring center Joe Thornton and wingers Mike Knuble and Glen Murray.

Did these Bruins teams consistently find ways to underachieve their way out of the playoffs? Of course. Could the club have used more of a contribution from Thornton, the team’s captain for much of that stretch? Definitely. But still, you can’t ignore the impact of a talent like Thornton and what he meant to the Black and Gold. In four seasons from 2000 to 2004, Jumbo Joe put up an impressive 118 goals and 313 points in 292 games. His best season came with 2002-03’s 36-goal, 101-point campaign.

Traded back to Boston in 2001, sniper Glen Murray made an immediate impact with the B’s that kept in a Boston sweater from then ‘til the end of his career (2008). Murray put up three-straight seasons of at least 32 goals scored from ‘01 to ‘04, and put a career-high 44 goals by netminders in 2002-03. Murray’s 209 goals in a Boston uniform rank him 15th on the club’s all-time scoring list, too.

The line’s right-winger, Mike Knuble, was more of a roleplayer for the Black and Gold, yes, but found relatively strong success with 30 goals in ‘03 and 21 tallies the following season.

Fourth Line: Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Brian Rolston

The only line that never really played together when assembling this roster, the three-zone prowess (read as: decimation) of center Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand make these guys a must-have for the bottom-six of this roster. These are two guys that the Black and Gold have been able to trust in every zone and every situation for almost five years now. Rarely do you see this sort of defensive responsibility entrusted to guys that are also capable of consistently putting up 25 goals and 60 points, but that’s exactly what the Bruins have in No. 37 and 63. Just incredible talents.

On the right side, I went with the early-2000s version of that, Brian Rolston.

Known for his absolute cannon of a shot, Rolston’s best year with the Bruins was a 2001-02 season in which he recorded a career-high 64 points, and led the NHL with nine shorthanded goals scored. That was the second year of a four-year stretch that came with 96 goals and 227 points in 332 games played for the Bruins from the versatile No. 12. Rolston ultimately left Boston for Minnesota during the 2004 lockout, but would make a return to Boston in 2012 after stops in New Jersey and Long Island, before he closed his career out with the Bruins as a successful deadline reclamation project, scoring three goals and 15 points in 21 games (and three points in seven playoff games) for the club.

Imagine going against this line? No thank you.

Extra Skaters: P.J. Axelsson, Sergei Samsonov

For the extra skaters for this group, I have to give a nod to one of my favorite players from when I was a kid, P.J. Axelsson. Known for his defensive capabilities, the Swedish winger spent his entire NHL career with the Black and Gold, and ranks 10th on the franchise’s all-time games played list (797). Recording 103 goals and 287 points in 11 seasons with the B’s, Axelsson, who now serves as a European scout for the organization, never got the appreciation he should have, I tell ‘ya.

The second extra skater for this roster is Sergei Samsonov.

In eight seasons with the Black and Gold, the Russian winger recorded an impressive 164 goals and 376 points in 514 contests, and won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1997-98. And in a time where the club was known for their playoff shortcomings, the 5-foot-8 Samsonov came through, recording a noteworthy nine goals and 24 points in 35 playoff contests with the Bruins from ‘98 to ‘04.

Defense


First Pairing: Ray Bourque - Don Sweeney

This one’s even easier than naming Oates and Neely to the first line, actually. Captain Ray Bourque and alternate captain Don Sweeney were staples of Boston Bruins hockey through the 90s. Bourque won the Norris Trophy five times in his Boston career, and posted 81 points or more in five-straight seasons from 1989 to ‘93. Insanity. Though he was forced to finish his career with the Colorado Avalanche in a successful pursuit of a Stanley Cup, Bourque retired as the Bruins’ all-time leader in assists (1,111), points (1,506) and games played (1,518).

Sweeney, spending all but one of his professional seasons with the Bruins, is not far behind Bourque, with 1,052 games in a Boston uniform (third on the club’s all-time list). And though he was far from a point producer -- Sweeney’s career high in points came in a 34-point 1992-93 campaign -- Sweeney was an identifiable figure when it came to the Black and Gold of the 90s and into the 2000s. He’s also now the general manager of the club, so maybe there’s some bonus points to be had there.

Second Pairing: Zdeno Chara - Dennis Seidenberg

The 2011 Stanley Cup does not happen without the monstrous play from the Bruins’ top pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. They may have been the second most physically imposing one-two punch of a playoff push in the post-lockout (2005) era, second to Anaheim’s Chris Pronger-Scott Niedermayer combo in 2007.

Zdeno Chara, in my opinion, is the single greatest free agent signing in league history. A force in a Boston sweater since 2006, the 6-foot-9 Slovak has captained the Bruins to two Stanley Cup Finals, and has been a perennial Norris contender. Chara currently ranks 19th on the B’s all-time games played list, and is within striking distance of moving up to 16th -- maybe 15th even -- if healthy in 2015-16.

The German Hammer, Dennis Seidenberg, has been an integral complementary piece to everything that the Black and Gold have done since acquiring him from Florida in 2010, but that’s not gone unnoticed, with No. 44 skating as a constant in the Boston top-four since then.

Third Pairing: Hal Gill - Dennis Wideman

At a towering 6-foot-7, Hal Gill was once considered one of the toughest defenders to get around. At least that’s what NHL superstar Jaromir Jagr though of the Concord, Mass. native. That was, of course, before the lockout and subsequent rule changes away from the ‘clutch and grab’ style that the NHL had turned into. But for almost a decade, Gill was the go-to shutdown defender for the B’s.

OK, so now that I have a platform, I can talk about this: Dennis Wideman was a better defenseman than a lot of people want to admit. Or even consider, for that matter. There’s no doubt that Wideman had a horrible final season with the Black and Gold -- Hey, that’s honestly what happens when they take Chara away from you and stick you with a still developing Matt Hunwick -- but for a few years there, Wideman was everything you wanted out of a No. 2 defenseman.

Under Julien, Wideman posted at least 30 points in all three of his full seasons with the Bruins, with the topper coming in a 50-point 2008-09 season in which Wideman finished with a plus-32 rating. The only other defenseman to put up 50 points and a plus-30 that season? Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom. (I don’t care if you love or hate plus/minus, I think that that’s a cool little trivia question.)

Extra Skater: Kyle McLaren

It seems like teams are hellbent on having a towering brute as their seventh defenseman, and this team is no exception. I’ll take Kyle McLaren as the extra skater for this grouping. At 6-foot-4 with a noted mean streak, McLaren was no stranger to putting bodies on their backs in his time here.

Goaltenders


Tim Thomas

The starter of the Modern Era Bruins has to be Tim Thomas and it’s not even close.

Timmy’s Boston resume also includes two Vezinas, a Conn Smythe, one Jennings, and a .938 save percentage in 2010-11, the highest in B’s history and highest by any goalie in NHL history. Oh, and he also put up the most insane playoff run I’ve ever seen, recording a .940 save percentage, a 1.98 goals against average, and winning three Game 7s en route to Boston’s run to the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Tuukka Rask

Behind Thomas, you have to give the nod to Tuukka Rask.

The heir to Thomas’ crease in Boston, the Finnish phenom has become a model of consistency with the Bruins, winning 136 of 251 starts in a B’s uniform. Rask’s resume to date includes an impressive 2013 playoff run that came just two wins short of a Cup in spite of a remarkable journey with a .940 save percentage and series-for-the-ages third-round showing against the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins. Rask also took home the Vezina Trophy in 2014 for his 36-win, .930 save percentage year.

Ty Anderson has been covering the Boston Bruins for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, is a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com
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