It's been an up-and-down decade for the Bruins. Or, perhaps more accurately, a down-then-up decade. But despite some lean years early in the two-thousand-aughts, there were several big-time players who left lasting impressions on hockey here in the Hub.
As the decade draws to a close, we look back on the top Bruins players at each position.
Left wing: Brian Rolston
A member of the Bruins from 1999-2004, Rolston was a solid scorer and two-way player perhaps best known for his skill on the penalty kill. A Michigan native who played center as well as the wing, Rolston set then-career highs with 31 goals and 62 points during the 2001-02 season in Boston. After leaving Boston, Rolston, now 36, continued to excel during stays in Minnesota and New Jersey, with whom he spent the first six seasons of his career.
Honorable mention: Sergei Samsonov, Marco Sturm
Center: Joe Thornton
There have been plenty of high caliber players who have come to Boston to further their careers, and there have been several who have come up through the ranks and shown considerable promise. But there's no one at the center position from the past decade who's come close to being the player that Joe Thornton was for the Bruins. A three-time All-Star with the B's (six times overall), Thornton won both the Art Ross (highest point-scorer) and Hart Memorial (MVP) Trophies during the 2005-06 season, which he split between Boston and San Jose. Dangerous with the puck on his stick, the 6-foot-4, 235-pound giant is also a physical powerhouse at both ends of the ice, topping 100 penalty minutes in three straight seasons with the Bruins from 2001-03.
Honorable mention: Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, David Krejci Right wing: Glen Murray
Originally drafted by the Bruins in 1991 before spending much of his early career with the Penguins and Kings, Murray returned to the Hub early in the 2001-02 season and proceeded to score 180 goals and net 160 assists over the next five-plus seasons. The 2003 All-Star posted a career-high 44 goals, 48 assists and 92 points in 2002-03.
Honorable mention: Bill Guerin, Mike Knuble, Phil Kessel
Defense: Zdeno Chara, Nick Boynton
In a decade marked by a lack of consistency on the blue line, these two stand atop the heap — Chara, literally so. Standing 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, the Slovakian bruiser, who arrived from Ottawa in the summer of 2006, is both a menacing physical presence (he topped 100 PIM every season from 2000-01 to 2007-08) and a skilled playmaker on the power play. The B's current captain scored a career-high 19 goals last season and has topped 30 assists every year in Boston. Boynton, a first-round pick by the B's in 1999, had four solid seasons in Beantown from 2001-06 during which he averaged 21 points and nearly 100 penalty minutes per campaign.
Honorable mention: Dennis Wideman, Aaron Ward, Brad Stuart Goalie: Tim Thomas
Yes, Thomas was the only Bruin to claim the Vezina this decade (playing 54 games and going 36-11-7 with a 2.10 GAA in helping the squad to an Eastern Conference-best 116 regular-season points in 2008-09) and the first since Pete Peeters in 1982-83, but he's been the longest standing, most consistent Boston goalie of the decade. He's posted a career 118-81-32 record and a solid 2.61 GAA in a 4 1/2-year span while serving as the gatekeeper for the most successful run in recent Bruins history.
Honorable mention: Byron Dafoe, Andrew Raycroft
For more Boston teams of the decade, check out:
Tuesday, Dec. 29: Boston Celtics
Wednesday, Dec. 30: New England Patriots
Thursday, Dec. 31: Boston Red Sox