But with Mark Recchi's retirement, there is a vacancy in the Bruins' formal leadership group. Recchi wore one of the A's last season as an alternate captain, and one of the orders of business for the Bruins this preseason is to appoint a replacement to stand alongside captain Zdeno Chara and returning alternate captain Patrice Bergeron.
Candidates for the position are plentiful, and the Bruins can't really go wrong with any number of possible selections. But who is the best option to stitch an A next to the spoked-B on their sweater?
Wednesday's preseason opener may have given a hint. With Chara getting the night off, the Bruins had three alternate captains, with defenseman Andrew Ference and forward Chris Kelly joining Bergeron. Those two, along with the likes of Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, Dennis Seidenberg, David Krejci, Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton, could be worthy of wearing the A during the regular season.
In fact, the best option may just be rotating the second A among that group. There is precedent for such a scenario, as Bruins coach Claude Julien rotated the second A on a monthly basis in the 2008-09 season before Recchi eventually settled into taking on the role on a more permanent basis last season.
The Bruins have a unique core of veteran leaders, and while not having a letter has not been an impediment to guys like Thornton and Ference speaking up when needed and taking charge of the room, why not incorporate each of those unique voices into formal leadership positions by sharing that second A? They may not need it, but it can't hurt to add the weight of an official title to the wisdom being dispensed by such veterans.
At the same time, rotating the A will allow some of the younger players in the Bruins core to step more to the fore and take on some additional responsibilities. That will allow the likes of Lucic, Krejci and Co. to be better prepared to accept the torch when it is eventually passed down from Chara.
Sharing the second A is a solution that not only spreads the responsibility to a wider group of capable leaders, but also reflects the reality that no one player can truly fill the skates of the departed Recchi, nor should anyone be expected to.
"We definitely lost a great leader," Thornton said. "Everybody is going to have to help out. There's no gaping hole there. It's just that Rex was a special individual and you can't replace that, so it's going to take a group effort to try and make sure we're all heading in the right direction."
In his first four seasons in Boston, Thornton has already proven his leadership ability, and the rest of the team will look to him whether there's a letter on his chest or not. But it would still be beneficial to formally recognize the contributions of a number of different leaders like Thornton.
"That's an honor, no doubt," Thornton said of the possibility of wearing the A. "But those decisions are made, and whether I have a letter or don't have a letter I'll continue to be the same person I've been for the last 15 years. I'm not going to start talking more if I get one or talking less if I don't have one. I'll be the same, so whatever happens, happens. It will be an honor, but it's not something that's necessary. And I think the rest of the guys in this dressing room feel the same way. I don't think anybody's starving for it, but if they get it they'll be honored by it."
Ference echoed those sentiments at the start of camp, noting that wearing the A was "not really on my radar.
"Whether you have something on your jersey or not, I think you have a responsibility to add what you can to the dressing room," Ference added. "I don't think it changes who you are or should be or anything like that. It just is what it is, and they've got to put it on somebody."
They do have to put it somebody, but there's no requirement it has to be the same person for every game of the season. The Bruins are in an enviable position with so many high-character players capable of filling leadership roles, all of whom now have the added benefit of knowing what it takes to win a championship after last year's Cup run.
Why waste the chance to utilize all of them? They certainly seem willing to share the responsibilities, and the Bruins would benefit from having a variety of different players with various leadership styles put into position to provide some guidance to the rest of the squad.
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