The TD Garden rafters might as well serve as a museum. The history collected in the banners above the Garden ice and parquet serve as collective reminders of how much success the building’s inhabitants have seen over the years.
While the Celtics are fairly liberal with retiring numbers, the Bruins are a little more selective. It should come as no surprise that there’s more often than not a direct correlation between Stanley Cup champion banners and retired numbers. So it begs the question as to which members of this Bruins team could one day see their number in the rafters someday.
In the ultimate case of putting the horse way before the cart, let’s just assume that the Bruins are able to win their second Cup in three years by beating the Chicago Blackhawks in this year’s Stanley Cup Final. There’s certainly a case to be made for some important members of this Bruins team to have their numbers retired some day.
The conversation begins with the two most important members of this Bruins core — Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. They are the lifeblood of this team that will play for its second Cup in three years. They are leaders on and off the ice, and the “C” that Chara wears on his chest will no doubt one day adorn the black and gold sweater of Bergeron if and when the machine that is Chara ever breaks down.
Assuming that both players end their careers in Boston — and there’s not much to make you think otherwise at this point — they will almost certainly go down as two of the greatest players in B’s history. Their individual accomplishments alone could make the case.
Chara’s time in Boston has seen him as one of, if not the best defensemen in the NHL. He logs huge minutes for the B’s, usually tasked with slowing down the opposition’s best players. In the two Cup Final runs, he’s been matched up against players like Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin (four Hart Trophies for that group, which could be come five if Crosby wins again this year). If the Bruins are to win another Cup this year, it will likely come from any work that Chara does on Chicago’s top-flight talent with players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. He’s got a Norris Trophy to his name, and the case could be made that he’s been snubbed a couple of times in years past as well. He’s served as the captain during what could be one of the top stretches in club history.
Bergeron, on the other hand, is one of the best two-way forwards of this era. He already has one Selke Trophy on his resume, there are some who think he’ll win another this year, and we can safely assume he’ll be in the conversation for years to come. He’s a consummate professional, and by all accounts, a tremendous teammate. Oh, and he’s only 27 years old, presumably entering the prime of his career with at least 10 more years of solid hockey left if he so chooses. If he plays the rest of those years in a Bruins sweater — it would be a shame if he didn’t — he’ll retire as one of the greatest players in team history. That alone should be enough to get 37 in the rafters.
But again, it comes back to the Stanley Cup banners. If the Bruins are able to secure the seventh in team history this year, Chara and Bergeron would be no-doubt locks to have their numbers retired. Of the 10 Bruins players who have had their numbers retired, seven of them won Stanley Cups as players. Six of those seven won at least multiple Cups. Dit Clapper leads the way with a franchise-best three. Having two Cups to their name, especially in an era where there are more teams in the league than ever before, would be a huge boost to both Chara and Bergeron.
They might not be alone, either. This core is filled with young players who are already making their mark on the franchise. What if David Krejci is able to continue his torrid play on the way to another Cup? There would be something to be said for his accomplishments (perhaps leading the league in points for both Cup runs) in addition to a potential Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts this year. Milan Lucic would be a popular pick as well. At only 25, he appears to be in the Bruins’ plans for quite some time, and he could eventually be considered as well. The same goes for someone like Tuukka Rask, especially if he spearheads another Cup run or two.
We’re also on the precipice of Claude Julien etching his name in Bruins lore as one of the best coaches the franchise has ever seen. Julien has already chased down Bruins legends Milt Schmidt and Don Cherry (albeit with admittedly more games per season to do so), and if he sticks around for a few more years, he could maybe catch Art Ross for the all-time lead in wins. Again, it all comes back to Stanley Cup wins, and adding another ring to his hand would go a long way in cementing his legacy.
For now, this is all filler talk leading up to what should be a great Stanley Cup Final. The only thing that’s on the Bruins’ minds at this point is winning the Stanley Cup. But with a chance to become franchise legends, there’s plenty more on the line for this version of the B’s.