It’s tough enough for Brad Marchand and the Boston Bruins to follow up a record-breaking regular season and a heartbreaking playoff disappointment. Such a task becomes even more monumental without Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
Gathering at the Bruins’ first captains’ practice on Tuesday, Marchand acknowledged the "burden" of replacing captain Bergeron and longtime fixture Krejci.
"To lose them both in the same year, it's a big loss for our group," Marchand said, via NHL.com. "But it gives other guys the opportunity to step up, start carving a different path for themselves, gaining more leadership, carrying more minutes, carrying more of the load...
"You definitely feel that burden, or responsibility," Marchand continued. "It comes with the territory with being around for a while. It just kind of how things go, the torch is passed down. When it's time to lead the way, you've got to do it."
While Marchand understandably described Bergeron as irreplaceable, he also noted how the team's leadership extends beyond who wears the "C."
That’s sensible, as it’s easy to forget how smooth the transition was from Zdeno Chara (Bruins captain from 2006 to 2020) to Bergeron. Marchand’s likely new center, Charlie Coyle, said that Marchand’s "always had that leadership, where his work ethic is off the charts."
Plenty expect the Bruins to name the 35-year-old Marchand as the new captain. If so, it would represent a fascinating full-circle moment for a frequently suspended player who briefly seemed to lick every opponent in sight.
Replacing Bergeron on the ice remains the biggest challenge
All apologies to the Mark Messier Leadership Award, but leadership is ultimately subjective. As much as people want to believe that success or failure hinges on Ted Lasso rallying the troops, bigger concerns revolve around simply having enough talent (and luck) to win.
Despite Bergeron’s advancing age, he was still crucial to the Bruins’ historic success last season. This Hockey Viz chart captures the not-so-surprising truth that Boston’s defense went from good without Bergeron on the ice to downright suffocating when he was out there.
Don’t sleep on the perennial Selke winner’s offensive impact, either.
Scoring 27 goals and 58 points in 78 games only tells some of the story about how Bergeron made the Bruins more dangerous in the attacking zone.
Marchand spoke about taking a by-committee approach to replacing the production and leadership of Bergeron and Krejci. The other side of that coin is there can be domino effects from losing Bergeron, Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi and Taylor Hall.
We may find out just how crucial Bergeron was to a breakout season for Jake DeBrusk, for instance.
Jake DeBrusk had a strong season last year. But he played a lot of minutes with Bergeron (& Marchand of course). We're curious on DeBrusk without Bergeron next year. https://t.co/Jz9qM0J4n4 pic.twitter.com/NadQVJLJxW
— Andy & Rono (@ARHockeyStats) September 3, 2023
On paper, Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha will likely be pushed out of their comfort zones and into top-six roles. Even though David Pastrnak put up career-best numbers largely without Bergeron, he could feel the heat as much as anyone else considering his new $11.25-million cap hit.
Even without heavy losses, the Bruins had nowhere to go but down after their historic 2022-23 regular season. Take crucial players like Bergeron and Krejci out of the equation, and it’s clear that Marchand and other Bruins carry a heavy burden into next season.