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The first decade of the new millennium has been a pendulum for the National Hockey League: it has seen the disappointment of a lockout during the 2004-2005 season coupled with the high expectations of “the Next One,” Sidney Crosby. The Boston Bruins had the same swings, ranging from the excitement of a first-place finish in 2009 to the disappointment of being the only Boston team to be championship-less in the decade. Despite the absence of the Stanley Cup in Beantown, certain players deserve to be honored in the SoB’s Boston Bruins All-Decade Team.
The all-time leading scorer in Oshawa Generals history, Marc Savard has only spent three seasons with the Boston Bruins, but they have been three of the best for the team in the past decade. Leading the team in scoring with 96, 78, and 88 points between 2006 and 2009, Savard anchored one of the league’s most potent offensive lines, with Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel on each wing. Despite missing the playoffs in his first season with the team, Savard has restored the Bruins to past heights, including a first place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2009. Savard is set to remain in Boston through most of the next decade, too, after signing a cap-friendly seven-year extension.
Honorable Mention: Joe Thornton, 1997-2005
Drafted seven spots behind first-pick Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov won the Calder Trophy as the league’s best rookie, contributing 47 points. While Samsonov never reached the potential most expected (despite outscoring Thornton in five of the eight season they played together), he helped the Bruins to the playoffs in three of the five seasons he spent with the team in the new millennium. His best season came in 2000-2001, when he notched 29 goals and 46 assists. In the 2004 NHL Playoffs, the current Carolina Hurricane added seven points (2-5-7) in seven games before the Bruins bowed out to the Montréal Canadiens in the quarterfinals.
Honorable Mention: P.J. Axelsson, 1997-2009, Milan Lucic, 2007-Present
While Phil Kessel’s departure to the Toronto Maple Leafs may have been just shy of amicable, his contribution to the team during his short stint in Boston cannot be undervalued. His 36 goals in the 2008-2009 campaign were tied for second in the decade only to Bill Guerin’s 41 in 2001-2002. In 2007, the Madison, Wisconsin-native was awarded the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy following his return to hockey after a short bout with testicular cancer. In addition, Kessel led the team with six goals during the 2009 playoffs, despite playing with an injured shoulder. Many Bruins fans booed Kessel in his return to the TD Garden, but the current situation should not outweigh the benefits he provided for the team.
Honorable Mention: Bill Guerin, 2000-2002, Glen Murray, 1991-1995, 2001-2008
Fluent in five languages, Zdeno Chara has been adjusting to the Bostonian accent since his arrival in 2006. The NHL’s tallest player was named the team’s captain following Joe Thornton’s departure and has earned every cent of his $37.5 million contract with the Bruins. With 144 points in three seasons and a Norris Trophy (league’s best defenseman) to his name, Chara has proven himself as one of the top blueliners in both the offensive and defensive zones. In addition, he is currently the three-time defending Fastest Shot champion, his most recent shot setting an NHL record of 105.4 mph.
A Bolton, Massachusetts-native, Hal Gill only played hockey in New England before the 2004-2005 lockout that sent him to Finland. Now (unfortunately) with the Montréal Canadiens, the Providence College graduate originally joined the Boston Bruins in 1997. The turn of the century saw his productivity increase to a career-high 22 points in 2001-2002, the same season the Bruins finished in first in the Eastern Conference. Two seasons later, Gill anchored the defense that helped the Bruins finish second in the conference, but still could not find a way to beat his current team (the Habs) in the opening round of the playoffs.
Honorable Mention: Dennis Wideman, 2006-Present
Despite having been with the Boston Bruins organization since 2002, Tim Thomas did not begin to see significant playing time until the 2005-2006 season, during which he went 12-13-10. As starting goaltender Hannu Toivonen struggled the following season, Thomas was named starter and went 30-29-4 before beginning a yoga-based physical conditioning program, which helped the former Bruins’ 7th Man Award-winner post records of 28-19-6 and 36-11-7 in 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, respectively. At the conclusion of the 2009 season, Thomas was also awarded the Jennings Trophy (jointly with backup Manny Fernandez), the Crozier Award, and the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.
Honorable Mention: Byron Dafoe, 1997-2002
The Boston Bruins had six head coaches in the past decade with only two earning more wins than losses in their stints. Current head coach Claude Julien has been the most successful, earning a winning percentage of .640 and taking the Bruins within one point of the President’s Trophy in 2009, the same season he won the Jack Adam’s Trophy as the league’s top coach. While Julien has yet to bring the Stanley Cup back to Causeway Street, he has certainly done his part in making the Bruins one of the league’s best teams.
Honorable Mention: Robbie Ftorek, 2001-2003
The Bruins have certainly had a solid decade filled with emotional swings and immense talent. Unfortunately, they failed to bring home hockey’s ultimate prize, but there’s also the next ten years for that.
Tags: All-Decade Team, Bill Guerin, Boston Bruins, Byron Dafoe, Claude Julien, Dennis Wideman, Glen Murray, Hal Gill, Joe Thornton, Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, P.J. Axelsson, Phil Kessel, Robbie Ftorek, Sergei Samsonov, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara