Unburdened of their past, the Bruins now may focus squarely on their future.
And so as the duck boats are prepped and parade plans finalized, here is the only question that matters for this franchise as the Bruins celebrate their first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years: was this the end of a destructive famine, or was it merely the start of a fruitful harvest? The Bruins are young, stable, and hard-working. And as recent Boston history has taught us, a second title may not be far behind a first.The Patriots? They almost immediately followed their first Super Bowl win with two others, winning three titles in four years. The Red Sox, after winning in 2004, won again in 2007 and reached Game 7 of the American League Championship Series in 2008. The Celtics won in 2008 and went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year -- and they did it with a roster built for the short term, not the long.
The Bruins, of course, are entirely different, largely because they possess a deep and relatively young roster that generally will remain intact. Michael Ryder, Tomas Kaberle and Mark Recchi are the only notable unrestricted free agents on the roster, Recchi having already announced his retirement. Brad Marchand is a priority as a restricted free agent. But beyond that, the Bruins are still young and developing, and they have a goalie-in-waiting (Tuukka Rask) tucked behind the incomparable Tim Thomas.
Next month, Patrice Bergeron will be just 26, the same age as Nathan Horton. David Krejci is 25, Milan Lucic and Marchand 23. Adam McQuaid is 24. Beyond Zdeno Chara, Thomas and, if you'd like, Marc Savard, the "old" players on the Bruins are Dennis Seidenberg (soon to be 30), Chris Kelly (30) and Rich Peverley (soon to be 29) as well as Johnny Boychuk, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell (all 27). All of those players are under contract through at least next season, and none of them include a cast of potential contributors like Steven Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski or Jordan Caron.
And then, naturally, there is Tyler Seguin, the 19-year-old phenom whom the Bruins selected with the No. 2 overall pick last summer and who has the potential to be their best player since ... well ... who? (Lest we forget, the Bruins also have the No. 9 pick in this year's draft courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade, the gift that keeps on giving.)
Wednesday's Game 7 win over the Canucks was not an end so much as it was a beginning, if for no other reason than the fact that the Bruins are in position to make it so. If you want to credit general manager Peter Chiarelli for that, feel free. He certainly deserves his share of praise. Mike O'Connell gets a piece of the pie, too. Rosters are usually built over the span of several years, not a few, and the impact of key decisions is not often felt until years after the fact.
Ask Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick about this. For that matter, ask Dan Duquette and Theo Epstein, too.
Amid all of that, here is what else the Bruins deserve credit for, as forward Shawn Thornton so aptly noted in the aftermath of Wednesday's victory: they have altered the culture here, which is not easy to do. Changing history is far more difficult than continuing it. As a rookie in 2007, Dustin Pedroia never had to answer questions about 1918 because the demons had been exorcised. He was raised in a far healthier environment. The same is true for Jonathan Papelbon, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Daniel Bard, among others, and there is simply no way to measure the impact of something like that.
Meanwhile, in Foxboro, while players were not only groomed in a far more productive setting, others were attracted. Corey Dillon and Randy Moss wanted to come here because of what Parcells and Belichick built. Even after the disappointment of a January loss to the New York Jets, the Patriots have a new core built around people like Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty and Jerod Mayo. Belichick and Tom Brady are still here. New England remains one of the elite franchises in the NFL, even without a title in six years, and it would take years of neglect to damage that.
Back to Seguin for a moment, if for no other reason than he is the future of the franchise. Because of Wednesday, Seguin will never have to answer questions like the ones Bergeron did when he arrived here several years ago. Back then, Bergeron spoke of the history of the history, of restoring the luster to the spoked B, of Orr and Esposito and Bucyk. Now he is part of the group that has done it. Seguin will never have to deal with that kind of negativity because, in his very first year as an NHL player, he had the privilege of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Already, it seems, the pressure is on Taylor Hall in Edmonton. One can only wonder what was going through Hall's mind as Seguin and the Bruins celebrated two nights ago.
Here, in Boston, we have led a charmed existence over the last 10 years. If the puck hadn't deflected off Chara's skate ... or if officials had blown the tuck rule ... or if Dave Roberts had been out ... or if P.J. Brown, of all people, had missed a 10-footer ... well, who knows. But the Bruins indisputably have a seat at the table now, and champions never have to apologize for winning.
Rather, they can look forward and focus on what they must do to win again.
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