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Brad Marchand shared a familiar sentiment hovering over the 2023-24 Bruins on Tuesday morning.
Whether it be his sterling play on the ice or his commanding presence in the dressing room, the Bruins don’t have a singular avenue available to replace a player like Patrice Bergeron.
“Obviously the on-ice stuff — I mean, he’s the best two-way player to ever play the game,” Marchand said of Bergeron following the Bruins’ first captains’ practice of the preseason. “There’s no replacing him on the ice or in the room. A lot of day-to-day stuff and how he helps guys throughout different moments and tough times, we’re gonna miss him a ton there.”
Bergeron’s ability to both drive play in the offensive zone and snuff out scoring chances down the other end of the ice made him an invaluable asset during Boston’s sustained status as a Cup contender over the last 10+ seasons.
But with Bergeron and David Krejci both hanging up their skates this summer, the Bruins have more on their plate than just accounting for the absence of their two top-six pivots on the ice.
Bergeron built a reputation as one of the most respected players in the NHL over his 19 seasons with the Bruins, most of which saw him take to the ice with an “A” or “C” stamped onto his sweater.
For Marchand, Bergeron’s knack for reading the room and communication skills made him an invaluable resource over the years as a steadying presence for the rest of the roster.
But even though the Bruins don’t have the means to fully replace Bergeron’s intangibles in the room, Marchand believes that the Bruins have a blueprint in place as far as carrying his message moving forward.
Much like Boston’s strategy for shoring up their vacancies on the ice, Marchand acknowledged that the Bruins’ hopes of addressing Bergeron and Krejci’s loss in the room will take a collective effort.
“What the guys in the past have done is they did it as a group,” Marchand said. “They were so good at bringing a group of guys together, having everyone believe the same goal, having a common goal together and believing in it. … There’s no team in any sport that can have one guy dictate what a team does, but it’s how they’re able to bring a group together. And again, that’s what our captains in the past have done and our leadership groups in the past have done, is they’ve been able to lead by numbers and strength in numbers.
“When we had Bergy and [Zdeno Chara], we had two captains for a while and that just bleeds through the lineup. With Bergy … everyone had a ton of respect for him. So everyone would follow what he did and what he said, but he brought a lot of guys in together and gave them a lot of responsibility and allowed them to feel like they had a voice and that took place again through the lineup.
“So we’re gonna have to do that again this year. You’re not going to replace guys like that in the room. But collectively as a group, we just have to come together and find out what our goals are, what our beliefs are for this season and build on that together.”
Even though both Bergeron and Chara casted a commanding presence in Boston’s dressing room for close to two decades, Marchand stressed that the Bruins have had no shortage of additional leaders over the years — regardless of whether or not they had letters on their sweaters.
Despite the amount of turnover on the 2023-24 Bruins roster, Marchand noted that Boston’s revamped leadership core is still stocked with players who have donned a black-and-gold sweater for multiple years now, including David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo.
Of course, there still needs to be a singular conduit in place at the top of Boston’s leadership pyramid.
Given Marchand’s extended tenure with the Bruins (14 seasons), his designation as Bergeron’s understudy over that lengthy stretch and his evolution from pest into a poised leader, the 35-year-old winger seems like the favorite to take on the mantle as captain in 2023-24.
But Marchand once again didn’t harp much on the individual challenges that await Boston’s reworked dressing room.
“It’s not something that I really think about too much,” Marchand said of the Bruins captaincy. “Obviously it’s a big honor to be in the leadership group in this organization when you look at the guys that have been there before. But we’ve always done it collectively as a group, so regardless of who wears it, it’s a collective thing and even guys without a letter step up a lot of times throughout the year.”
Given Marchand’s early reputation as an agitating scraper with a lengthy rap sheet of suspensions and fines, assuming the captaincy in Boston might have seemed like a far-fetched scenario at one point in time.
But at this stage of his career, Marchand is looking to take a page out of Bergeron’s book, and grateful for the opportunity that a new 82-game slate presents.
“I think as you get older, you mature. I’m not saying I’m mature. But then you have kids, and you’ve been around … and just how hard it is to win — what it takes to truly have a legit team and even when you do, how hard it still is,” Marchand said. “Look at last year, it’s a perfect example.
“You just can’t take any moment for granted. If you think you’re owed anything or anything is just gonna work out in your favor.. We’re all chasing the same dream. … Only one team gets to win.”
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