Predicting the next title for each of our Big 4

Boston, MA - 2/07/2017 - New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick hoist three of the five Lombardi championship trophies the team has won during the rally on city hall plaza.  The New England Patriots are celebrated during a victory parade in Boston.  -  (Barry Chin/Globe Staff), Section:  Metro, Reporter:  Globe Staff, Topic:  08parade, LOID:  8.3.1553838056.
New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, quarterback Tom Brady, and head coach Bill Belichick hoist three of the five Lombardi championship trophies the team has won during the rally on City Hall Plaza. –Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Since 2001, four Boston sports teams have combined for 10 championships in their respective sports. The Patriots have won five, the Red Sox three, and the Celtics and Bruins one each.

I suspect you know this and have the library of the requisite what-a-season-it-was championship videos to prove it. It’s a mind-boggling run of collective success.

But like a certain quarterback likes to say — right, the guy with five rings — his favorite championship is the next one. So on one of the slowest days of the sports calendar, let’s take a moment to appreciate the last decade-plus while also being unapologetically greedy.


The question for each of the four teams to win a title in this run is this: When can we expect another? Hey, I said we would be greedy. So let’s take stock of each of those four teams in the quest to try to pinpoint their next championship season.


Last season’s results: 44-31-7 record (95 points), third in the Atlantic Division. Lost in first round of playoffs to Senators, 4-2.

Upon first glance, the Bruins appear to be caught in that neutral-zone trap of the slightly-above-mediocre middle. The Cup won’t be adorning a duck boat any time soon. Yet reasons for optimism don’t require a long search, but just a little patience.

The remaining cornerstones of their 2010-11 Stanley Cup championship team — Zdeno Chara (40), Patrice Bergeron (31), and two-time postseason points leader David Krejci (31) — are no longer at the pinnacle of their primes, but their skills remain intact on most nights. Bergeron in particular remains a stellar all-around performer and perhaps the most unheralded great Boston athlete of his time.

Brad Marchand, still only 29, has emerged as a premier goal scorer while maintaining his love-him-on-your-team, loathe-him-as-an-opponent persona, and Tuukka Rask is one of the league’s better goalies, though exactly where he ranks is an entirely separate debate.

But even as we lament that only ghosts remain on the roster from the disastrous Tyler Seguin trade in July 2013, there are more than a few glimmers of hope. David Pastrnak is a star-in-the-making in skill and style, and Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are a defensive pairing to dream on. General manager Don Sweeney gets high marks for his drafting. It’s imperative that he continues to do so.


ETA of next championship: If all goes right in Sweeney’s roster-build, let’s say 2023. If not, they may not win one before even Seguin is comfortably into retirement.


Last season’s results: 53-29, No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, run over by the LeBron Train in the conference finals, 4-1.

Let’s keep this one brief, since there have been plenty of words spent on Danny Ainge’s roster-building blueprints (plural) since the season ended last month. Four years ago, the Celtics had just traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They had just hired Brad Stevens away from Butler. The roster included Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Jordan Crawford, and Vitor Faverani. They won 25 games.

Four years later, they are a legitimate contender for the 2017-18 Eastern Conference title, with a core of Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, and Isaiah Thomas. And the future is even brighter beyond this coming season, with youngsters Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart (still only 23) poised to become a significant part, if not the core, of the next great Celtics team.

No, they’re not ready to challenge the mighty Warriors. But they might be ready to challenge LeBron James and the Cavs. Win now, and win more later? That Ainge guy knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?

ETA of next championship: Whenever LeBron begins aging like a normal human, the Warriors get sick of each other, and Tatum somehow does prove to be the next Pierce. How does 2021 sound?


Last season’s results: They’re in the middle of a season, as we presume you’ve noticed.


This is a very good team, one that should gradually pull away from the variety of flawed American League East opponents. But the David Ortiz void remains palpable in a couple of ways.

It’s not only Ortiz’s power that is absent from the lineup this year. It’s just about everyone else’s as well. In 2016, the Red Sox hit 208 homers, good for seventh in the AL but just 15 shy of the second most. Four players hit at least 26. This year, they’re dead last in the AL in homers (92) and only Mookie Betts is on pace to hit 25 or more.

Ortiz’s charisma is also missed, which has manifested in the silly notion that this Red Sox team is boring. No team with Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, and Jackie Bradley Jr. patrolling center field is boring. It’s just that it’s not as exciting as when Ortiz was doing his thing, and we haven’t even gotten to October yet.

ETA of next championship: It’s feasible this year, though the Houston Astros look hell-bent on making Sports Illustrated’s 2014 cover story predicting they’d be the ’17 World Series champs look spectacularly prescient. Let’s say 2018 for the Sox, when Benintendi really does turn into his generation’s Fred Lynn.


Last season’s results: Well, you see, they were down 28-3 to the Atlanta Falcons late in the third quarter of Super Bowl. It looked all but hopeless. And then . . .

It’s tempting comeuppance to predict great things — let alone a Super Bowl victory — for an NFL team before the first snap of training camp. The best-laid plans can fall victim to the sport’s intrinsic, random, and unsparing brutality, as Patriots fans found out halfway through the first quarter of the first game of the 2008 season.

Injuries in this sport can change everything. So let’s look at it this way instead: If injuries don’t change everything, and the Patriots remain at a median level of good health through the 2017 season, this has a chance to be one of their best teams yet during this extraordinary decade-and-a-half-old dynasty.

They are absolutely loaded, to the point that the most interesting element of training camp — again, barring significant injuries — is trying to figure out which accomplished, recognizable players end up not making the cut. They are going to let go of players — perhaps even before the final cutdown to 53 — who end up contributing significantly to other rosters. Several may even start for the Jets.

The Super Bowl, as always, is the mission. And it’s a mission that can be accomplished. But try not to count those Lombardi Trophies before they’ve been handed over on the podium. The fickle football gods don’t like that.

ETA of next championship: Well, all of that said, if you’re going to demand specifics, I’d keep the schedule clear for Feb. 4, 2018.