The Bruins’ next level of leaders is here
The next person remains one of the most common clichés in sports circles. Yet this is often an accurate description whenever a team needs to replace one of its core members.
The Bruins are no strangers to the Next Man philosophy, whether it’s through injuries or off-season starts. Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Torey Krug and even David Backes have all left leadership voids in recent seasons.
This left some of the younger Bruins, like Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, and David Pastrnak, to fill those gaping voids. Another level of vets, like Charlie Coyle and newcomer Nick Foligno, are no strangers to leadership roles. The latter was captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets for six seasons.
Each team experiences a form of annual transition. The Bruins had a rough two-year period after several years of deep playoffs in the early 2010s. They leaned on Chara, Krejci, Krug, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to get through this difficult period and move into another phase. of success in the second half of the decade, underscored by their appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2019.
Bergeron and Marchand are the only two of this nucleus to remain standing. Heck, the dynamic duo and new assistant coach Chris Kelly enter the 2021-22 campaign as the only remnants of the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning team.
The 2011 team full of colorful characters like Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi, Tim Thomas, Chara, Krejci, Bergeron and Marchand laid the foundation for future success. The mantle has been transferred to different players over the past decade.
Young leaders like Carlo, Grzelcyk, McAvoy and Pastrnak will have a little adjustment period to enter a new phase of their career. Still, Marchand believes the younger core and veterans like Coyle and Foligno can provide the necessary leadership for the next generation of Bruins.
“It’s big, and it’s kinda forced on you at this point. And these guys are up for it; there’s no doubt about it, ”Marchand said after the first day of training camp.
“There’s going to be a little learning curve. Each time you have more responsibility, it will take a little getting used to. But luckily we have a lot of guys coming up with this. And then you know [Nick] Foligino is coming and he’s been a captain for a long time. [He’s a] phenomenal guy in the room and [has] a great personality and a guy we look forward to having. But it gives guys like Chucky [McAvoy], Gryz [Grzeclyk], Pasta [Pastrnak], and Brando [Carlo] an opportunity to step up, lead and take control. Eventually we’ll all be gone and that will be their team. They’ve already started this transition, and it’s a great opportunity for them now.
As Marchand attests, leadership hardly comes to a player overnight. There are no requirements necessary to fill a leadership role, but familiarity with the organizational culture and the demonstration of responsibility through self-reflection and hard love goes a long way.
Krejci’s departure left a vacancy for the team’s second assistant captain post. Maybe the “A” on the jersey will change a bit for different players to start the season. Carlo discovered it with his own eyes after donning the letter on the team’s trip to Lake Tahoe.
Yet Carlo realizes that voices from years past have either continued their careers elsewhere or retired. And now they hope to build on the knowledge of these former veterans and carry this proverbial torch for years to come.
“You can tell the difference when you walk into the room. These fundamental pieces, all are not there anymore, ”admitted Carlo. “We need to scale up and build on our knowledge and the things we have learned from them over the past two years. You know, I was trying to be a sponge as much as possible and I’m still with Bergy, Marshy and those guys, but no, I really want to step up in that regard.
Make no mistake, Carlo, Pastrnak, McAvoy and countless others want to take it up a notch. They will undoubtedly follow Bergeron and Marchand’s lead and have other voices to lean on in Foligno and Coyle.
The younger core will eventually have a greater leadership presence on the road. Sometimes it can seem awkward to show tough love to any prospect hoping to make a name for themselves or an older veteran who’s going through a rough patch in a long list of 82 games. But as Marchand discovered firsthand, developed leadership traits eventually become a habit.
“I remember trying to talk a bit more in the room, and it can be difficult sometimes even to be involved in a meeting and to be introduced to it. [leadership role] and find a level of comfort to talk and communicate with different guys and try to progress, ”Marchand admitted. “It’s difficult because as one of the younger guys you try to talk to older guys and these guys are more veterans than yourself. It’s a bit of a weird dynamic that you get into, but it’s a dynamic that they need to feel comfortable with and they will over time.
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