Was Bruins' 15-year run a success or failure? Zdeno Chara weighs in originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It's time to have the legacy conversation.
The Boston Bruins just completed one of the worst collapses in recent NHL history, blowing a 3-1 series lead over the Florida Panthers to bow out in the first round after compiling the most successful regular season of all time.
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Sunday's Game 7 loss very well could be the last game for veterans Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, whose NHL futures are unclear after playing on one-year contracts in 2022-23. If Bergeron and Krejci do step away, it will mark the end of an era that featured remarkable success -- as well as plenty of heartbreak.
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So, how best to describe the last 15 years of Bruins hockey, which included 13 playoff appearances, three Presidents' Trophies and three Stanley Cup Final appearances, but just one championship? Former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, who spent 14 seasons in Boston alongside the core of Bergeron, Krejci, Brad Marchand and later David Pastrnak, chose a positive adjective.
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"I think it was pretty consistent," Chara said in an exclusive interview with host Trenni Casey on NBC Sports Boston's Arbella Early Edition. "Being in the Finals three times, it shows that the organization made some very consistent improvements -- and repeatability, being able to go to the Finals."
The Bruins' consistency will be put to the test this offseason. Bergeron and Krejci are just two of 11 players set to hit free agency this summer, including trade deadline acquisitions Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi as well as talented young goaltender Jeremy Swayman. While Boston has been a perennial contender for the better part of two decades, the team could find itself with multiple holes to fill this offseason after relying on its veteran leaders for years.
"I think it's up to the management and the owner to decide what direction they want to take and go from there," Chara added. "I think it's just an adjustment. Nobody's gonna be at the top forever. So, at a certain point, you've just got to realize that you've got to go in a different direction."
The Bruins don't have a first-round draft pick until 2025 after going all-in to win a Cup this season, so general manager Don Sweeney will face a tall task in maintaining Boston's success. But Chara believes the next generation of Bruins -- led by players like Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy -- can help carry the torch.
"I think the generations of players that were the core players for a long time, it's coming slowly but surely towards the end, and it's up to the other younger players to take over and carry what was kind of built," Chara said. "And then we've seen that. I think the organization and the team is in a good hands of younger players that are gonna take over as far as the leadership and control of the team."
To hear Chara's full interview as well as his advice for Bergeron as the veteran contemplates retirement, tune into Arbella Early Edition at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Boston.