The three words no Boston Bruins fan wanted to hear have come true: Patrice Bergeron retiring. The center announced his retirement Tuesday after 19 seasons donning the Spoked B. In those 19 seasons, Bergeron accrued 1,294 games, 1,040 points, one Stanley Cup, one Mark Messier Leadership Award, one King Clancy Trophy, and an NHL-record six Selke Trophies.
For Patrice Bergeron, retiring means the end of a chapter of his life and the beginning of a new one. Will he re-join Boston as a coach? Perhaps he will join the front office or become a TV analyst. Regardless of where he goes from here, he will be welcomed and treated as the class act he is.
What does this spell for Boston, though? What holes are they given the task of filling and how will they (or won’t they) address them?
Patrice Bergeron retiring means a new captain For all that Patrice Bergeron gave to the Bruins, he was only the captain for three seasons. Zdeno Chara was Boston’s captain for the entirety of his tenure, meaning Bergeron was one of the alternate captains all that time.
The most likely candidate for Boston’s captaincy is Brad Marchand. One of the most notorious pests in recent memory has similarly dedicated his career to Boston. Aside from the returning Milan Lucic, Marchand is the only member of the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning Bruins team still in Boston. Marchand is all but a shoe-in for wearing the “C”, which would make this moment extra hilarious in hindsight.
That arguably has already been taken over by David Pastrnak. The 61-goal-scorer has sold more jerseys than all but two players in the league last season. Pastrnak is also only 27 years old, so he has another decade or so of play left in him. Perhaps he is positioned to be the next captain once Marchand retires.
What Bergeron accomplished as a two-way player could potentially be equaled by Pastrnak as a goal-scorer. Had Connor McDavid not had the best offensive season of the salary cap era, Pastrnak would have gotten his second Rocket Richard Trophy. While Pastrnak may not get six Rocket trophies, he will be one of the top goal-scorers in the league, especially after Alex Ovechkin calls it quits.
This is where things are going to go wrong for the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron retiring leaves a hole on the first line that cannot easily be filled. Barring a trade, there are only two players who can potentially be the center for Marchand and Pastrnak.
It will most likely be Pavel Zacha, who had a breakout season last season. That sounds fine and dandy, but Zacha’s breakout season meant a 21-36-57 season. While Bergeron only had one more point on the season, Zacha still tied with Jonathan Marchessault, Patrick Kane, and Matthew Beniers for 101st among skaters.
The Bruins would not fare much better with Charlie Coyle, either. He scored 45 more points at the NHL level this season than you and I combined. Still, the prized acquisition of the Boston Bruins in 2019 has not meshed. Since arriving in Boston, Coyle has failed to match or surpass his career high in points (56 in 2016-17), 20 goals, or 30 assists.
What does Boston do now? Do they pursue Mark Scheifele if Winnipeg is willing to play ball? Do they double down on veteran presence and work something out with San Jose to get Logan Couture? The Bruins have multiple options. Their in-house options do not inspire confidence.
Will Patrice Bergeron ever truly be replaced?
The short answer: no. The stars will have to align for Boston to find another two-way player with not just the ability, but the consistency Bergeron had. Patrice Bergeron retiring is bittersweet. He will go down as one of the all-time greats in one of the winningest sports markets in America. He also only won one championship when he could have easily had three or four. His final game was another game 7 heartbreaker as the President’s Trophy winner.
As for the Bruins, it is still likely they make the playoffs, especially if they go out and get a true first-line center. They will have a points dropoff of about 30, which sounds absurd except last season everything went right for them until April 26, 2023. The question is whether the Bruins fix their lack of center depth quickly or if they have a 2015-esque collapse. Regardless, a key question for Boston has been answered with cold reality.
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