Nearly four months removed from their postseason elimination at the hands of the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, the 2021 Boston Bruins finally hit the Warrior Ice Arena surface for their first day of an abbreviated training camp.
Bruce Cassidy had his first look at some of his young defensemen vying for an opening night roster spot. He saw Kevan Miller make his on-ice return after battling numerous injuries over the past year-and-a-half. Then there was Jack Studnicka getting a crack with Patrice Bergeron on the top line — along with a rotation of wingers after Brad Marchand exited practice for precautionary reasons.
Yet, Day 1 of camp felt different, especially without Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. The news of the latter heading to St. Louis hit the Bruins hard in the fall. And they’re still processing the news of the former recently signing a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals following a marvelous 14-year tenure as Boston’s captain.
Without Chara and Krug, a plethora of young defensemen — mainly Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakaninen — will vie with Miller and John Moore for the three remaining spots. Yet, it will take everyone to try and replace the massive voids left by Chara and Krug, both on and off the ice.
Amidst all the developments, Cassidy preached a specific message when he met his team for the first time on Monday.
“The message today was it’s back to work,” the fifth-year Boston bench boss said. “We don’t have a lot of time, so let’s get back to work and get our work done.”
The Bruins have only 11 days before they begin their 56-game slate in New Jersey. That leaves little time to evaluate and fill roster spots before their first of eight meetings with the Devils.
A good chunk of the roster acquainted themselves through the system be it through Boston or Providence. A handful of newcomers, like Smith, may need a little adjustment period before settling in.
But even with a short camp, Cassidy doesn’t see the need to alter much of his philosophy, even with a short camp.
“We’re not changing a lot of things,” Cassidy added.
The Bruins have an adjustment period ahead of them with their longtime captain now in Washington. But Chara’s big 6-foot-9 footprints put the organization in a good spot.
They won’t have as huge of a leadership void with Patrice Bergeron all but certain ascending to the captaincy. Marchand, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask join Bergeron as the four holdovers from Boston’s Stanley Cup squad a decade ago.
The 2011 quartet, along with the likes of David Pastrnak and Brandon Carlo — to name a pair — should only help in mentoring the next core of young Bruins hoping to make an impact.
“It’s the unfortunate side of the business to see guys like that go,” Bergeron said of Chara’s departure. “Obviously, I’ve had a tremendous relationship with him for over 14 years. So it’s different [to be without him]
“We have a lot of leadership in here. We have Patrice, we have David, we have Tuukka, we have Brad, and we have some younger guys who can grow in that role like Carlo and Pasta,” Cassidy said.
“The culture has been engrained by our former captain. Zdeno Chara did a great job with that, and some guys that have been here a long time will have to continue to preach that.”
The business of hockey impacted the Bruins hard this off-season. No matter. They have to work with what they have now as they enter a tough East Division slate in 2021.
Knowing this, Bergeron won’t change his exemplary leadership qualities. After all, he learned a few things firsthand as the primary alternate captain during Chara’s remarkable Boston run.
“It’s about getting ready as a team from the first practice on getting better and setting the tone for training camp,” Bergeron said. “Right now, it’s going back to leading by example. There are a lot of leaders on this team. It’s great to see everyone, it’s Day 1, and there are some new faces coming in. It’s about coming together as a team and creating something special.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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