Next person up remains one of the more common cliches in sports circles. Yet, it’s often an accurate description whenever a team needs to replace one of their core members.
The Bruins aren’t strangers to the next man up philosophy, be it through injuries or off-season departures. Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Torey Krug and even David Backes all left leadership voids over the past few seasons.
This has left some of the younger core Bruins, like Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo and David Pastrnak to fill those gaping voids. Another tier of vets, like Charlie Coyle and newcomer Nick Foligno, aren’t strangers to leadership roles. The latter served as the captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets for six seasons.
Every team encounters some form of yearly transition. The Bruins experienced a rough two-year period following multiple years of deep playoff runs in the early 2010s. They relied on Chara, Krejci, Krug, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to overcome that rough stretch and enter another phase of success in the latter half of the decade highlighted by their Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2019.
Bergeron and Marchand are the only two of that core left standing. Heck, the dynamic duo and new assistant coach Chris Kelly enter the 2021-22 campaign as the lone holdovers from the 2011 Stanley Cup-winning squad.
The 2011 crew full of colorful characters like Andrew Ference, Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi, Tim Thomas, Chara, Krejci, Bergeron and Marchand laid a foundation for future success. The mantle has carried over to different players over the last decade.
Younger leaders like Carlo, Grzelcyk, McAvoy and Pastrnak will have a little bit of an adjustment period entering a new phase of their careers. Yet, Marchand believes the younger core, and vets like Coyle and Foligno, can provide the necessary leadership for the next generation of Bruins.
“It’s big, and it’s kind of forced upon you at that point. And those guys are ready for it; there’s no question,” Marchand said following the first day of training camp.
“There’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve. Anytime you have more responsibility, there’s going to be a little bit of time to get used to it. But we fortunately have a lot of guys who are coming in with that. And then, you know, [Nick] Foligino comes in and he’s been a captain for a long time. [He’s a] phenomenal guy in the room and [has] a great personality and one guy we’re looking forward to having. But it does give guys like Chucky [McAvoy], Gryz [Grzeclyk], Pasta [Pastrnak] and Brando [Carlo] an opportunity to step up and lead and take control. Eventually, we’ll all be gone and it will be their team. They’ve already started that transition, and it’s a big opportunity for them now.”
As Marchand attests, leadership hardly comes to a player overnight. There aren’t any requirements necessary to fill a leadership role, but a familiarity with the organizational culture and showcasing accountability through self-reflection and tough love goes a long way.
Krejci’s departure left a vacancy for the team’s second alternate captain position. Perhaps the ‘A’ on the sweater will rotate a little bit to different players to start the season. Carlo found that out firsthand after donning the letter during the team’s trip to Lake Tahoe.
Yet, Carlo realizes the voices from years past have either continued their careers elsewhere or retired. And now they hope to take the knowledge from those previous veterans and carry that proverbial torch for the next several years.
“You can tell the difference when you walk in the room. Those foundational pieces, not all of them are here anymore,” Carlo admitted. “We need to step up and take our knowledge and the things that we learned from them over the past couple of years. You know, I was trying to be a sponge as much as possible and still am with Bergy, Marshy and those guys, but no I definitely want to step up in that regard.”
Make no mistake, Carlo, Pastrnak, McAvoy and countless others want to step up. They’ll undoubtedly follow Bergeron’s and Marchand’s lead and have other voices to lean on in Foligno and Coyle.
The younger core will eventually have a more significant leadership presence down the road. At times, it may feel awkward to showcase tough love to any prospect hoping to make a name for himself or an older veteran who hits a rough patch during a long 82-game slate. But as Marchand found out firsthand, the developed leadership traits eventually turns into a habit.
“I remember trying to talk a little more in the room, and it can be tough at times even being involved in meeting and being introduced to that [leadership role] and finding a comfort level to talk and communicate with different guys and try to step up,” Marchand admitted. “It’s tough because as one of the younger guys in there, you’re trying to speak to older guys and those guys are more of a veteran than yourself. It’s a little bit of an odd dynamic that you’re stepping into, but it’s one that they have to get comfortable with and they will over time.”
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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