Did Tuesday mark the final day of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci stepping foot into the Warrior Ice Arena confines?
It’s a decision the two battle-tested centermen won’t take lightly.
“Everything is really raw right now, and I don’t want to make any decision that I’m going to regret,” Krejci said.
“It’s too early right now to even make a settled decision,” Bergeron said. “I want to make sure that I make the right call and we make the right call as a family. I don’t know how long it’s going to take.”
Surely, Bergeron and Krejci knew this day would come after they signed bonus-incentive one-year contracts to return to Boston last season. But the Bruins also know they’ll eventually need to plan for life without their top-six anchors in the middle.
The latest development only made Tuesday’s breakup day in Brighton even more emotional.
The stunning first-round exit at the hands of the Florida Panthers hadn’t fully settled as the Bruins cleaned up their lockers. The only thing they can do going forward is to use their bitter end following a record-breaking regular season as motivation when they return for the fall.
Perhaps Bergeron and Krejci will greet the rest of the team for another hopeful championship journey. And indeed, they aren’t the only Bruins who enter the off-season facing an uncertain future.
The Bruins will eventually transition into the post-Bergeron and Krejci era. Yet, as they ponder over their decision, their teammates were happy to share what the two meant to them during their time in Boston.
Charlie Coyle, in particular, enjoyed every second of the Bergeron and Krejci era, first as a fan, then as a fellow center who got to realize his childhood dream of donning the Spoked B upon arriving from Minnesota at the 2019 trade deadline.
“They mean so much. From watching them, playing with them, you feel lucky,” Coyle said. “I don’t have the words for what those guys mean to us, the team, the organization, and beyond. It’s pretty remarkable what they’ve done and the careers they’ve had.
“To get a chance to just watch them, play with them, be in the same locker room and be a part of their careers is pretty special. That’s why you want to make the most of those opportunities. That’s what’s hard to swallow. You wanted to make the most of this and do it for those guys.”
Whether they have a chance to win one more Cup for Bergeron and Krejci is anyone’s guess. But the next tier of Bruins leaders will have to step up even if the two centers return for one more run.
“I’ll be very grateful for when that day does come that I’ve had leaders to follow and to learn from. And I know I won’t be them. I know I won’t be Bergy [Bergeron] and Zee [Chaara] and Krech [Krejci] and Rex [Recchi] and the guys that have come before. I do know that I’ve learned a lot from them, and hopefully, I can pass it on to the next guys,” Brad Marchand said following the Bruins’ Game 3 win in Florida without Bergeron and Krejci.
“That just means that Chuckie [McAvoy] and Pasta [Pastrnak] and Coyle and those guys will all have to come together as a group and hopefully lead as a group.”
Bergeron, Krejci and Marchand finished the 2022-23 campaign as the lone holdovers from the 2011 Stanley Cup squad and subsequent run to the Cup Final two years later. A handful of members, including Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Coyle, Brandon Carlo, David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy, remain from the 2019 squad that fell one game short against St. Louis.
The Bruins may lose at least one more member from that 2019 squad as Connor Clifton enters the unrestricted free-agent market. They could enter training camp with just seven members remaining from their run to the Final against the Blues.
“It’s tough to think about. It’s hard to reflect on,” Carlo said.
“Throughout my last seven years here we’ve had that core of guys, including Big Zee [Zdneo Chara] and some other names as well that have kind of moved on. I think it’s more so important to recognize our responsibility to carry the responsibility of the values and the things they brought to this organization and continue to make them lie within this room and take care of things that they’ve built into this culture and continue to work toward the goal that we’ve all been striving for.”
With or without Bergeron and Krejci, Don Sweeney hopes to extend Boston’s championship window this off-season. He’ll have to work through salary cap gymnastics, again, with a little less than $5 million of projected cap space.
Bergeron and Krejci admitted that they will not continue their careers elsewhere. But their imprint and their presence will remain engrained within the tight-knit Boston culture.
“If it is [the end], I’m just thankful that I got the opportunity to meet those guys,” DeBrusk said. “They’re both amazing players for this organization throughout their whole career[s]. It’s truly special…I can’t say enough about the quality of guys they are, let alone the players [they are]. We all know how they play, but not all of us know the person. It’s one of those things where I’ll miss a lot about them differently and respectively.”
At the rink, Bergeron and Krejci shared their nearly two decades of knowledge with every individual who donned the spoked ‘B’. Off the ice, they embraced each teammate with open arms, creating bonds that will last a lifetime.
“It’s kind of why you play the game: to try to leave an impact and help a few teams here and there and create some friendships and that’s what is going to last forever with all the memories and whatnot. So that’s definitely special,” Bergeron said. “Hopefully, if I can help and I was able to impact any of those guys that might not be coming back or whatever…it means a lot.”
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.
Bruins Daily is a NHL credentialed media organization that is dedicated to being the leading provider of Boston Bruins news, analysis, and commentary, by focusing exclusively on the Boston organization. Bruins Daily provides written content, studio produced video, and on location video, all with a unique voice that fans can relate to. Complete coverage is provided through all of the latest NHL/AHL news, updates, scores, injuries, transactions and fan events.