(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
By Stephanni Phillips and Ariana Chapin, A Cup A Bruin
With the 2014 Sochi Olympics coming up, we have compiled a list of all-time Boston Bruins players that best represent each country, or as Puck Daddy called it, a ‘National Hockey League of Nations.'
Since being founded in 1924, the Boston Bruins have produced a number of high quality players, that sported breathtaking moves to becoming legends of the game. Forty-nine men who previously donned the Spoked-B on their chest now call themselves Hall-of-Famers. In addition, they’ve also captured thirteen Hart Trophies, eight Art Ross Trophies, nine Vezina Trophies, fourteen Norris Trophies and six Stanley Cups.
Being one of the only teams to sign more than 900 players in history and the only team to have over 100 goalies ,the Bruins offer diversity. With their hard work, drive and dedication they have helped mold a team that Boston is proud to call their own.
From past to present the Bruins are, and always will, consist of some of the best players in the world.
Canada: Bobby Orr (Bergeron/Esposito/Shore)
There have been so many Canadian hockey players that have come to play for the Bruins, making this decision extremely difficult. In the end, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and Patrice Bergeron rank among the top three. After lengthy discussions and going back and forth, when it came down to it, Patrice Bergeron and Bobby Orr came out at the top of the list every time.
Both Orr and Esposito have had their numbers retired for reasons all of their own, helping to build the mold that future Bruins players should strive to fulfill. While Bobby Orr brought the Cup back to Boston in 1970 with his famous goal from Derek Sanderson and Esposito became the first NHL player to score 100 points in a single season, Bergeron has accomplished more in different ways.
Although Bergeron hasn't registered a 100-point season to date, he has been the most valuable player to the organization since he joined in 2003. In his 8 years of playing he has combined for 433 points (153 goals and 280 assists) in 579 regular-season games. Patrice Bergeron may not hold any records for being the best forward, but that’s not all a legend is known for. Bergeron has followed the mold set forth by Orr and Esposito and modified it to fit this generation. He has become the epitome of what a team wants in a hockey player. Someone who is consistent in the faceoff circle and knows how to play solid, two-way hockey, ranking himself among the best in the league. His postseason heroics speak wonders as well as he sustained a multitude of injuries, yet was still able to score 9 goals and 6 assists through the 2013 postseason.
Though only 28, Bergeron has won a Gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, a Gold medal in the 2004 World Championships with the Czech Republic, a Gold Medal in the 2005 World Junior Championships, a Gold Medal for Team Canada in the Spengler Cup, as well as a Stanley Cup in 2011. He embodies an all-around hockey player and is on track to become a legend that could potentially be better than Orr and Esposito. He is a ‘living legend’ and his career is only at the beginning.
However, despite Bergeron’s greatness, the ultimate choice without even really NEEDING a reason or explanation is and will be for some time (if not forever) Bobby Orr.
Orr shattered records in his time with Boston, ranking among the League’s best and remaining there to this day. Currently he holds the franchise’s best plus/minus record of plus-589 and is ranked second in points per game averaging 1.41. In addition to franchise records, he also holds many with the league with his top ranked 139 points by a defenseman in a single season along with his plus/minus of a plus-124 in a single season. Orr was also no stranger to hardware, piling the trophies up and putting Boston on the map single-handed. He was the recipient of eight Norris Trophies, two Art Ross Trophies, three consecutive Hart trophies, a recipient of the Conn Smythe twice as the MVP of the playoffs which he helped Boston win the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972. In 1979 his number (4) was officially retired in Boston and he was inducted to into the Hockey Hall of Fame the same year.
As previously stated Orr was and always will be a Boston Bruin and forever one of the greats. Hands down, no questions asked.
We also had to give an honorable mention to Eddie Shore. At a time that we refer to as ‘old time hockey,’ Shore excelled in ways unthinkable for his era. While he didn’t have the same career statistics as Orr or Bourque as a D-Man, he defended the blue line exactly as he was supposed too. By doing so he earned himself four Hart Trophies and helped bring the Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 1929 and again in 1939. He helped set the standard of physicality for the players that put on the Spoked-B tallying 1,038 penalty minutes in his day.
Finland: Tuukka Rask
Given that there hasn’t been much representation for Finland in Boston, the all-time best player falls into the glove of Tuukka Rask. Rask proved this season that he’s capable of leading the B’s to success and was rewarded with an eight-year contract extension at the end of this season.
After the B’s lost Tim Thomas, Rask was re-signed with a one-year contract for the 2012-2013 season with the chance to prove he could handle the starting position. Not only did he do that, but he led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three years, keeping them in contention and instilling confidence throughout the organization. In the postseason Rask led all netminders in shutouts (3) and save percentages (.940%).
With the boost of confidence following the postseason and added experience Rask possesses, the Bruins are in good shape to be in contention for the years to come with him between the pipes. Being that he is only 26, Rask is just hitting his prime and he can only improve from here on out.
USA: Tim Thomas
Names such as Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel, Brian Rolston and Tim Thomas are the ones that come to mind. When it comes down to the best performer on the ice that held the most potential and promise for Boston, it was Tim Thomas. While this decision is sure to get a lot of skepticism from the majority, all politics and drama aside, there is no denying his talent between the pipes. His acrobatics and cat-like reflexes played a pivotal role in the Bruins becoming Stanley Cup contenders and eventual Champions in 2011.
Thomas was always a unique player in the way he presented himself, coming into the NHL undrafted and essentially stealing the starting position from Rask. In his 7-year continuous tenure, he managed to stop 10,426 shots, good enough for a .921 save percentage. His knack for stopping pucks essentially paved the road to winning the Cup, hiding the atrocious power play the Bruins possessed. For a guy that no one thought would play outside of Europe, he overcame the obstacles and brought home the hardware with a pair of Vezinas, a Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe, placing him among the best.
Sweden: P.J. Axelsson
Making up the Swedish part of the all-time roster is forward P.J. Axelsson. Though he never hoisted a Stanley Cup or made it to the All-Stars with the Bruins, fans will forever have a soft spot for him.
He played his entire NHL career with the B’s after being drafted by them in 1995, spending 11 seasons with Boston. In 797 games, he scored 103 goals and tallied 184 assists. While these numbers aren’t record breaking, he has still proven to be an all-star, especially when it comes to penalty killing.
Russia: Sergei Samsonov
Samsonov played with the Bruins from 1997-2004, tallying 146 goals, 193 assists and a +62 in just 459 games. He came into the NHL with words of praise and insurmountable hype surrounding him after making a name for himself in the World Juniors in 1997, leading Russia to a Bronze Medal and being named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. In his rookie season with the Bruins, unlike teammate Joe Thornton, he excelled right away, earning himself the Calder Memorial Trophy. He’s the only player in history to win the rookie of the year awards in the IHL and NHL in consecutive years.
For the next two seasons, he posted career-highs and really showed his potential before falling victim to injuries. In 2006, he was traded for Marty Reasoner, Yan Stastny, and a second round pick in 2006 (Milan Lucic), to the Edmonton Oilers where he helped them make a run at the Stanley Cup Finals. With his agility, speed, quick release and ability to play offensively or defensively, he’s the best representation for Russia from the Bruins all-time roster.
Slovakia: Zdeno Chara
Now, if we were NBC, we would be stating that Chara deserves to be a part of the all-time roster because he is the tallest guy in the NHL and has the biggest stick; having the league make an exception for him to be able to use it. However, there is much more to Chara than his size. His ability to shut down players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin is one of his biggest attributes that makes him one of the best all-time defensemen.
While he may not have much hardware, holding a single Stanley Cup ring and winning the Norris Trophy once, he does hold a top 50 all-time best with his plus/minus rating of +163, ranking him 38th in all-time defensemen. In the years to come, that number is sure to increase, making him Boston’s all-time best Slovakian.
Czech Republic: David Krejci
In choosing the best player to represent both the Boston Bruins and Czech Republic, one’s mind naturally thinks of current roster-player David Krejci. However, aside from Krejci, there was someone else who deserved some recognition as well. Czech forward Vladimir Ruzicka who played with the Bruins from 1990-1993. While he didn’t achieve any major awards during his tenure in Boston, he has multiple awards and trophies for his native country where he has spent the majority of his career. In 166 games he posted 66 goals and 66 assists, not including 20 postseason appearances where he recorded 4 goals and 14 assists. While he was able to make a decent impact in a short amount of time, the player who continues to progress and make himself better is Krejci.
Krejci came into the Bruins organization in 2004, and has since been known as the player with the best plus/minus in the NHL (2008-2009), the player with the most goals and points in the playoffs (2010-2011), a Stanley Cup Champion (2011) as well as a World Champion Bronze Medalist for the Czech Republic (2011-2012). While it took him some time to adjust to play at the NHL level after splitting time between the Boston and Providence, at the end of the 2007-2008 season is when Krejci began to shine. Over the course of the past five seasons, he has proven to be a hard-working, high-energy, play-making center that thrives during intense games like the playoffs. In 81 postseason games he has tallied 29 goals and 44 assists, averaging around 0.2 points more per game in the postseason than the regular season. Because of his ability to handle high-pressure situations and excel, he is our top choice to represent the Czech Republic.
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Germany: Dennis Seidenberg
The best representation for the Germans should come as no surprise with top defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. He’s only the second German player to ever win a Stanley Cup and was the first to do so in a Bruins uniform. Seidenberg is considered a part of one of the toughest defensive-pairing tandems of the NHL, playing alongside Zdeno Chara. The two combined are seemingly unstoppable. While one would think Chara has the most to offer in this pairing, Seidenberg makes a solid name for himself as well.
Since joining the Bruins at the trade deadline in March of 2010, Seidenberg has proven himself to be the stability and veteran presence the Bruins needed in the defensive zone. Despite some early career turmoil being bounced around from four teams over the course of seven years, it seems as though Seidenberg is where he belongs with the B’s. There’s no doubt that he’ll continue to be on the top defensive line and at age 32 he could potentially take over as top D-Man for the team someday. Should Germany qualify for the Olympics in the years to come, he is the best choice from Boston.
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