Boston Bruins: Players the team can’t afford to lose in 2017-18 season

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

This week the Boston Bruins saw one of the city’s other professional sports teams lose a key player for the season due to an injury, which raises the following question.

With the Boston Bruins on the cusp of starting their preseason, the question becomes, who on the roster can this team not afford to lose due to a long-term injury?

I’m pretty sure that all Boston sports fans across the country were all cursing the NFL and its four-game preseason schedule on Friday night.  After snagging his third catch of the game, New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman suffered a non-contact torn ACL, and will be out for the entire 2017 NFL season.

While the loss of one of Tom Brady’s favorite receivers will hurt the team, the Pats are so stacked offensively, they will probably still dominate the competition and make a run at a sixth Super Bowl.

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Offseason or preseason injuries to a star player can be a crushing blow to a team AND its fans.  All the high hopes that an organization had generated through the draft and free agency during the offseason can fizzle out in one fell swoop with the loss of a key player.  Some teams are built to survive such an injury (i.e., the Patriots), but some teams are not so lucky.

The Bruins, like many NHL teams give the salary cap and league parity, are probably in the not-so-lucky category.  So, who on the Bruins roster indispensable?  Or in other words, who if injured and lost for the season would cause havoc on the Bruins season?

As I came up with the concept of this post, my mind automatically went to Patrice Bergeron.  He’s an alternate captain on the team, and has been a cornerstone of the franchise for over a decade.  With his help, the Bruins won their first championship in nearly thirty-years.  He is consistently the best faceoff guy in the NHL, and because of that and his defensive prowess he’s won a record-tying four Selke Trophies.  He is and always will be one of my favorite players of all-time.  Hell, my wife and I even named our second dog Bergeron.

I know I’m going to get a ton of chirps for this from readers (and my wife) and people are going to call me crazy, but I’m going in a different direction, and my pick for most indispensable on the roster this season is Brad Marchand.

BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 9: Brad Marchand
BOSTON, MA – FEBRUARY 9: Brad Marchand /

“Whoa whoa whoa…the obvious answer is Patrice Bergeron!”

Let me be clear, and say that this is in no way a knock on Patrice Bergeron or any other Boston Bruins player for that matter.  Bergeron in particular is an absolute dynamo on the ice.  And important to note, for the past 6 years or so, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron have had a somewhat symbiotic relationship being perennial linemates.  When one player is on his game, the other benefits and likewise performs well; and vice versa.  However, for the first half of the 2016-2017 season, fans would probably agree that was not the really the case.

Bergeron started incredibly slow, and seemed to be off his game at points.  On the flip side, Marchand came out like a bat out of hell with 9 points in the first 4 games of the season, and was a fairly consistent producer in the first half.  In the second half of the season, however, they seemed to start to click again.  Bergeron ended the season with a respectable 53 points (21-32–53), putting up 39 points in the second half.  Marchand was in the Art Ross contention for a good chunk of the season, and ended with team high 85 points (39-46–85).

The case for Marchand

The reason I picked Marchand is because I feel he is one of the most unique players in the entire league.  Years ago, when he started to develop his “pest” reputation, I was concerned that he was going to squander all of his potential to be a star player since he’d be spending so much time in the sin-bin, or watching games from the sidelines after being suspended.  I sincerely wondered what Marchand’s future role would be on the Boston Bruins, even after he helped bring the Stanley Cup to Boston.  The game was slowly evolving, and the role he was pigeon-holing himself into was disappearing from the league.

BOSTON, MA – JUNE 08: Brad Marchand
BOSTON, MA – JUNE 08: Brad Marchand /

In the past few years he really turned his game around, and rather than upset people on the ice via his chirping and antics, he upsets teams by going bar-down coming down the left wing or saucing a pass to one of his teammates for a dangle-snipe-celly.  Marchand is one of those players who can single-handedly take over a game and change momentum in an instant, whether it’s with a beauty of a goal or getting a star player on the other team off his game with his shenanigans.  He’s truly become one of those guys that other teams hate to play against, and fans of other teams hate because he’s not on their team.

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But wait, there’s more…

Trying to figure out a player’s value to a team requires more than just looking at the player himself and the stats he puts up.  You have to look at the team as a whole to see just how big a role that person plays on the overall composition of the team.  So, let’s look at the Bruins.

If the Bruins have depth at any position, it’s center.  If the Bruins ever tend to have a weakness that causes them to lose games, especially close games, its an inability to put the puck in the net with regularity in big situations.  Losing a natural scorer like Marchand, a guy who is going to push the envelope and shoot for 40+ goals this upcoming season, would be a devastating blow to the team.

While the Bruins have a decent roster from top to bottom, replacing Marchand’s 85 points would be no easy task.  I think realistically, a long-term injury to Marchand would take the Bruins from playoff contenders to a lottery team an instant.  That’s how important I feel Brad Marchand is to this team both this season and going forward.

Next: Optimism in The Hub: 2017-2018 Boston Bruins season preview

I know people will disagree with me, and in my opinion, that’s a good thing, because that means the Bruins have multiple players that fans feel are important to the team’s success.  So what’s your take?  Bergeron?  Tuukka Rask?  Chara?