Since the Boston Bruins‘ Stanley Cup campaign back in 2011, fewer and fewer Bruins are willing to tip the bucket and toss the mitts. Can this be credited to Gary Bettman trying to restrict the amount of fighting in the game, or is it due to the Bruins trying to change their persona?
Since joining the NHL in 1924, the Bruins are notorious for being the most physically intimidating squad in the league. When legends like Ray Bourque, Terry O’Reilly and Cam Neely stepped on the ice, they were respected for their ability to put the puck in the back of the net. However, that is because no opponents wanted to mess with them for fear of getting folded up like a lawn chair.
For the last seven seasons Shawn Thornton handled the enforcer role for the B’s. Possibly one of the best “tough guys” the Bruins have ever had, Thornton played on a fourth line that was responsible for high-tempo shifts and disciplining opponents, which they did a great job at. In the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, Thornton’s determination and aggression helped lift the Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks in seven games.
Other grinders like Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic also helped the Bruins hoist the Cup, but let’s not forget Marchand and Lucic are not your typical grinders. Both players are extremely talented offensively, but they also have a knack for exploiting the tempers of players on the opposing team.
Trash talking has always been a huge part of hockey, and while I am not a fan of Marchand’s consistent jawing, I understand the game he is trying to play. If he can get players to retaliate and take a penalty, that is more time that the Bruins’ top guns can spend on the man advantage.
Head coach Claude Julien needs to emulate the “Big Bad Bruins” of the 1970s and try to piece together a team that the entire league will fear to play against. The B’s already have more than enough skill, and while they lack speed, there is a lot of young talent on the Providence Bruins that may be able to help fill the void.
By no means am I saying that GM Peter Chiarelli should go out and target goons who just go around trying to knock guys head off. I just think the B’s need harder hitting and aggressive forwards who can be a real presence in the offensive zone. The “hit or be hit” mentality has helped the Bruins win multiple Stanley Cups, and if they can get back to that style of play, they will win more in the future.