Here’s a comprehensive look at the 2006 Boston Bruins draft, which transformed the franchise in a single weekend of picks and one major trade. Other than 1979, there isn’t a more impactful single draft in team history, though 1980 was quite strong, along with 2014 more recently. Here you go- KL
(Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)
The Boston Bruins franchise was in disarray at the conclusion of the 2005-06 hockey season and faced a crucial crossroads leading up to the entry draft being in Vancouver that June.
A year that began with promise with the return of NHL hockey after a lockout cancelled the 2004-05 big league campaign descended into chaos and despair when a series of big-money free agent signings went bust (Alexei Zhamnov, Brian Leetch, Dave Scatchard) and franchise face Joe Thornton was traded to San Jose before December for the kind of return that ultimately sealed Mike O’Connell’s (Cohasset, Mass.) fate as Bruins GM. O’Connell’s departure opened the door for one-time Harvard hockey captain Peter Chiarelli’s ascension as the B’s new chief of management and operations, but as the assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators, the job of riding herd over Boston’s 2006 draft and early phases of free agency fell to O’Connell’s interim replacement, Jeff Gorton.
Thanks to a win by the Columbus Blue Jackets on the final day of the 2005-06 regular season, the Bruins slid into the fifth overall draft position (not affected by the draft lottery, won by St. Louis). Two points are what separated the B’s from Phil Kessel and someone else (Derick Brassard went one selection later at sixth overall). Kessel may no longer be with the Bruins, but his impact will likely be felt in the years to come, even if the jury is still out on the players received from Toronto and then Dallas last summer.
The B’s former chief amateur scout and current director of player personnel, Scott Bradley, called 2006 a “historic” draft year and critical moment for the rebuilding of the once proud franchise’s sagging fortunes. Little did Bradley know at the time that his words would prove to be prophetic, and that just five years later, the club would reverse direction from the road to ruin to Stanley Cup glory in the very city the draft occurred, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in an epic seven-game championship series.
Boston’s selections in the second and third rounds were instrumental in the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and run to the 2013 Stanley Cup final: Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, while No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask’s history is inextricably linked to the 2006 draft as well. Although Lucic was traded five years ago, Marchand has ascended to NHL superstardom, as has Rask, who could be in line to collect the second Vezina Trophy of his career after a shortened 2019-20 season. Marchand and Rask helped lead the B’s to within one win of the 2019 Stanley Cup championship, though they fell short at home to the St. Louis Blues.
Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, Boston’s 2006 draft is still making a direct and indirect impact on the team’s fortunes.
Saw an article on brood IX of cicadas, who went dormant in 2003 and will soon be coming out from underground in Virginia and the Carolinas to live for several months this summer before their progeny will go back down for the long siesta. That got me thinking- in the 17 years those bugs have been in hibernation, Patrice Bergeron has built a Hall of Fame resume with the Boston Bruins. Here’s another archived piece- written in November of 2003- Bergeron’s rookie NHL season, after he made the B’s roster as an 18-year-old and quickly showed signs of the greatness that was to follow. In the time the cicadas went into the earth, he’s become a pretty damn fine hockey player- the nonpareil of Bruins draft picks until David Pastrnak came along in 2014.- KL
“The Boston Bruins select, from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, center Patrice Bergeron-Cleary.”
With those words from the team’s amateur scouting director Scott Bradley, the B’s made a relatively innocuous pick at the 2003 NHL Entry Draft in Nashville last June.
Little did anyone know, the Quebec City native, not even going to be 18 for another month, would soon be an immediate impact player from a draft class touted as one of the best in years. Little did anyone know, the quiet kid who was physically unimpressive and who carried a 28th-best ranking from NHL’s Central Scouting Service (CSS) among his North American peers was about to establish himself as the undisputed early steal of the entire ’03 crop.
When the B’s passed on Zach Parise with the 16th overall pick, instead opting to send the selection to the San Jose Sharks and drop down five spots to 21, draft-savvy fans were incensed. Message boards lit up with questions about the wisdom of passing on Parise, whose father J.P. was a former Bruin before the Minnesota North Stars grabbed him in the 1967 expansion draft. The younger Parise was coming off of an outstanding freshman season for the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, and was highly-regarded for his tremendous character and tenacious skill game despite a lack of ideal size. It seemed that Parise would be the right prospect to pick up in the wake of the news that Jozef Stumpel had been dealt back to Los Angeles the night before, even though it looked like the Minnesota native would be a few years away from the NHL.
But the Bruins had other plans, and dealt the pick to San Jose, who promptly took another high scoring forward in Steve Bernier before New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello and his top scout David Conte swooped in with a trade and grabbed Parise 17th. Four selections later, the Bruins took defensive defenseman Mark Stuart out of Colorado College, one of Parise’s U.S. NTDP teammates.
No one saw it coming, but in passing up a chance to draft Parise and Ryan Getzlaf, who had been taken 19th overall by Anaheim, the Bruins had their sights set on another forward whom they believed was going to be a real difference-maker, and who wasn’t very far away from the NHL at all.
Make no mistake: it wasn’t too difficult a choice to make between Stuart, who was more a victim of the deep draft despite being a top player for USA Hockey for several years, and Bergeron, who had only one single season of major junior hockey under his belt, after playing AAA Midget and Bantam the two previous years in his native Quebec. The rumor is that the B’s had Bergeron rated in the first round, and were tempted to take him at 21st overall, but they knew that Stuart would not lost until the middle of the second round where their next pick was. So, the Bruins rolled the dice and took Stuart first, hoping that Bergeron would still be there when they picked again in the middle of the second round thanks to the compensatory pick they received Bill Guerin signing with Dallas the summer before.
Bergeron was there when Boston’s turn came, and it ended up being a relatively unheralded selection at 45th overall.
As for the rest of us in the media, the pick was met with a collective, “So what?” After all, Bergeron was anything but a household name among a group of prospects that 90% of NHL fans wouldn’t know from Adam. In other words, we made our way down into the bowels of the arena to the media interview section not expecting a great deal from this latest draft pick. Would he even speak English? How long would he last at his first professional training camp?
Bergeron, who mentioned that he would drop the hyphenated Cleary from his surname, met the press with little fanfare as he answered the standard line of questioning. He quickly put to the rest the notion that he would have problems fielding questions in English, even with a thick French accent.
Are you happy with where you went today? “Very happy. It was the first time where I had to wait and it didn’t matter.”
What kind of a player are you? “I’m a playmaker. I like to set up the goals, but I also like to score them.”
Is there anything about your game you’d like to improve? “Definitely my skating, and I want to get stronger, too.”
And so on. Bergeron answered our questions and then was whisked away to complete his in-processing with the team. After the Bruins selected Masi Marjamaki at the bottom of round two, we all met with Bradley to discuss the day’s action. It was there that we began to get an inkling of how pleased he was that they had gotten Bergeron.
Bradley used terms such as “special player,” “great vision,” and “tremendous skill” to describe him. He talked about Bergeron’s outstanding performance in the playoffs, and how he had become Bathurst coach Real Paiement’s go-to guy on offense after beginning the season as the Titan’s third-line center. Bradley also said that while the Bruins liked Parise, there were about five other players rated just as high who were still on the board. Dropping five slots guaranteed that they’d still get one of those five, while gathering an extra two selections to further bolster their prospect depth in a very good draft. It was a trade they felt they had to make.
With the good fortune of being at the same hotel in Nashville as Bergeron was, we were able to connect for a later sit-down to capture more of his thoughts beyond the superficial post-selection media scrum.
Bergeron first apologized for his rough English skills. Nevertheless, he was surprisingly articulate for one so young. He talked about his love for hockey and the Quebec Nordiques growing up. He said that he had immense respect for Joe Sakic as a player and a person, but admitted that he admired Adam Foote for his tenacity and nastiness. He did not hesitate to comment on his dislike of the rival Montreal Canadiens. He was glad to be drafted to an Original Six team like the Bruins.
Bergeron also said that he realized that his skating needed work, and that because he had average height, he needed to get stronger if he was going to be able to make the eventual transition to pro hockey. To that end, he hired a personal trainer and power skating instructor immediately after his junior season ended, and had been working out ever since.
His favorite thing to do outside of hockey and training is watching movies, especially comedies. “Dumb and Dumber” is his all-time favorite, but he chuckled when he talked about the “crazy humor” of Will Ferrell’s streaking scene as Frank “the Tank” in National Lampoon’s “Old School.”
You couldn’t help but notice a quiet intensity, beyond his years. That’s not the same as thinking he would make the team and jump out to the early lead among rookie scorers, but I figured he might stick around for a few weeks and maybe even play in an exhibition game or two.
As it turns out, that projection was wildly off-base. And in a good way.
It is now November, and Bergeron hasn’t looked back since arriving to Bruins training camp and turning the place on its head. Martin Lapointe took the rookie under his wing from day 1, and has even opened his house up to Bergeron, where the rookie is spending his first year out of the province of Quebec away from his family and friends. From the moment he took the ice for his first rookie camp scrimmage until opening night, Bergeron has not looked out of place in the slightest.
The below-average skating? Not a problem. Bergeron may not be a blazing fast skater, but nor is he slow-footed or noticeably behind the play. He is in the middle of the action, and unless you’d read the scouting reports that he lacked acceleration and a quick initial burst, you’d never know that it was a shortcoming in his game.
The alleged lack of strength? Not a problem. Bergeron has freely given and taken hits, not playing a physical style, but not shying away from contact either. The money paid to Raymond Veilleux, who also trains Simon Gagne, has been worth it. Bergeron does not look out of place, and can more than hold his own down low and in the corners.
Bergeron may or may not keep up his scoring pace that saw him tally three goals and eight points in his first ten games before going scoreless in his last two, but for the NHL’s youngest player and a guy who wasn’t even on many pre-draft radars in June, he’s been the early surprise of the 2003 draft.
As for Boston, it looks like they hit one out of the park. Bergeron’s early success has galvanized the team, and has fans starting to get more interested in Bruins hockey because so many of the new faces on the club are young and not the old retreads the team was known for bringing in over the past several seasons.
No. 37 doesn’t look out of place at all. If anything, it looks like the team has done wonders for its future, and Bergeron is at the center of it all.
For perspective on how far he’s come since 2003, here’s the classic Patrice Bergeron rookie year Massachusetts license plates commercial with Andrew Raycroft compliments of NESN…”Great plates! I want them too.”
Today, we wrap up the tribute to the 1990 Boston Bruins, the franchise’s first President’s Trophy-winning team, with the run through the playoffs. This was written 20 years ago and has been updated in certain sections, but apologies for some of the wooden writing- we’ve come a long way since 2000. Hope you have enjoyed this look back at that team and season.- KL
As the 1990 playoffs began, the Boston Bruins were riding high with a regular season title, but knew they faced a tough opponent in the Hartford Whalers, who had an impressive and ever-improving young core. The B’s and their fans knew that all of the goodwill of a President’s Trophy would be for naught if they were knocked out in an upset, and the Whalers had the talent to do it.
(The 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins retrospective continues with the second half of the regular season. Part 3 looks at the 1990 playoffs and will be posted soon- KL)
In the first couple of days in 1990, Sinden pulled off a key trade, acquiring veteran two-way center and former Frank Selke Trophy winner Dave Poulin, the Philadelphia Flyers’ captain in exchange for Linseman. When the deal was announced, Poulin was less than enthusiastic about joining Boston, having been a Flyer his entire career and visibly stunned that he had been traded.
“I’m going to go home, sit down with my wife, and go over our options,” he remarked when initially interviewed. “I’ve tried to keep my options open.” These words were hardly a ringing endorsement from Poulin, who had just been dealt from the only team he had ever known.
Wrote this about 20 years ago for the 10-year anniversary of the 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins team that came up short in their quest to bring the first Stanley Cup back to the Hub in 18 years. It would take the B’s another 21 years, but at the time, it was just another promising group that did everything but win the championship. I originally wrote the piece in 2000 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the team’s only (at the time) regular season championship, but have updated it in the years since with a new intro today and thanks to later access to players who were a part of the club to insert quotes and memories of that team. Given that it is a complete season recap including playoffs, the word count comes in at around 9,000 words, so we’ll break this up into 3 parts over the next few days.- KL
The Boston Bruins are one of the National Hockey League’s more storied franchises, yet they’ve also been somewhat star-crossed in their near century of existence, coming up short in numerous opportunities to capture more than the six Stanley Cup championships in team history. Most recently, the B’s and their fans saw heartbreak in 2019, losing a decisive game 7 at home to the St. Louis Blues.
30 years ago, another Boston hockey club took their fans on a dizzying ride and tantalized the region with an unforgettable run that had more than its share of peaks and valleys after a terrific regular season. It almost ended before it began with a near-upset at the hands of a younger, upstart Hartford Whalers team, followed by another memorable matchup against an archrival and an extended run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.
As the 1966-67 season concluded, significant change was about to happen in the National Hockey League, as it prepared to double in size from six teams to twelve. Expansion meant the end of the NHL’s Original Six era, but at the same time, something special was brewing in Boston.
After years of waiting in eager anticipation, the sad-sack Bruins and the club’s fans were rewarded with the 18-year-old hockey prodigy Robert Gordon “Bobby” Orr. The precocious blueliner arrived to remarkable fanfare in an age well before the proliferation of the internet and social media, more than living up to the hype that followed him down from Canada. Having been touted as a player who could help reverse Boston’s fortunes on ice, the rookie Orr took no time to establish himself in the NHL, going on to win the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best first-year player. However, superb as Orr’s performance was, hockey is a team game, and he was just one man. His presence alone was not enough to secure a finish better than fifth for the first time since 1959.
The Bruins had been moribund for the entire decade of the 1960’s, finishing sixth, or last in the field five of seven years before Orr suited up for his first professional game. Prior to that, the B’s had not won a Stanley Cup championship since 1941, the season before the league’s Original Six era began in 1942-43. Long gone were the championships authored by stalwarts like Eddie Shore, Aubrey ‘Dit’ Clapper, Cecil ‘Tiny’ Thompson, Lionel Hitchman, Milt Schmidt and Frank ‘Mr. Zero’ Brimsek. An entire generation had grown up in Boston without a championship in hockey, and the pressure was on to make the team competitive again. Or, at the very least, get out of the shadow of a powerhouse they shared the Boston Garden with.
Brad Marchand is the team’s top LW period. End of story. (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)
(This is a re-worked and updated story done for the New England Hockey Journal in 2011- KL)
If ever there was a year that altered an NHL franchise’s destiny, 2006 was the pivotal one for the Boston Bruins as we look back nearly a decade-and-a-half later.
As the calendar flipped over to January 2006, the post-lockout campaign was a disaster.
Already, the team traded its captain and 1997 first overall pick Joe Thornton. Soon, it would fire GM Mike O’Connell and head coach Mike Sullivan. The B’s finished out of the playoffs with the fifth-worst record. Free agent signings supposed to help put the B’s in contention like Alexei Zhamnov and Dave Scatchard were complete busts, with a grand total of 40 games and five goals in Boston between them.
The franchise had stumbled badly in a decade since the bottoming-out of 1997 that had netted Thornton and Sergei Samsonov. That new era that began with so much promise when the latter took NHL Rookie of the Year honors and the late Pat Burns helped lead the B’s back to the postseason in 1998 was about to be officially done when Samsonov was dealt to Edmonton at the trade deadline in a few weeks. Although few realized it in 2006, a series of critical trades, hires, signings and events paved the way for Boston to become a championship city once again.
As the decade of the 1970s drew to a close, the United States struggled through a sluggish economy, long gas lines, and growing tensions in the Middle East with ominous warning clouds gathering over Iran and Afghanistan. 1979 also marked the year in which the Boston Bruins held the most important and impactful draft in the team’s history.
Even if the fruits of the ’79 entry draft (the first year of the name change after having previously been known as the NHL amateur draft since 1963) did not result in a Stanley Cup championship in Boston, each of the seven players the B’s drafted saw NHL action. In fact, the elements of that wildly successful class of players ensured that the B’s remained contenders throughout the entire decade of the 1980s and first half of the 1990s, with a pair of Stanley Cup final appearances in 1988 and 1990, as well as three more trips to the conference final series between 1983-1992.
The fact that the 1979 NHL draft class as a whole is considered to be the greatest of all (though 2003 will challenge that assertion when all is said and done) underscores the importance of Bruins GM Harry Sinden and his scouting staff’s tremendous haul, the centerpiece of which was a defenseman who would go on to be a first-ballot Hockey Hall of Fame player and one of the greatest offensive producers in NHL history with 1,579 points in 1,612 career games with the Bruins and Colorado Avalanche: Raymond Bourque.
The Bruins could have called it a day alone with the selection of Bourque, but they went on to add a pair of 200+ NHL goal scorers in Keith Crowder and Mike Krushelnyski, while landing one of the powerhouse Brandon Wheat Kings’ biggest stars in Brad McCrimmon, who would go on to be one of the top stay-at-home defensemen, with more than 1,200 career big league games under his belt.
Although this group was unable to secure hockey’s ultimate prize for Boston, the B’s Class of ’79 is rivaled only by the 1980 and 2006 team drafts as the most critical in franchise history.
Today is Bobby Orr’s 72nd birthday- born March 20, 1948 in Parry Sound, Ontario.
My friend from New Brunswick, Ian Wilson, celebrates Robert Gordon Orr’s birthday every year and has been doing so ever since I got to know him online 22 years ago. I have no doubt Ian’s been toasting Bobby Orr Day long before I knew him, and as long as he draws breath in this world, every March 20 will be the same.
I never saw Orr play live…at least not that I remember. I wasn’t yet 4 when he left Boston and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 1976, but by being a student of the game and watching endless clips of Orr’s glory years with the Bruins, I’m comfortable with calling him the greatest hockey player of all in my own opinion. After all, there are a lot of smart hockey people out there who played with him, played against him, saw him…and if they say he’s the greatest hockey player who ever lived, then who am I to disagree?
Wayne Gretzky revolutionized scoring and there will never be another one like him- there was so much that came together at the right time for the Great One to score the zillions of points he did with the Edmonton Oilers in the early 1980’s- that firewagon hockey that he exemplified will not be seen again. The goalies are much better today than ever, and that isn’t going to change. Different era, different game.
But Orr was in a class of his own in terms of how he redefined the way the defense position was played- he didn’t just perform- Orr revolutionized the entire concept of how defenders could join the rush and be as dangerous on offense as they could shut down scoring chances in their own end. Those words to describe what Orr did for the game seem so paltry and inadequate to capture the kind of effect No. 4 had on hockey. In the end, Orr changed the game. Scorers will come and go, and I’ll not take anything away from that- Gretzky owns the all-time record for career goals and Alexander Ovechkin may or may not ever break that one…but for me, Mike Bossy was the best pure goal scorer I ever saw. And that includes Mssrs. Gretzky, Ovechkin, Mario Lemieux and Brett Hull. No one can ever “win” the debate- there are those who will effectively argue for their respective player. As for me, I’ll take Orr…please and thank you.
The world-renowned Spittin’ Chiclets podcast recently had Orr’s close friend and teammate Derek Sanderson on their show and the ever-colorful Turk had some terrific recollections of Orr. One of the best was when he said that he never saw anyone get the puck away from Orr when he had it…ever. And Sanderson is not exaggerating in the slightest. If you haven’t heard that episode, get going already…
As great as Orr’s eight consecutive Norris Trophies, 2 Stanley Cup championships, 2 Conn Smythe trophies as playoff MVP and Hall of Fame resume is, the sad thing is that we never really saw what he was capable of. Years of playing through serious knee injuries and deteriorating joints took an immeasurable toll on what might have been if Orr had the durability and staying power of someone like Ray Bourque.
What’s amazing about Orr’s accomplishments as a Bruin is that he did it from age 18-28. He left the city and team in his prime, though was fated to play only 26 more career games in the Windy City before his ravaged knees forced him to walk away from the game as a player forever. There would be no miracle comebacks for Orr, though had he played several decades later, he might’ve had a 15-20 year career…we’ll never know.
Orr is firmly cemented on Boston’s Mount Rushmore of sports icons and no one will ever take his place.
But don’t take my word for it- just watch him for yourselves. I’ve chosen these videos because they will give you a close look at the man…in his own words, as well as those of others who knew him best, competed against him and knew better than anyone what he was accomplishing for the sport.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Orr- may you enjoy many more!
NHL 100-year Tribute video
Peter Mansbridge’s interview on CBC from Bobby Orr’s autobiography launch in 2013
I recently posted this to the Bruins sub-Reddit- and thought it deserved a place on my blog.
Took a swing at the Boston Bruins historical draft choices, analyzing the team’s selections since the NHL implemented a rudimentary draft system 56 years ago. Bear in mind that in the pre-1969 years, the draft was different- starting in 1963 thru 1978 it was called the amateur draft before changing to the NHL Entry Draft in 1979 when the teams were allowed to draft 18-year-olds. With fewer teams in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s, selections outside of 10-20 were 2nd round or later, but for purpose of exercise, I’m going to look at picks 1-30 and call it like I see it.
I’m bucking convention by starting out with 1st overall and work up to 30- in a lot of cases, the early selections for the B’s have not been kind, but in full context- most of the time the team was picking 3-7, it came in the days before the current draft system. And because the B’s had made the playoffs from 1968-97, unless they owned bad teams’ 1st rounders, they rarely got a chance to pick inside the top-10 during that time frame.
1- Best: Joe Thornton, 1997: 1st ballot HHOFer- nuf ced; Trading him opened the door for Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard to join the B’s in 2006, but he’s been everything Jumbo Joe was projected to be as a teen titan with the Soo Greyhounds in 1997. He just turned 40 in July, which, given the shaggy, golden-locked kid who showed up in Boston 22 years ago at not quite 18, seems impossible to square with the grizzled graybeard who has been with the San Jose Sharks for nearly a decade and a half.
Worst: Barry Gibbs, 1966: Journeyman defenseman. He at least played in the NHL to the tune of 796 career games, most of them not with the Bruins. However, Gibbs leads the No. 1 overall bust hit parade not because of what he did, but because of the player who was selected right behind him at No. 2 in ’66 by the NY Rangers. Wait for it…Brad Park. Can you imagine Bobby Orr and Brad Park together on the Boston blue line? It actually happened for a handful of games right before Orr left for the Windy City, but had they been able to play together in their primes, we’re talking at least 2 more Stanley Cups in that era. Yikes. (H/T to Reddit user Timeless_Watch for pointing this out- I moved Kluzak down to HM)
HM: Gord Kluzak, 1982: Oh what could have been? What if…B’s had drafted Brian Bellows or Scott Stevens there instead of Kluzak? Kluzak had knee injuries in junior hockey days and then got blown up in his 2nd NHL season- without the technology to repair knees that we have today, it doomed him to being day-to-day for the rest of his career and an early retirement. He should have been a long-tenured NHL defenseman, but it didn’t happen for him, and unfortunately, he’s more of a footnote in Bruins lore, which is unfortunate.