There are tough decisions that have to be made in life. However, there is probably no tougher decision than trying to pick just four Boston Bruins players in team history to make up the team’s metaphorical Mount Rushmore.
It’s times like these where writing about the Boston Bruins just isn’t fair. The Bruins have been around since 1924, meaning there’s 93 years worth of players to comb through. And I’m supposed to pick just FOUR of them? Talk about a difficult task.
So, let’s think about this realistically. Two spots are automatically filled, and I know that if you’re a Bruins fan, you know who those players are. So that leaves two spots left. How do we go about choosing those remaining two?
“Duh, look at their goals and assists, dummy!” Well, career numbers are obviously important, and something that plays into the decision. But, in a physical game like hockey, sometimes careers are ended short. In fact, that happened to one of our automatic selections, too. So that can’t be the be-all-end-all factor.
“Success is all that matters. Who won more Stanley Cups?” Yes, that does have some truth to it. As Ari Gold said in the TV show Entourage, “there’s no asterisks in this world, only scoreboards.” But hockey is a team sport. Some of the best players in NHL history never won a Stanley Cup. So while success is a key component, it can’t be the only part in the decision.
“Who’s name do you associate with the Bruins most? Who’s had the biggest impact on the organization as a whole? Who looked best wearing the Spoked-B?” Geez Louise, all good points…except for maybe that last one. So, bottom line, there are many factors to be weighed here.
All that being said, and I’ll probably take some grief over these picks, my Bruins Mount Rushmore features: Ray Bourque, Phil Esposito, Bobby Orr, and Milt Schmidt.
Before there was Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, there was Ray Bourque. Bourque played 22 seasons in the NHL, and 20 and 3/4 of those were in a Boston Bruins jersey. In his illustrious career, which spanned 1612 regular season NHL games, Bourque scored 410 goals and tallied 1169 assists for 1579 career points. Bourque also had a ridiculous +528 plus/minus rating for his career, only having a minus rating 4 times in his NHL tenure.
Bourque was selected as an NHL All-Star 19 times. He won the Calder Trophy in ’79-’80 as Rookie of the Year and five Norris Trophies (’86-’87, ’87-’88, ’89-’90, ’90-’91, ’93-’94). He was in the top-5 for Hart Trophy voting five times.
When it came to goal scoring as a defenseman, there were very few who were more consistent than Bourque in the 80’s and 90’s. In over two decades, Bourque never scored less than double-digit goals in a season, other than his final year, which we Bruins fans choose not to acknowledge because it took place in a Colorado Avalanche sweater.
Unfortunately, Bourque was never able to bring a Stanley Cup to Boston. However, he did ultimately achieve every hockey player’s dream of lifting the Cup. In his final season, ’00-’01, playing for the Avalanche at the ripe age of 40, Bourque put up 59 points, and helped the Avalanche win the team’s second Stanley Cup. There are no players who deserved to win a Championship more than Ray Bourque, so in that regards, we as fans can celebrate that.
Phil Esposito is the reason Ray Bourque went from wearing #7 early in his career to number #77. And why is that? Because Esposito’s #7 deserved to be hanging in the rafters among the other Bruins legends.
Esposito didn’t start or end his career in a Bruins uniform. However, the 10 seasons he spent in Boston were without a doubt the best of his 18 year stint in the NHL. In those 10 seasons, Esposito won FIVE Art Ross Trophies for leading the league in scoring, including 4 in a row (’68-’69, 126 points; ’70-’71, 152 points; ’71-’72, 133 points; ’72-’73, 130 points; ’73-’74, 145 points).
Teamed up with players like Johnny Bucyk, Ken Hodge, and Bobby Orr, Esposito and the Bruins were a dominant force in the early 70’s. In 1282 career NHL games (625 of which were with the Bruins), Esposito scored 717 goals and 873 assists for 1590 career points, or 1.24 points per game. Esposito and the boys were able to bring home two Stanley Cups to Boston in ’69-’70 and ’71-’72. Both Stanley Cup years, Esposito led the league in playoff scoring.
Esposito’s time in Boston ended on November 7, 1975 when he was traded to the New York Rangers. Esposito may have finished his career in a Rangers jersey, but he will undoubtedly always be known as a Bruins legend.
The best Boston Bruins player of all-time, and arguably one of the best NHL players of all time. Bobby Orr revolutionized the game of hockey and the defenseman position. There was no one like him in the game before he joined the league, and there’s been no one like him since. He was a hockey anomaly, a unique specimen of greatness.
Number 4 Bobby Orr only played 9 full seasons in the NHL. After those 9 seasons, he only played 36 more NHL games across 3 seasons. One with the Bruins, and two with the Chicago Blackhawks. Due to injuries to his knees, his tremendous career was cut incredibly short when he retired at age 30 in 1979.
Orr was the epitome of an offensive-defenseman. His contributions in both ends of the ice were off-the-charts. Orr lead the league in assists five times in his career as a defenseman. After winning the Calder Trophy his rookie season in ’66-’67, Orr went on to win the next eight Norris Trophies for best defenseman in the NHL. Oh, and for good measure, he chipped in two Art Ross Trophies for leading the league in points in ’69-’70 and ’74-’75, and three consecutive Hart Trophies as league MVP (’69-’70, ’70-’71, ’71-’72).
Orr, like Esposito, was a part of the ’69-’70 and ’71-’72 Bruins teams that won Stanley Cups. Unsurprisingly, Orr was named Conn Smythe winner for Playoff MVP in both Stanley Cup runs.
There’s a reason why a bronze statute of Orr’s famous goal adorns the plaza outside the TD Garden in Boston, MA. He is, was, and likely always will be, the best of the best in Boston Bruins history.
Milt SchmidtGreatness recognizes greatness. Bobby Orr has said that the greatest Bruin of all time was Milt Schmidt. And it’s hard to argue with Orr. Putting career numbers aside due to circumstances beyond Milty’s control, the impact he had on the organization is what earns him his spot.
In 776 career games spanning 16 seasons, Schmidt amassed 229 goals and 346 assists, for 575 career points. While those totals may seem low, you have to take into account that NHl seasons were much shorter when Milty played. Also, three years of his career in his mid-20s were lost due to World War II.
Schmidt, a member of the Bruins “Kraut Line” with Woody Dumont and Bobby Bauer, helped lead the team to two Stanley Cup victories as a player in ’38-’39 and ’40-’41. Following his retirement after the ’54-’55 season, he was immediately named head coach of the team.
As head coach, Schmidt brought the team to two Stanley Cup Final appearances. Then, later in his career as the GM for the team, he won two more Cups during the Orr/Esposito era. Schmidt’s contributions to the Bruins organization, therefore, are more than just on the ice. When it comes to overall greatness for the Bruins organization, that is where Schmidt shines.
There are so many players would could have made it on the list. Older players such as Eddie Shore, Johnny Bucyk, and Ken Hodge could have a place. More modern players like Cam Neely or Adam Oates were great in Black and Gold. Current players like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron are making a case to be considered someday. But to me, the four I have picked mean the most to the Bruins organization as a whole.