The number naturally dwindles down each season. In 2015 there are only eight players left on the Bruins roster from the 2011 Stanley Cup team.
They are all still key performers for the Bruins: Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Chris Kelly, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask.
While Bergeron, Chara and Kelly get the lion’s share of the credit for efforts leading the Bruins franchise over that period, it’s a much different group than the proven, playoff-hardened team of five years ago.
The Bruins are younger in many areas of the roster, and older in other key spots where performance may start declining.
They may miss key personalities like Shawn Thornton, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi, Andrew Ference and Shane Hnidy, who helped comprise a team with character, toughness and resilience.
That’s where some of the “other” leaders come into play for the Bruins.
Someone like Marchand could become an important factor for the Black and Gold this upcoming season.
Marchand has matured a great deal from the party animal that turned the 2011 offseason into the “Summer of Brad” following the Cup win, and was photographed regularly atop bars in various states of undress with a bottle in his hand.
Fast forward to 2015 and Marchand is newly married after tying the knot with his longtime Rhode Island girlfriend.
Marchand also showed signs of growing up last season when he called out the “passengers” on the team in the final weeks of the season as the playoffs slipped away, and jumped all over the much bigger Tom Wilson to defend his teammate following a suspicious hit on young center Ryan Spooner.
Those are the actions of a heavily invested team-first player.
Marchand is entering his sixth season with the Bruins, and it’s clear he’s looking to take ownership of the team as one of the established, longest-tenured veterans. He’s gone from a brash, chirping kid wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles baseball hat in his rookie season to a trusted veteran that also happens to be the team’s leading goal scorer.
“At this level we should all be looking to improve our game every year. For me I want to be more responsible with the puck, and make sure I’m making good decisions at the right times during games,” said Marchand, who led the Bruins with 24 goals scored last season. “I want to be one of those guys that can be relied upon at any point in the game.
“I also just want to become more of a leader each year. Especially with important guys moving on, we need guys to step up and take over those roles. I’ll need to do that bit along with some other guys. It makes it a lot easier when you have guys like [Bergeron], Zee and [Kelly] leading the way, and you have really good mentors. But you can’t leave all of the pressure on them, because that’s a lot. When you continuously just rely on [a few players] each and every game, then it takes away from their game and what they have to do. We need guys to step up, be more vocal and hold other guys accountable.”
Marchand has a significant individual challenge of his own, as he must power through the final throes of rehab from offseason surgery to repair torn tendons in his right elbow.
General manager Don Sweeney said Thursday he didn’t believe there would be any limitations on Marchand to start training camp, and the B’s agitator has looked as good as he’s ever been during captain’s practice over the last two weeks.
“It’s been feeling a lot better than last year,” said Marchand, who said he wasn’t able to do any upper body work until August due to the surgery. “Sometimes it aches when I’ve been shooting a bit too much, but I think it’s normal with a surgery like that. It’ll probably take a little while before it’s 100 percent, but that’s normal. I’m definitely happy that I chose to do the surgery.
“There were times where it was good, and then there were times when it really bothered me. It’s a little thing compared to what some of the other guys were going through [last season], so I’m not putting any blame on that."
If Marchand needs healthy reminders from teammates to take it easy on the balky elbow, they will certainly oblige by telling him to quit shooting the puck so much.
The return to 100 percent is good news for Marchand, linemate Patrice Bergeron and for a Bruins team that’s come to expect a lot from the 27-year-old: goal-scoring, feistiness, penalty killing prowess and a healthy dose of jam from their resident agitator.
The Bruins are also beginning to expect more maturity and leadership from a player that’s always had an unpredictable, undisciplined streak to his game.
If last year was any indication, then Marchand is showing serious signs that he is up for that challenge amid an important rebound season for the Bruins.