Who are the best defensemen in Bruins history? Ranking the Top 10
This is the powerhouse category for the Boston Bruins.
Bobby Orr is the best player in the history of the NHL. Eddie Shore is one of the all-time greats from the Old Time Hockey era. Ray Bourque was the premier defenseman of his generation. Zdeno Chara is the best shutdown defenseman of his generation, the most notable captain of his era and a Cup winner in Boston. All of them are slam dunk Hall of Famers.
There are others beyond the big four on this list, but if anything at all, the Bruins are known for their No. 1 defensemen in the storied annals of the Original Six franchise.
Here’s the Top 10 all-time list of Bruins defensemen, with apologies to guys like Ted Green, Jack Crawford and Glen Wesley who weren’t included:
10. Mike Milbury
There has to be room on the list for a Bruins player who goes into the stands and beats up a fan with their own shoe, right? Mad Mike was another one of the core players on those rough and tumble Lunch Pail AC Bruins crews of the late 1970s that threw punches first and asked questions later.
The big defenseman finished with 49 goals and 238 points in 754 games for the Bruins over his 12-year career in Boston and had his best season in 1977-78 with eight goals and 38 points in 80 games along with a plus-51 rating. Milbury twice topped 200 penalty minutes in a season during his NHL career and was one of a number of Big Bad Bruins players not to be messed with back in the day.
Milbury continued his connection with the Bruins as an outspoken head coach after his playing days and now serves as a popular hockey analyst on NBC Sports.
9. Don Sweeney
One of only six players in franchise history to log 1,000 games for the Boston Bruins, Sweeney was never flashy. You wouldn’t expect flashiness from an eighth-round puck, but Sweeney also made the most of his abilities as a smaller D-man playing in an era where not too many of those guys existed. Sweeney finished with 52 goals and 262 points in 1,052 games for the Bruins over a 15-year career that included playing in one Stanley Cup Final in 1990.
Sweeney’s best season came in 1992-93 when he posted seven goals and 34 points along with a plus-34 rating in 84 games. Sweeney wasn’t a big offense-producer over his career in Boston, but he was steady, dependable and gave everything he had to the franchise.
Now he’s carrying on that tradition as the GM of a Bruins team that made it back to the Stanley Cup Final in 2019 while working with former teammate Cam Neely in Boston’s front office.
8. Torey Krug
The numbers are starting to pile up for Krug, who has 67 goals and 337 points in 523 games for the Bruins over nine years. Krug has been to a pair of Stanley Cup Finals but is yet to win the big one with the Black and Gold. Still, he’s been a puck-mover and an offensive dynamo while holding his own as an undersized top-4 defenseman.
Krug’s best season came in 2017-18 when he posted 14 goals and 59 points 76 games, but he’s been pretty consistent with the offensive numbers over his past four seasons. Certainly, he’s not in the mold of Chara or Bourque when it comes to being the prototypical frontline defenseman, but Krug brings a little more offensive explosiveness to the Top 10 list.
7. Dallas Smith
Smith played 15 years for the Bruins, won a pair of Stanley Cups and posted 54 goals and 302 points in 860 games. Smith was never the offensive producer or puck-moving guy, since Bobby Orr always had that covered, but he was solid in every area while topping out at seven goals and 45 points along with a massive plus-98 in the 1970-71 season.
Smith finished as a plus-331 in his career and that even included a rookie season in Boston where he was a minus-25 while learning on the job in 1960-61. Smith was a reliable, key cog on both of Boston’s Stanley Cup-winning teams in the 1970s and goes down as one of the most underrated players on that team.
6. Fern Flaman
A Hall of Famer and three-time All-Star, Fern Flaman (pictured, right) won his only Stanley Cup with the Toronto Maple Leafs after getting traded there in 1950. He was traded back to the Bruins from the Leafs in 1954 and put up the best seasons of his career in Boston while racking All-Star honors and three seasons where he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
Flaman finished with 30 goals and 177 points in 683 games for the Black and Gold over 14 years and topped 1,000 penalty minutes as a tough guy in a tough era of hockey. At the time of his retirement, he actually ranked third all-time in the NHL in penalty minutes after a career known as a punishing body-checker.
5. Brad Park
While he didn’t play the overwhelming majority of his career with the Bruins like many of the other top players on this list, Park had the unenviable task of trying to replace Bobby Orr as Boston’s top player on the back end. He did that for eight years from 1975-1983 while serving as the connector between Orr and Ray Bourque, and finishing with 100 goals and 417 points in 501 games for the B’s over the course of eight seasons.
Park was a two-time All-Star and finished as a Norris Trophy finalist twice during his time with the B’s and topped out with 22 goals and 79 points in 1977-78. Park could play big minutes, had a big shot from the point and was a pivotal player on those tough Boston teams in the late 1970s that very nearly won themselves a Cup.
4. Zdeno Chara
The 43-year-old captain of the Boston Bruins was handed the great defenseman torch from Ray Bourque six years after Bourque left Boston, and he’s handled it well for the last 15 years. Chara led the B’s to a Stanley Cup in 2011 and three Stanley Cup Final appearances overall as a 6-foot-9 defensive stopper who's the premier shutdown guy of his generation.
Chara has seven All-Star nods, one Norris Trophy and a Mark Messier Leadership Award on a résumé that includes dominant physical play from the tallest player (6-foot-9) in the history of the league. Chara was far from an offensive dynamo in a 2008-09 season where he posted 19 goals and 50 points as his best numbers, but the iconic 108-mph slapshot is part of the legend for the mammoth D-man.
There isn’t another NHL team that’s got a better top-4 on the back end than Orr, Bourque, Shore and Chara.
3. Eddie Shore
The tradition of excellence among Bruins defensemen goes all the way back to Old Time Hockey and Eddie Shore and the 551 games that he played for the Black and Gold from 1926-1940. Shore was never an offensive powerhouse in an age where playing defense was about defending and being an intimidating physical presence, and Shore was both of those things for Boston.
He set NHL records for penalty minutes in the early seasons of an NHL career spent doling out punishment. Shore won a pair of Stanley Cups, finished with eight All-Star appearances and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP on four different occasions during his career. In 2017, Shore was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players in the league’s history, so it takes a couple of amazing players to push the tough-as-nails Shore down to third on this all-time list.
2. Ray Bourque
If Bobby Orr was a dynamic force that was gone too quickly, Ray Bourque was the exact opposite of that. Bourque was a strong, solid and durable defenseman that played a consistently excellent game for a long, long period of time. He finished with 395 goals and 1,506 points in 1,518 games for the Bruins over a 21-year career that included 19 All-Star nods and five Norris Trophies.
Bourque was the best defenseman of his era and a workhorse who would play massive minutes while dominating at both ends of the ice. His best statistical season was 1983-84 when he posted 31 goals and 96 points in 78 games and led the entire NHL with 343 shots on net.
It’s true that Bourque didn’t win the elusive Stanley Cup until he was traded to the Colorado Avalanche at the end of his career, but he was everything for the Bruins for two decades before settling in Boston once his pro playing days were over.
1. Bobby Orr
A Hall of Famer, nine time All-Star, three-time Hart Trophy winner and eight-time Norris Trophy winner as the best player on a pair of Stanley Cup-winning teams, Bobby Orr is the NHL’s best player and the guy who revolutionized the game from the back end. The speed, the hands and the hockey mind were second to none.
No. 4 finished with 264 goals and 888 points in 631 games during a career that was cut short by knee injuries, but at his apex there was nobody more dominant in the history of the league. As a 26-year-old, Orr had his greatest statistical season with 46 goals and 135 points in 80 games. His plus-124 mark for the 1970-71 season is something that will never, ever be matched in the history of the league.
He never played a full season in the NHL after the age of 26 years old and it was a crime he needed to finish his career with two injury-riddled seasons for the Chicago Blackhawks, but nobody made the game look as beautiful as Bobby Orr did in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s for the Bruins.