During the offseason, the Toronto Maple Leafs road to the Stanley Cup got easier and the team didn’t really do a thing to make that happen. However, further east and closer to the Atlantic Ocean, the Boston Bruins lost one of its key players when Patrice Bergeron retired. For the Maple Leafs, that’s not a ho-hum sort of thing.
Going back a bit into Maple Leafs’ history for comparison, the loss of Bergeron for the Bruins would be akin to the Maple Leafs’ loss of Darryl Sittler. They were similar players who had impacted their own team and the opposition in similar ways. In this post, I’ll share a bit about the importance of the Bruins losing Bergeron and why I believe it might be like the Maple Leafs losing Sittler.
Some Players Are Keys to Their Teams’ Successes
Over hockey history, certain players have transcended their teams and have become iconic for their cities. Sittler was one of those players for Toronto. He had exceptional skills and leadership. He consistently demonstrated all-around excellence on the ice.
Those who know Maple Leafs’ history can imagine (and some will remember) what it was like when the team traded Sittler to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Rich Costello, future considerations, and a second-round pick in the 1982 draft (which turned out to be Peter Ihnacak) in January 1982. It was a moment that changed the team.
In a similar way, the Bruins will be changed because Bergeron retired. No player can ever truly replace a legend like Sittler, and the Bruins will have a tough time replacing Bergeron. The two players were remarkably alike in their games.
Both Sittler and Bergeron Played Two-Way Games
One of the defining characteristics of both Sittler and Bergeron was their ability to excel in all areas of the game. Sittler was known for his two-way play, and Bergeron carried that tradition with the Bruins. As fans know and perhaps Mitch Marner (especially) will benefit, Bergeron earned multiple Selke Trophies.
That honor is presented to the NHL’s best defensive forward. The recognition speaks volumes about Bergeron’s commitment to playing a complete game. Sittler was no different in his day.
Both Sittler and Bergeron Were Leaders
Sittler was not just a star player; he was a leader on and off the ice. He wore the captain’s “C” for the Maple Leafs and led by example. He was given the “C” at 24 years of age and became the team’s second-youngest captain in history after 22-year-old Teeder Kennedy in 1948.
When Sittler’s teammate and friend Lanny McDonald was traded to the Colorado Rockies (out of spite), he cut the “C” off his jersey and wrote a letter he wrote to Maple Leafs’ management resigning as captain. He was a man of character who had given up what had been “the happiest day of my life” – becoming captain of the team.
In much the same way, although it was never as dramatic as Sittler’s time, Bergeron became the 20th captain for the Bruins when Zdeno Chara left the team in 2021. Bergeron’s leadership qualities were evident in his on-ice presence, his ability to lead by example and the respect he commanded in the locker room. Losing him as a team leader could have a profound impact on a team’s morale and direction.
Both Sittler and Bergeron Were Versatile Players
Sittler was a versatile forward who could contribute in a multitude of situations. He killed penalties and played on the power play. Bergeron had that same versatility. He played on both the penalty kill and power play units, and he excelled in any role.
In addition, both Sittler and Bergeron excelled in the face-off circle. Both consistently ranked among the league’s top faceoff winners. As players, they consistently helped their teams secure possession of the puck and helped maintain a strategic advantage.
Both Sittler and Bergeron Were Consistently Good Scorers
Sittler was known for his scoring ability, and Bergeron followed suit. Both players scored well over 400 goals and 1000 points before they retired. Sittler famously had a 100-point season, and Bergeron consistently contributed offensively while playing great defense as well.
Bergeron’s ability to provide offensive production while being one of the best defensive players in the NHL will be sorely missed by his team. He will become a sure Hall of Famer one day soon.
The Bottom Line
In the same way that no one ever was able to replace Sittler, it will be tough for the Bruins to replace Bergeron. Losing a player of his caliber will undoubtedly impact the Bruins’ ability to make or go far during the postseason. They still will be a good team, but they won’t be the same with Bergeron retired.
Bergeron will be missed this season – in both good ways and bad. It just depends on the color of your favorite team’s uniform.
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