Updated: May 10
Four forward lines, three defensive pairs, and two goalies make up the best group of Bruins players in franchise history.
1st Forward Line:
LW: Johnny Bucyk: Bucyk often goes under the radar among all time Bruins because he played in the Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito era, but don't forget that he was the captain of those Bruins teams. He played the second most games all time for the Bruins, has the most goals in franchise history, and is second in points. Despite being a leader of the 'Big Bad Bruins', and being an excellent hitter, Bucyk won the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship on two separate occasions. He is the clear best left winger in Bruins history.
C: Phil Esposito: Esposito may have played just eight seasons with the black and gold, but he is the undisputed best forward in Bruins history. He was the first NHL player ever to record 100 points in a season, and accomplished that feat six times with the Bruins, each time blowing the century mark out of the water. Every year in Boston he had at least 35 goals, and five times scored at least 55. In the 1970-71 season, he had an astonishing 76 goals, and 152 points. He was an integral part of the Bruins Cup Championship teams in 1970, and '72, and one of the best scorers of all time.
RW: Rick Middleton: Middleton might not be the flashiest Bruin of all time, but 'Nifty' is no doubt one of the Bruins greats. He joined the Bruins in 1976-77 from the Rangers, and spent the rest of his career with Boston. He is third in franchise history in goals, and fourth in points. In the prime of his career in the early 1980's, Middleton had at least 40 goals and 90 points for five years in a row.
2nd Forward Line:
LW: Wayne Cashman: Cashman may not amaze you with individual numbers, but his consistency over his entire career is what sets him apart. He played the fifth most games in Bruins history, and has the sixth most assists, and seventh most points in franchise history. He was not only an integral part of the Bruins Championship teams in the early seventies, but also team captain for five years later in his career.
C: Patrice Bergeron: Bergeron is one of the most well rounded, and respected players in the game right now, and of all time. He has already played sixteen seasons, and ranks third all time in games by a Bruin. He is in the top five in franchise history in goals, assists, and soon to be points. Bergeron is much more than that though. He is arguably the best face off man of his generation, has won a record four Selke Trophies for the best defensive forward, and has led the Bruins to three Stanley Cup Finals. His spot in the Hall of Fame and his number in the rafters are waiting for him.
RW: Cam Neely: Cam Neely is no Bobby Orr or Phil Esposito, but when you think of the Bruins, Neely comes in the same sentence as those two. He combined phenomenal skill with brute force, and really no one represents the 'Big Bad Bruins' more than Neely. In a career hampered by injuries because of his playing style though, Neely played only about seven full seasons with the Bruins. Despite that, he still scored 50 goals three times, at least 35 goals six times, and had two ninety point seasons.
3rd Forward Line:
LW: Dit Clapper: Clapper might not be known as well as many other Bruins stars, but he had an absolutely amazing career. His list of records is incredible. He played both forward and defense over his career, and was the first ever player, and one of just two now, to be an All Star at forward and defense. When he retired, his 835 games were the most in NHL history. He was the first NHLer ever to play for 20 seasons, and each of them was with the Bruins. His number 5 was retired by the Bruins, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame the very year that he retired, and he is a three time Stanley Cup Champion.
C: Milt Schmidt: Schmidt truly is the ultimate Bruin. Milt Schmidt's importance to the Bruins franchise cannot be understated, not just as a player, but also as a coach, and a general manager. His four total Stanley Cups (two as a player and two as a general manager) are a Bruins record. He was a perfect combination of skill and toughness. Despite leaving the Bruins to serve in World War II, Schmidt played 16 seasons in Boston. The leader of the famed 'Kraut Line', Schmidt was one of the only players to return strongly after serving.
RW: Ken Hodge: Hodge spent nine of his fourteen career years with the Bruins. He is in the top ten in Bruins history in goals, assists, points, and +/-. He was also a key part of the Bruins Cup teams in '70 and '72. Hodge came to the Bruins as part of the trade (more like robbery) with the Chicago Blackhawks that saw the Bruins acquire him, Phil Esposito, and Fred Stanfield. Hodge would play the majority of his games on the first line with Esposito, and even had two 100 point seasons with the Bruins.
4th Forward Line:
LW: Brad Marchand: Marchand has turned from a pest with skill, to truly one of the best players in the game. That might be hard to admit for opposing fans, but it is simply a fact. Over the past four years, his 174 goals are fourth in the NHL, as are his 418 points, while his +104 +/- ranks second. Marchand and Bergeron have been one of the best duos in the league for quite some time now. With eleven seasons for the Bruins already in the books, and a career to back up his talk, Marchand is proving to be among the best Bruins of all time.
C: David Krejci: Forever under the radar and underappreciated, Krejci has put together an incredible career with the Bruins. He has quietly snuck into the top ten in franchise history in games played, assists, and points. Since his 2007-08 rookie season, he has been an integral part of the Bruins, and has become one of their strongest leaders. As of late, Krejci's has had pretty much no stability on his wings, but through it all he has been able to keep up his strong play and consistency.
RW: Terry O'Reilly: O'Reilly is the very example of the 'Big Bad Bruins'. The franchise leader in penalty minutes with 2,095 in just 891 games, was a tough player to play against, to say the least. That was not the extent of his game though, as O'Reilly knew how to produce as well. He ranks eighth in Bruins history in games, ninth in assists, and eleventh in points. He later became coach of the Bruins, and his number 24 is retired in Boston.
1st Defensive Pair:
D: Bobby Orr: I know this might be an uncommon opinion, but Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player of all time. Hear me out: The record for points by a defenseman was 70 before Orr, and he goes out and get 139! Wayne Gretzky never doubled the points record. In addition, Orr is fourth all time for all positions, not just defenseman in points per game. He could dominate games, and simply put, the sport of hockey had never seen a player like him, ever. He did everything. The end to end rush was his trademark, but he could defend, he could hit, he could fight, you name it. He could kill an entire penalty just by skating around, and no one could touch him. Unfortunately Orr had only about eight full NHL seasons because of his injuries. In that time, he won the Calder Trophy, eight Norris Trophies, three Hart Trophies, two Art Ross trophies, a Ted Lindsey award, a Lester Patrick trophy, two Conn Smythe trophies, and two Stanley Cups. Gretzky may have had the greatest career ever, but Orr is the best player of all time.
D: Ray Bourque: It's crazy that Ray Bourque is the second best Bruins defenseman considering he has the all time NHL record for defenseman in goals (410), assists (1,169), and points (1,579). You won't find many players who loved the game as much as Ray Bourque. Like Orr, but to a lesser extent, Bourque could do it all. His toughness and strength were simply unparalleled. Many describe him as the strongest player they had ever faced. On offense, his shooting accuracy was unbelievable, so much so that he won the All Star Game Accuracy Shooting competition eight times. He truly is one of the all time greats.
2nd Defensive Pair:
D: Eddie Shore: When Eddie Shore retired, he was pretty consistently considered the best defenseman of all time. While his skating was also considered the best in hockey as well, it was usually his toughness that set him apart. He would do anything to win. That part of his game was a blessing, but also a curse, best exemplified by when in a retaliation swing, he almost killed Ace Baily of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Fortunately he was later able to make up with Baily. Overall, Shore was the most essential part of the early Bruins teams, and won four Hart trophies, while leading the Bruins to two Stanley Cup victories.
D: Zdeno Chara: Chara is currently sixth all time in games played for the Bruins, and will soon be going up that list, and is the longest serving captain in franchise history. The Bruins signed Chara before the 2006-07 season, and immediately made him captain. Since then he has won a Mark Messier Leadership Award, a Norris Trophy, and a Stanley Cup. The 6'9" big man is the tallest NHLer ever, and holds the record for the fastest NHL slapshot at 108.8 MPH. He is one of the strongest players and one of the best leaders in the game.
3rd Defensive Pair:
D: Brad Park: Brad Park finished second in Norris Trophy voting six times, and were it not for Bobby Orr, would have been the best defenseman of his time. After a little over seven seasons with the Rangers, Park and Jean Ratelle were traded to the Bruins in an absolutely shocking trade. Although previously hated in Boston, Park garnered the crowd's respect with his smarts, physicality, and skill. The nine time All Star's greatest skill though was his hockey IQ, and smarts with the puck on his stick. Although he spent just half of his career in Boston, Park still is one of the greatest defenseman of all time.
D: Lionel Hitchman: D: Don Sweeney: Don Sweeney may have never scored ten goals or recorded forty points in a season, but his 1,052 games in a Bruins uniform rank fourth in franchise history. He won't amaze you with his offense, but was an essential part of the Bruins teams throughout the 90's and early 2000's. The stay at home defenseman is now the general manager for the Bruins, and a very successful one at that.
G: Tiny Thompson: In his first ten NHL seasons, Thompson missed all of one total game. In that time he led the league in wins five times, in GAA four times, and in shutouts four times. He also won four Vezina trophies and a Stanley Cup with the Bruins. In addition, he is the first goalie ever to record an assist. He still holds the career goals against average for goalies who have played at least 500 games. In 1959, he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame. G: Tuukka Rask: The constant criticism of Rask is simply ridiculous. For the past ten or so years, he has been one of the best goaltenders in the game. Since 2013-14 when Rask became a full time starter, he is second among all NHL goalies in wins (225), third in SV% (.920), second in GAA (2.30), and second in shutouts (34). Those numbers show that he is one of the very best netminders of his generation. He also has the most wins and best SV% in Bruins history, while ranking second in GAA and shutouts. Don't under appreciate what Rask has done with the Bruins.