Adam Oates is the latest Boston Bruins alumnus to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, having joined the 2012 induction class in Monday night’s formalities. He is thus the museum’s first new honoree to have any association with America’s oldest NHL franchise since former linemate Cam Neely had his turn in 2005.
The wait for the next ex-Bruin to go to Toronto on the second Monday of November will not be nearly as long as the Neely-Oates interlude. One durable, prolific and ornate veteran who helped the franchise to its latest Stanley Cup in 2011 could get his Hall call as early as two years from now.
Starting around the year 2020 onward, another light influx of black and gold could go streaming in. It will depend heavily on what several active players, whether they are still in Boston or with another team, can do to build on their resumes. Ditto a couple of key figures who are making their careers upstairs at TD Garden.
There may be others who will be given a look once they are eligible. For example, there is always a chance (albeit a very slim one) that Tim Thomas could defy convention (late bloomers usually don’t make it) and prevail on the basis of two Vezina Trophies, a Conn Smythe and four All-Star appearances.
But as it sits right now, the Bruins’ 10 likeliest future Hall of Famers are as follows.
Among players and coaches, Bergeron’s ongoing tenure with the Bruins exceeds that of any of his peers and most likely will not end until he retires.
Assuming he stays healthy and continues to play until he is around the age of 40, the reigning Selke Trophy winner should still have the best additives to his resume waiting to happen.
He can have at least a handful of years as Boston’s captain in store. He could ultimately join the company of Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman and Don Sweeney as the only men to have worn a Bruins uniform for more than 1,000 NHL games. He could join Bourque, Bucyk and Dit Clapper as the only players with two full decades in Boston to their credit.
The more he spends that time turning in seasons like the last two, the more likely he will be recognized for many of the same qualities and in the same fashion as Oates was on Monday.
With the incumbent captain, who still has (according to his contract) about six more years to play and thus time for more Stanley Cups and Norris Trophies, the Bruins’ have completed their Mount Rushmore of elite blueliners.
Chara is the fourth installment, joining Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr and Bourque. He has surpassed the 40-point mark in each of six seasons with the team and, in the last two, has matched his career-high plus-33 rating, originally set as a Senator in 2003-04.
One or two more Stanley Cups and/or an extended tenure of overseeing consistent contention will make the incumbent general manager difficult to overlook. Already, through six years at his post, Chiarelli has assembled the better part of the 2011 championship team, including the aforementioned captain Chara and head coach Claude Julien.
Goucher has been a member of the Bruins family since 1995, when he began a five-year run behind the Providence mic en route to a promotion to Boston in 2000. He has consistently delivered an incontestably appropriate level of fervor, along with crisp and descriptive narration, to the Bruins radio broadcasts.
No profile of Goucher’s readily specifies his age, but the fact that he is a 1993 graduate of Boston University all but confirms he is barely in his 40s. A couple of more decades are therefore bound to come on top of the dozen years of service he has already logged in the TD Garden radio booth.
The more he continues to dish up more of the same, the better his odds of ultimately claiming the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, previously earned by Bruins broadcasters Fred Cusick (1984) and Bob Wilson (1987).
The 25-year-old Kessel’s Boston legacy is being fast buried by his piles of Maple Leaf memories, but will never be scrapped from memory altogether.
About two decades from now, when he is due for enshrinement, New Englanders born prior to this calendar century will promptly recall the way Kessel helped to rekindle interest in the franchise with his explosive skating and shootout proficiency.
In the meantime, his Hall of Fame credentials are only emboldening given that he is coming off a career-high 37 goals and his first point-per-game campaign out of six NHL seasons so far.
After coming to Boston win one more Cup and wrap up his career and claim his spot among the top 20 on the NHL’s all-time goal, assist and points leaderboard, Recchi is a sound candidate for first-chance induction in 2014.
Besides any worthy players who retired before 2010-11, Recchi’s primary competition for one of four spots will include Chris Drury, Adam Foote, Peter Forsberg and Mike Modano. If he does not make the cut on his first try, it will be a shock if he has to wait beyond 2015.
Savard’s odds are borderline, but not out of the question.
In terms of prolific playmaking, Savard is the only Bruin from the past two decades to rival the single-season output of Oates and Joe Thornton. He came from Atlanta on the heels of a 69-assist, 100-point campaign and charged up 74 helpers in 2006-07 followed by 63 in both 2007-08 and 2008-09.
The way Savard’s career unfolded and has (presumably) ended is comparable to that of 2003 Hall of Fame honoree Pat LaFontaine. Concussion issues forced LaFontaine, who played in a higher-scoring era, to retire after charging up 468 goals and 545 assists in 865 career games.
Savard, who like LaFontaine was 33 years old when he last competed, has 499 helpers in 807 total NHL appearances to his credit. That just might be enough.
But Seguin has up to two full decades still to come and the right elite skill set to add to the Bruins’ all-time collection of 23 individual 100-point seasons. If he receives the right guidance and stays his course, he may even join the exclusive company of Phil Esposito and Neely among those who have scored 50-plus goals in multiple years on Boston’s behalf.
Late last season, Thornton’s career games-played with the San Jose Sharks finally surpassed his total appearances with the Bruins (532). With that said, there ought to be at least a few glimpses of highlights―particularly from the day Harry Sinden made him the first overall draft pick―from his first seven-plus NHL seasons when the time comes to honor him in Toronto.
That eventuality is pretty much a lock at this point. Thornton’s penultimate season with the Bruins was his first of (so far) three with triple-digit points, six with 60-plus assists and eight with 50-plus helpers.
He should have at least six or seven more chances to finally win a Stanley Cup, which could help his legacy. But three of this year’s Hall of Fame inductees―Oates, Pavel Bure and Mats Sundin―are living proof that a title is hardly a prerequisite.
Another bit of a long shot, but not one that is wholly unreachable.
Dealt to rival Hartford in 1994, Wesley stayed with the Whalers/Hurricanes for much of the remaining 14 years of his playing career. He was hardly dazzling throughout that period, but was still appreciated in Carolina.
Beforehand, though, he was an appreciably productive blueliner in Boston, where he never tallied fewer than 25 assists in any of his seven seasons. He concluded his Bruins days with a career high 44 helpers and 58 points.