Boston Bruins: The Franchise's Top 10 Stories of the Year in 2012

Al DanielCorrespondent IIDecember 25, 2012

Boston Bruins: The Franchise's Top 10 Stories of the Year in 2012

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    The Boston Bruins swung and missed on the virtually futile task of repeating as Stanley Cup champions in 2012. A Game 7 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals cut off their title defense after only one round in the playoffs.

    In turn, New England puckheads will inevitably remember this calendar year in a less picturesque light than they will 2011.

    More tellingly, though, there is one front-office figure and one key on-ice contributor who, with their respective storylines, can personify the team’s rise to the summit and subsequent descent to a more earthly level.

    That being said, the Bruins have not exactly reverted to 2006, either. They repeated as the regular-season champions in the Northeast Division and saw one of their longest-tenured players nab a hunk of hardware after the season.

    All of those momentous developments and others are recounted and ranked as follows in a recap of this calendar year for America’s oldest NHL franchise.

10. Best in the Business

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    The Bruins were named the team of the year at the 2012 Sports Business Awards. The award was bestowed on May 23 courtesy of SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.

    In addition to their playoff title the preceding June, the Bruins were recognized for their multiple methods of media and community outreach.

9. Hall Call for Oates

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    Adam Oates was the latest former Bruin to be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, ending a bit of a drought dating back to Cam Neely’s induction in 2005. Best remembered for his playmaking propensity, Oates tallied 357 of his 1,079 career assists in Boston attire, including a league-leading 97 in his first full season with the team in 1992-93.

8. Farewell, Fernie

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    Hub hockey fans lost a beloved figure when legendary defenseman and former Bruins captain Fern Flaman, who spent the better part of his playing career in Boston and coaching career in New England, passed away at 85 on June 22.

    Flaman spent 11 of the 15 seasons and 684 of the 910 games in his Hall of Fame career with the Bruins. When his skills started winding down, he spent three years as a player-coach with the AHL’s Providence Reds from 1961 to 1964.

    Flaman renewed his presence in the area when he coached the Northeastern Huskies from 1972 to 1989. His penultimate year at the helm in 1987-88 was the last time NU won a Hockey East playoff pennant and its most recent first-place finish in the Beanpot.

    Flaman's memory will surely be in the forefront of many minds this coming February when the current Northeastern team skates over the Spoked-B at the 2013 Beanpot.

7. More To Come With Claude

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    Already the franchise’s longest-tenured head coach since Don Cherry, Claude Julien received a contract extension on July 23.

    Even in a potentially shortened 2012-13 season, Julien should surpass both Cherry (231 wins) and Milt Schmidt (245) for second place on Boston’s all-time leaderboard. Assuming he is retained for two or three more full-length campaigns, he can challenge Art Ross’ team record of 361 wins.

    At the moment, Julien has won 228 out of 410 regular-season games with the Bruins. Ross won 361 out of 728.

6. A Subban House Divided?

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    After two seasons of contributing to the saga of the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry, Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban saw his younger brother, Malcolm, summoned to the other side on the first day of the 2012 entry draft.

    The younger Subban has since returned to the OHL for his third season in the net of the Belleville Bulls. He is second in the league in both goals-against average and save percentage and will now transition 2012 to 2013 by backstopping Team Canada in the World Junior Championships.

5. McQuaid’s Health

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    The 2012 entries in third-year defenseman Adam McQuaid’s news archive, compiled by The Hockey News, are riddled with details of an unfortunate string of injuries. He most recently revealed that he underwent surgery in October to remedy a blood clot that will likely render him unable to play for a few more months.

    McQuaid has not played since late in the last regular season. Feeling the lingering effects of a March 29 hit by Washington forward Jason Chimera, he mustered seven minutes of ice time in Ottawa on April 5, but subsequently closed down for the offseason.

4. Horton’s Health

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    On Jan. 22, precisely one year after Marc Savard sustained what will likely be a career-ending hit, fellow forward Nathan Horton suffered his second confirmed concussion. A hit by Philadelphia Flyers forward Tom Sestito triggered Horton’s second season-ending head injury in a span of eight months.

    For both Horton and McQuaid, the ongoing lockout lends one silver lining in the form of additional recovery time without worrying about returning too soon in order to contribute.

3. Getting Defensive, Getting Rewarded

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    Alternate captain and nine-year professional veteran center Patrice Bergeron won his first piece of individual hardware as a Bruin when he garnered the Selke Trophy. His plus-36 rating was the highest among all NHL skaters in the 2011-12 season, which was also the most productive in his post-concussion era.

    With 42 assists, Bergeron matched his second-best single-season output from 2005-06, while his 64 points were the third most in an NHL campaign. Since missing 72 games in 2007-08, he has steadily elevated his data in every key column for a two-way forward, from goals to assists to points to plus/minus.

2. Re-latching the Lockout

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    For the second time in nine seasons, the NHL is losing games for lack of a collective bargaining agreement, and Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs is receiving no shortage of publicity over his role in the lockout.

    Joe Haggerty of csnne.com has dished up one of the most direct critiques of Jacobs at a time when, under more ideal circumstances, he would be among those breaking down the Bruins’ ongoing endeavor to bounce back from their 2011-12 letdown.

    DJ Bean of weei.com and Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe have variously weighed in on the lockout’s potentially adverse effect on the Bruins’ state of affairs and image. Greg Wyshinski of Yahoo! Sports took note of the positive public perception Jacobs garnered with his team’s title in 2011 and how the lockout could inevitably and suddenly squander that.

    That is merely a sample of the acrid attention the ongoing lockout is drawing on Jacobs. Odds are that will not let up as long as the Bruins and their 29 NHL co-habitants continue to wait to resume normal competition.

1. Tank Gone Empty?

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    Less than six weeks after Joel Ward’s backhander slipped by him and zapped the Bruins’ reign as champions,  veteran goaltender Tim Thomas declared that he would sit out the next season.

    At the time of the announcement, Thomas was still less than a year removed from posting a Game 7 shutout in the Stanley Cup Finals and subsequently claiming the Conn Smythe and later his second Vezina Trophy.

    In between, a new image of Thomas had come into prominence. In late January, he took a pass on the defending champs’ visit to the White House, resulting in an ongoing, polarizing off-ice storyline.

    Although he continued to give generally reliable performances in the crease, the 38-year-old has also had promising younger colleagues Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin waiting for their next step.

    Over the past six-plus months of continued inactivity for both Thomas and the Bruins, the most logical conclusion has been that both parties will pursue a parting of mutual understanding. With one year left on his contract and a $5 million cap hit that comes with it, it is best that Thomas be traded and the 25-year-old Rask given a permanent grip on the starting job.