When Marc Savard took a gruesome, blind-side hit to the head from Matt Cooke two seasons ago, he was sent into a whirlwind that—by all indications thus far—may have ultimately ended his career as an NHL player.
Savard tried to come back during the Eastern Conference semifinals that year, a series that saw his Bruins blow a 3-0 lead in one of the most notorious collapses in playoff history.
Since that fateful season, though, the Bruins have seen incredible success without Savard in the lineup. They saw the emergence of Tyler Seguin. They acquired forwards like Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley to perfectly fill the voids in their lineup.
They won the Stanley Cup, and they rattled off an unbeaten November the following season to state their case as defending champions of the league.
With the unparalleled success that the Bruins have enjoyed over the past year and a half, it is easy to forget just how much this organization misses Savard.
It may seem like a trivial thing, but the Bruins are still missing Marc Savard partly because he is a left-handed skill player.
In Boston's top six, there are two left-handed forwards: Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic.
Marchand and Lucic are great players for Boston, but neither of them are true skill players. Lucic is a power forward, and Marchand is an agitator. Do they have skill? Of course. Do the Bruins rely on them for point-scoring? Definitely.
Still, in situations such as the power play—and even setting up a basic overload strategy in even-strength offensive-zone play—having another highly-skilled left-handed player can be a huge asset.
The Bruins have done just fine without him, but he could certainly help out.
The Bruins fans who hopped aboard the bandwagon last June will not remember what I'm about to say.
The fans who have been here all along, though, probably remember those moments where you had to ask yourself—does Marc Savard have eyes in the back of his head?
Savard's pure playmaking ability is something that no one on the current Bruins roster can remotely match. David Krejci is their top line center and has dished to Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton for a combined 74 goals between the two since the beginning of last season.
Tyler Seguin has shown an uncanny ability to find the tightest seam to fit a pass through for a quality scoring chance. Patrice Bergeron leads the team with 17 assists entering play on Wednesday.
Still, none of these guys have exhibited the pure set-up nature that Savard displayed during his prime in Boston. In his last fully healthy season with the Bruins, the former all-star racked up a whopping 63 assists.
With the goal-scoring talent this team has developed and added, Savard is a piece that they could most certainly use to bring out the best in those talented young stars.
Winning the Stanley Cup last June most certainly gave the Bruins a dose of experience that will prove incredibly valuable in coming years. But their roster is still comprised of predominantly young and inexperienced players with fewer than six years in the league.
It hasn't become an issue thus far, but a team full of relatively young players can very easily become complacent with success and plenty of future. The guys like Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi and Tim Thomas—three key contributors to the championship run last summer—are the guys that always push a team to get better each and every day, avoiding complacency at all costs.
Marc Savard, over the 30-year-old plateau and nearing the end of what is a normal NHL career, would have been bringing a phenomenal dose of experience and hunger to win another title before it's too late. The Bruins haven't had issues with complacency or lack of heart, but should those problems surface, Savard is a guy they will most certainly miss.
I understand that the Bruins really don't need any help right now. Marc Savard may not even have a spot in the top six. Things are going well in Boston.
When a player goes down, though, the Bruins have shown an alarming vulnerability. Whether it was Tyler Seguin being scratched for discipline or David Krejci missing time with injury, the Bruins have shown flashes of struggle when players were missing from their lineup.
Those were short-term bumps in the road, but the Bruins would be in a considerable amount of trouble if one of their top six forwards—or even one of their third line forwards—were to suffer an injury that would hold them out of the lineup for an extended period of time.
They are built to survive those situations with players like Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly at their disposal, but they simply are not the elite team they have been when one of their top guns is taken out of commission.
Savard is the guy that they most clearly miss in a situation that calls for an extended replacement in the offensive unit.
Arguments against the previous four reasons can definitely be made—after all, the Bruins are still near the top of the league, they have a championship ring on their finger, and things are going pretty well.
No one, however, can argue that Marc Savard is not dearly missed when it comes to the Bruins' power play unit.
Last season, the Boston power play struggled in epic proportion. The acquisition of Tomas Kaberle was the opposite of what the Bruins had hoped it would be, and their man-advantage was the laughing stock of the National Hockey League.
In his last healthy season for the Bruins, Savard posted 63 assists and 88 points.
Twenty-one of those assists and 30 of those points came on the power play.
He is, plain and simply, a masterful general on the man-advantage. Coupled with a defenseman like Chara and the added talent of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley, Savard would most certainly be flourishing in the special teams situations and helping the Bruins win hockey games even more regularly.
Are the Bruins just fine right now? I would say so, yes. But don't forget just how much better they could be if their former all-star were healthy enough to be with his supportive teammates on the ice.
Be sure to follow Derek Robinson on Twitter. @DRobMachine