Boston Bruins: 20 Best Players to Have Come Up Through Providence
With last week’s release of the 2011-12 AHL season schedule, the Providence Bruins have virtually applied the last possible stoke to the flame of anticipation as their 20th anniversary season approaches.
Besides capitalizing on the can’t-miss hype that comes with being the top farm team for the defending Stanley Cup champions, the P-Bruins are also going all-out to promote several special events to celebrate their two decades of existence and what is now the longest-living AHL-NHL partnership.
For instance, an exhibition game pitting Boston Bruins alums against P-Bruins alums is slated for Nov. 13 at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
No telling yet who will be rostered on either side for that particular game. But while we wait for more details and also wait out the final weeks before training camp, there is no time like the present to mull over some of the most enticing possibilities.
With that, here is a season-by-season chronology of the best Bruins to go through the Providence-Boston pipeline and go from making ripples in Rhode Island to making a splash on Causeway Street.
1992-93: Glen Murray
Murray’s first season in the Bruins’ system was also the final year of the AHL’s Maine Mariners, who transferred to Providence in the summer of 1992. The preceding winter, he saw action in five NHL games while wrapping up his major junior career with the Sudbury Wolves.
To start his first full professional campaign, Murray was assigned to the new development team in Providence, where he contributed 30 goals and 56 points in 48 games played.
One of the reasons he was not higher on the P-Bruins scoring chart was because he unofficially led the team in the promotions department, earning 27 twirls in Boston.
By the following training camp, Murray was a full-timer in The Show.
1993-94: Jozef Stumpel
In his first year on North American ice in 1992-93, the Slovak pivot played 56 games in Providence and 13 in Boston.
That ratio nearly flip-flopped the following year as Stumpel played 17 more AHL games, averaging exactly a point per night in that span, while skating with the parent club 59 times.
With 23 points, he was quickly a fixture on Causeway Street, good enough to play in all 13 of Boston’s 1994 playoff games.
1994-95: Jon Rohloff
The NHL season was short-circuited by a lockout, but after briefly building upon his 12-23-35 scoring campaign in Providence, Rohloff made his Boston debut and went on to play in 34 out of 48 regular season contests.
Among the regular Bruins blueliners, the rookie Rohloff trailed only Don Sweeney, Ray Bourque and John Gruden in the plus/minus department.
1995-96: Sandy Moger
After sizzling with Providence linemates Brett Harkins and Tim Tookey for the better part of the 1994-95 season, Moger was all but shooed in and played 80 games for Boston in 1995-96.
He finished the regular season with a 15-14-29 scoring transcript and had a hand in four out of 16 playoff goals before the Bruins were zapped in five games by the Florida Panthers.
1996-97: Jean-Yves Roy
His first of two years in the Black and Gold system was also Roy’s longest in The Show.
The subsequent winter, he played 27 games for Providence and 52 for Boston, racking up 25 points apiece at each level.
1997-98: Rob Tallas
The goaltending prospect continuously rode the shuttle between Providence and Boston for three seasons and partook in a relatively modest 14 NHL games in the 1997-98 season. Part of that can be attributed to the long-awaited stability brought to that position by the newly-acquired Byron Dafoe.
Come what may, Tallas made the most of this season with the Spoked-Bs, attaining a career-best .926 save percentage, 1.83 goals-against average and 6-3-3 record.
And for each of the next two seasons, his last two in the organization, he was with the parent club to stay.
1998-99: Shawn Bates
A sophomore pro fresh out of Boston University, Bates was a victim of his own success when he was permanently promoted at midseason and ultimately missed out on the P-Bruins’ historic run to the Calder Cup.
Nonetheless, he did all right for himself in Boston, logging nine points over 33 games-played in the regular season and earning the right to play in all 12 of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup playoff games.
1999-00: Andre Savage
In a tempestuous season defined by a relentless injury bug at both the FleetCenter and the Providence Civic Center, Savage made enough time to score 32 points in 30 games with the Baby Bs.
When he wasn’t there, he was logging what amounted to 43 games in Boston, scoring a respectable seven goals and 20 points for a struggling parent club along the way.
2000-01: Jonathan Girard
Playing 39 games for Providence in his second professional season, the young defenseman placed seventh on the team with 21 assists.
The rest of the time, he was chipping in with the parent club, ultimately scoring 16 points in 31 NHL games.
Girard would also be one of only five Boston skaters to finish the year with a positive plus/minus rating.
2001-02: Nick Boynton
Taken by Boston in the first round of the 1999 NHL entry draft, Boynton promptly joined the system and substantially helped Providence in a pair of return trips to the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals.
All the more impressive, considering he had just learned about his diabetes during his first NHL training camp.
In continued defiance of his condition, Boynton started his third professional season in Boston and didn’t look back.
He finished his rookie year having played 80 games and scored 18 points as the Bruins finished first in the Eastern Conference.
2002-03: John Grahame
Grahame, who backstopped Providence to its Calder Cup, had previously answered the call when Byron Dafoe was on holdout for the first month of the 1999-00 season and parts of 2000-01. Yet, he still spent the better part of the next year-plus in the minors.
But in his second season fully removed from the AHL, Grahame split the bulk of the goaltending duties with Steve Shields.
Although he would soon be dealt to Tampa Bay at midseason, he had enough time to first start 23 games for the Bruins, posting an 11-9-2 record and attaining his fourth career NHL shutout.
2003-04: Andrew Raycroft
Granted, he went rapidly downhill after the 2004-05 lockout year.
In fact, out of a fairly competitive pool, one just might single out Raycroft as the Bruins’ biggest goaltending bust this side of Blaine Lacher.
But before that, Raycroft spent three years earning his stripes with the Baby Bs while garnering a cumulative 21 games worth of call-ups. Finally, in 2003-04, he was both a full-time NHLer and ultimately beat Felix Potvin for the No. 1 job.
From there, he went 29-18-9 en route to a Northeast Division title and a Calder Trophy.
2004-05: Patrice Bergeron
There was no NHL this year, but on the heels of a respectable rookie season spent entirely in Boston, Bergeron made the right move by staying in New England and directly within the Bruins organization. (Why didn’t Raycroft think of that?)
In his lone AHL season, Bergeron placed fourth on the P-Bruins scoring chart with a 21-40-61 log and helped Providence to its deepest playoff run since 2001.
Normalcy was restored the next autumn, and when healthy, Bergeron has skated down a relatively smooth path towards franchise-player status in Boston whilst bringing the Bruins from the bottom to the top of the NHL.
2005-06: Brad Boyes
Acquired from the San Jose organization in the pre-lockout season, Boyes was another explosive scorer for Providence in 2004-05. His work paid quick dividends on the other side of the work stoppage as he played in all 82 games for Boston in his rookie year. With 26 goals and 69 points, he placed No. 2 on the team’s scoring chart, sandwiched by Bergeron and Murray.
2006-07: Tim Thomas
Thomas had a memorable NHL debut on Hockey Night In Canada, beating the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, on Oct. 19, 2002.
Yet, it took him four more years to officially graduate from the farm system, where he had won a cumulative 53 games out of 104 appearances with Providence.
But with Raycroft traded in the summer of 2006, the door was open for the late-blooming goalie. And in an altogether abysmal season under head coach Dave Lewis, Thomas gritted his teeth through 66 games, going 30-29-4 on the year.
Naturally, better days were ahead for the Spoked-Bs and their grizzled goaltender.
2007-08: David Krejci
In his second professional season, Krejci met an abrupt end to his development days after a road game against the Portland Pirates three nights prior to New Year’s. By then, he had scored 28 points in 25 games for Providence, building upon a 74-point campaign the year earlier.
Since then, Krejci has worn no emblem other than the Spoked-B. For the rest of the 2007-08 season, he played 56 games and scored 27 points for Boston.
He added another five points in a stimulating seven-game playoff bout with the top-dog Montreal Canadiens.
2008-09: Matt Hunwick
In 2007-08, the young defenseman interspersed his first AHL season with 13 appearances in The Show.
The following year, his second (and so far most recent) AHL campaign was confined to three games.
Hunwick’s next promotion earned him 53 games-played for a Boston team that finished first in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and who missed his presence in the playoffs when he underwent a season-ending spleen removal after game one of the first round.
2009-10: Tuukka Rask
Not unlike most of the goalies previously mentioned on this list, Rask cashed in on occasional table scraps of playing time in Boston while serving as the starter in Providence for two years.
By 2009, though, general manager Peter Chiarelli was ready to discard the mistake that was Manny Fernandez and promote Rask to a full-time backup position in Boston.
On the fly, that position was amended to starter. As Thomas (among other key teammates) struggled with injuries, Rask lent a key element of stability in net.
The rookie led all NHL netminding regulars with a 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
2010-11: Brad Marchand
Leading up to last year’s training camp, Marchand had played 20 games for Boston to supplement an injury-plagued roster and was a common discussion topic. In Section 109 at the Dunkin Donuts Center and around the Trinity Brewhouse, that is.
By most every account, Marchand bolted ahead of his development schedule after 113 games in two years with Providence. He finished the 2010-11 regular season among the NHL’s top 10 rookie scorers with 21 goals and 20 assists in 77 games. Few, if any, had any objection when he was bestowed with the team’s Seventh Player Award.
Winging an electric starting line with Bergeron and Mark Recchi, Marchand added 19 postseason points, including two goals in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Jordan Caron is the prime candidate to be the next big Spoked-P-to-Spoked-B breakthrough. He did manage 23 games in Boston this past season after making the cut at training camp and earning the occasional call-up.
But due primarily to congestion in the depth chart, he was demoted in December to stave off rust by playing 47 games for the P-Bruins.
Steve Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski and Jamie Arniel likewise saw action at both levels throughout 2010-11. And after joining the Stanley Cup party as Black Aces, they should be all the more motivated to earn a full-time spot when Boston begins to defend its title.