By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Given their status as the National Hockey League’s oldest American team, there’s no shortage of patriots in the 90-plus year history of the Boston Bruins. In fact, the Bruins have done their part to include as many American-born talents as they can.
This new group of B’s is no different. Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are building blocks of the future on the backend, while the franchise boasts high-end U.S. talent up front with Ryan Donato, Trent Frederic, and Anders Bjork.
But on a day where we typically honor those that came before us by way of hot dogs and fireworks, it feels only fitting to take a look back at the Top 10 American talents in Boston Bruins history.
10: Bill Guerin (Wilbraham, Mass.), Forward, 2000-02
Acquired in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers in 2000, Bruins got a total gamer in Bill Guerin.
The bruising top-sixer recorded 69 goals and 129 points in just 142 games in a Boston uniform. Those years were the only years in which Guerin recorded at least 60 points in back-to-back seasons. He continued at that pace in the postseason, too, scoring four goals and six points in six playoff games. Guerin moved on after just two seasons with the Bruins, but it’s funny that his name still gets brought up in regards to what fans want out of incoming Bruins. He definitely left an impact.
9. Hal Gill (Concord, Mass.), Defenseman, 1997-2006
At a towering 6-foot-7, Gill was once considered one of the toughest defenders to get around. At least that’s what NHL superstar Jaromir Jagr thought of the Concord, Mass. native. That was, of course, before the lockout and subsequent rule changes away from the ‘clutch and grab’ style that the NHL had turned into.
But for almost a decade, Gill was the go-to shutdown defender for the B’s, and was pretty damn good at it.
He never tallied more than four goals or 22 points in a year during his tenure in Boston (both of those highs came in 2001-02), but eventually won a Cup in 2009 with the Penguins, and ultimately retired in Apr. 2015.
8: Mike O’Connell (Chicago, Ill.), Defenseman, 1980-86
Mike O’Connell was a high-end puckmover during his career in Boston. The 5-foot-9 O’Connell recorded at least 40 points in all four of his full seasons with the Bruins, and recorded 70 goals and 269 points in 424 games over a six-year stretch with Boston. His 31 power-play strikes in a Boston uniform are also the sixth-most in team history by a defenseman.
7: Mike Milbury (Brighton, Mass.), Defenseman, 1975-87
Before he was the controversial voice of hockey coverage on NBC, before he became hated and probably banned from Long Island, and even before he was a coach in the National Hockey League, Mike Milbury was a Bruin. For a long time, too.
Milbury spent his entire NHL career with the Bruins, actually, and currently sits in 16th on the club’s all-time games played list (754), and is second only to Terry O’Reilly for most penalty minutes in a Boston jersey (1,552). Milbury later went on to become the coach of the B’s, taking the club to the Stanley Cup and then the East Finals in just two seasons behind the bench.
6. Torey Krug (Livonia, Mich.), Defenseman, 2012-Present
An undersized, undrafted puck-mover signed out of Michigan State, Torey Krug has taken his opportunity with the Bruins and turned it into a career that’s put him among the game’s best offensive defensemen.
With 52 goals and 235 points in 398 NHL games with the Bruins, Krug currently ranks 12th among defensemen on the franchise’s all time scoring list. The 5-foot-9 Krug is also one of just seven defensemen in Boston history to have multiple 50-point seasons. Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara, Mike O’Connell, Bobby Orr, Brad Park, and Glen Wesley are the others.
And barring a trade, another 50-point season would see Krug leapfrog a slew of noteworthy Boston d-men and move into seventh on the franchise’s defensive scoring list. (Ironically, Boston GM Don Sweeney would be among those he would pass.)
5: Steve Heinze (Lawrence, Mass.), Forward, 1991-2000
Though a fixture of those perennially average B’s clubs of the ’90s, Heinze lived out every local kid’s dream of playing hockey at Boston College and most of his professional career with the Bruins. Heinze twice hit the 20-goal plateau during his tenure with the Bruins (26 goals in 1997-98, and 22 in 1998-99) and recorded eight goals and 19 points in 52 playoff games in Boston. Heinze stands as the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer for American-born talents, too, with 131 goals in Boston.
4: Brian Rolston (Flint, Mich.), Forward, 2000-04, 2012
Part of the four-piece return that came back to the Bruins from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for Dave Andreychuk and Ray Bourque, Brian Rolston was the only one that wasn’t a complete embarrassment for the Bruins.
In fact, Rolston, became something for the Bruins.
(Oh, and in case you’re curious, Samuel Pahlsson, Martin Grenier, and a first-round pick that became Martin Samuelsson were the other three items sent to the Hub in that woeful Bourque-to-the-Avalanche trade.)
Known for his absolute cannon of a shot, Rolston’s best year was a 2001-02 season in which he recorded a career-high 64 points, and led the NHL with nine shorthanded goals scored. That was the second year of a four-year stretch that came with 96 goals and 227 points in 332 games played for the Bruins from the versatile No. 12.
Rolston ultimately left Boston for Minnesota during the 2004 lockout, but would make a return to Boston in 2012 and close his career out with the Bruins as a successful deadline reclamation project, scoring three goals and 15 points in 21 games (and three points in seven playoff games) for the club.
3: Frank Brimsek (Eveleth, Minn.), Goalie, 1938-49
Nicknamed Mr. Zero, Frank Brimsek was the premier American goaltender of his era, and accomplished just about everything one could during his run. He won the Calder Trophy, was a two-time Vezina winner, and was an eight-time NHL All-Star.
Most importantly, Brimsek won two Stanley Cups during his tenure with the Bruins, the first of which coming in 1939. It was a season in which Brimsek usurped legend Tiny Thompson as the team’s ace in the crease en route to leading the league in goals against average, shutouts, and wins.
He won the Bruins another Cup, this time in 1941, and would later leave the Bruins to serve his country in World War II.
Brimsek ranks third all time among B’s goaltenders in wins (230), third in shutouts (35), and has the fourth-best goals against average (2.58) among Boston goalies with at least 300 career appearances in a Black and Gold sweater. In 1966, Brimsek was inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and in doing so became the first American netminder to receive such an honor.
2: Craig Janney (Hartford, Conn.), Forward, 1987-92
Boston’s all-time leading scorer among Americans, Craig Janney made an undeniably huge impression in just five short seasons with the club.
A first round pick of the club back in 1986, Janney arrived on the scene in the 1987-88 season and wasted no time in contributing to an unsuccessful B’s run that went four rounds deep, scoring six goals and 16 points in 23 postseason contests that season. Becoming the playmaker supreme to Cam Neely, Janney produced like a mad man, with his best season coming behind a 26-goal, 92-point effort in 1990-91.
Janney was ultimately moved to St. Louis in a deal that brought Adam Oates to Boston, putting an end to a five-year run that included an impressive 85 goals and 283 points in 262 games, along with 17 goals and 73 points in 69 playoff games.
1: Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich.), Goalie, 2002-12
Two Vezina Trophy wins, a Conn Smythe Trophy, and the most ridiculous one-year run I’ve ever seen a goalie put together, culminating with Boston’s first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Not bad for a minor-league journeyman.
There’s a lot you can say about Tim Thomas.
But this should do the trick just fine.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.