Bruins must make 2022-23 a culture lesson

Back in 2015 when the complementary pieces of the Boston Bruins' roster were rapidly changing, team owner Jeremy Jacobs openly admired the manner in which the Detroit Red Wings reloaded around mainstays Steve Yzerman and Sergei Federov and later Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, all the while backed up by the blue-line brilliance of Nick Lidstrom.

Jacobs had hoped the Bruins could similarly build back around Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask, but the best they could come up with was two close calls. In both instances, their fans watched the opponent carry the Stanley Cup off Boston ice.

The devastating defeats of 2013 and '19 don't discredit the theory also proven out by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and '17. But, in the two legitimate NHL playoff tournaments since 2019, the Bruins have been without Zdeno Chara and have won a total of one series.

FILE - Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, of Slovakia, celebrates with the fans in Boston after his shootout goal gave the Bruins a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders in a NHL game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007. Chara announced his retirement Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, after playing 21 seasons in the NHL and captaining the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)
FILE - Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, of Slovakia, celebrates with the fans in Boston after his shootout goal gave the Bruins a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders in a NHL game in Boston, Saturday, Feb. 10, 2007. Chara announced his retirement Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022, after playing 21 seasons in the NHL and captaining the Boston Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011.(AP Photo/Winslow Townson, File)

Could it be that Chara was that integral to their success?

One of the gems yielded from Tuesday's press conference in which the big guy signed a one-day contract to retire as a Bruin was how he elevated the compete level in practice, rendering games less challenging. The premise was daunting enough so 25 playoff games was really pushing it.

It was normal to Chara, who pushed through his so-called ceiling just to become NHL material. As captain of the Bruins, he asked the same of his teammates.

We called it culture.

“Without that, you can’t win. You need to have a culture. You need to have players that want to follow, and it wasn’t just me. It was a team effort," said Chara on Tuesday. "I would have never done it without Patrice. I never would have done it without Brad coming in and following Patrice’s lead. We had guys stepping in, willing to come from other teams and adjust to that culture. We pushed each other. We were practicing as hard as we could against each other, but we were still OK with it.

"We set goals, and slowly and surely, we were climbing and making these steps, but without the culture and without someone planting the seed and basically putting the foot down that this is how it’s going to be, yeah, it was hard at the beginning. It was not probably easy, and not everybody wanted to kind of change, but it was necessary. I felt it was necessary for this organization and for this team to make a change ...”

Chara asked for more, now he and the 2010-11 Bruins walk together forever.

The 2022-23 season depends on what Bergeron and Krejci have left to give as players, but the future of the franchise depends on what they can impart as leaders.

Here's a "rapid-seven" things to look for as the Bruins dig into a six-game preseason schedule that starts Saturday night in Philadelphia (7 p.m., NESN):

1. Goaltending cannot be overstated minus defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder surgeries). Who gets the net, Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark, will depend 100% on performance.

2. The Flyers under new coach John Tortorella will dump the puck, hit Boston defensemen and try to leverage turnovers or bad penalties.

3. Krejci may be healthier following a full season in Czech Republic, but he will need to find his legs against copycat teams mimicking champion Colorado's pace.

4. Is Fabian Lysell the real deal or just a highlight reel? The hype machine has fibbed before.

Boston Bruins' Fabian Lysell (68) looks to pass around New York Rangers' K'Andre Miller (79) during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin).
Boston Bruins' Fabian Lysell (68) looks to pass around New York Rangers' K'Andre Miller (79) during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin).

5. Brett Harrison unfortunately won't be seen; the 6-foot-3 centerman chosen 85th overall in the same 2021 draft as Lysell is injured, but his Ontario Hockey League pedigree intrigues because the OHL still produces more NHLers than any other Canadian province, European country and U.S. state. Since missing on Zach Senyshyn in 2015, the Bruins have only drafted three OHL players in the top-three rounds, all centers: Jack Studnicka (53rd in 2017), Harrison and Matthew Poitras (54th this year).

6. Once the real games begin Oct. 12 in Washington (7 pm, TNT), Studnicka and Pavel Zacha will be challenged to earn NHL shifts at center. At the same time, the Bruins desperately need to identify Bergeron's and Krejci's successors. Stay tuned.

7. So the Bruins and the NHL are following in the marketing footsteps of the Celtics/NBA by introducing advertising on their game sweaters. The Bruins' new "Rapid7" looks tasteful, but the frightening reality is NASCAR outfits are now only increments away.

Mick Colageo writes about hockey for The Standard-Times. Follow on Twitter @MickColageo.

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: With Zdeno Chara retired, Boston Bruins looking for new leaders