Predicting the Bruins’ Future Retired Numbers (Part One)

( Photo by Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn

The Bruins have had many legendary players over the history of the franchise. From Bobby Orr to Cam Neely to Ray Bourque, some of the best and most well-known names in the history of hockey have pulled on the black and gold of the Bruins. As the team plans for the 2022–2023 season, some tough choices have to be made. While I disagree, there seems to be a portion of the fanbase that believes that if Patrice Bergeron retires, the team should entertain the idea of trading away Brad Marchand. 

All this talk of moving on from two of the most important players in recent history has gotten me thinking. Who from the 2010s core could we see getting their number retired in the near future? With many sports moving towards almost immediate number retirements as opposed to a longer wait between a player’s career-ending and their number being retired, it is possible that there could be some big names being raised to the rafters sooner rather than later. 

I think there are some strong candidates from the early 2000s and some players who are still on the uprise who could potentially have legendary careers. First, let’s remind ourselves who already has had their number retired by the Bruins. The following have an eternal place in the rafters of the TD Garden:

  • #2 Eddie Shore
  • #3 Lionel Hitchman
  • #4 Bobby Orr
  • #5 Dit Clapper
  • #7 Phil Esposito
  • #8 Cam Neely
  • #9 Johnny Bucyk
  • #15 Milt Schmidt
  • #16 Rick Middleton
  • #22 Willie O’Ree
  • #24 Terry O’Reilly
  • #77 Ray Bourque

Now that we’ve covered the guys who have already reached the pinnacle of Bruins’ history let’s look at some candidates that could get there someday. I’m going to throw a few names out, some who I don’t think will have their number retired, and I’ll explain why I think they should or shouldn’t be retired when we get there. 

#37 Patrice Bergeron

I’ll start with the obvious one here. Patrice Bergeron is not only a Boston Bruins great, but he will be an all-time NHL legend when he does decide to hang up his skates, even if it’s not this year. Regardless of how the Selke voting goes this year, he has already set the record for most consecutive years being nominated for an award, breaking a record set by some guy named Wayne Gretzky, who was nominated for the Hart Trophy ten years in a row. 

Bergeron scored the game-winning goal in game seven of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup victor; Bergeron scored the game-winning goal and has played a vital role on the team for over a decade. He is fourth in franchise history for points, goals, and assists, above some players who have already had their number retired. He is a leader and finally was made a captain for the last two years.

The other notable achievement that we need to remember is that he has never played for another NHL team and has confirmed that he will never play for another team. Bergeron is the definition of a lock to have his number retired and will go down as one of the best and most respected players in franchise history. 

#30 Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas is one of the franchise’s most accomplished goaltenders. Many people don’t realize, or maybe don’t process just quite what Thomas accomplished in a Bruins jersey. He was a four-time all-star, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, a two-time member of the NHL First All-Star Team, and of course, he won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy in 2011, recording a shutout in game seven of the Cup Finals. 

Thomas is also the fifth winningest goalie in Bruins franchise history, with 196 wins in his time with the franchise. He brought an intensity and toughness to the position which was especially impressive given his smaller stature. He really embodied what that era of Bruins teams wanted to be. He not only would shut the door on opponents, but he wasn’t against giving them a beating in the process. Let’s not forget he also willingly dropped the gloves (or glove and blocker?) with Carey Price, although that fight wasn’t entirely impressive.

With all that being said, I don’t think Thomas gets his number retired by the Bruins. While being fifth on the all-time wins list is great, he still has four guys above him. One of those four is Gerry Cheevers, who also happened to wear number 30, so I think if the Bruins were to retire it, Cheevers has a very legitimate claim as well (as said by BNG writer Max Mainville). 

Additionally, the goaltender is unlike any other position in hockey in the sense that there are “goalie numbers”. Typically a goalie will wear either number 1, 30, or 35, with the first two options being the most common. For someone to have number 1 or number 30 retired, they have to be an NHL great (see Martin Brodeur with New Jersey). I don’t think Thomas has quite reached that level despite being one of the best in Boston’s history. 

#88 David Pastrnak

Alright, we’ve had one candidate who I think is a lock, one candidate who I think will miss out, and now I want to talk speculation. David Pastrnak has a very real chance of being worthy to have his jersey number retired by the time his career is over. Pasta already has racked up 504 points in his young career, and he is still only 25 years old. His best years could still be ahead of him, and if he is able to have multiple 100-point seasons, he’ll be in the conversation with some of the Bruins’ all-time best scorers. 

Pastrnak also has the benefit of being a great shooter. Right now, we’re seeing Alex Ovechkin chase Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record, and part of the reason he can do that is that his game doesn’t rely on him taking over in the same way that Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby do. Ovechkin and Pastrnak’s greatest weapon is their shot. 

I mentioned that Pasta is only 25. If he is able to adapt his game and refine it as he gets older, we could see him play late into his 30s. It is very possible that we could still have ten years of David Pastrnak hockey left. If he spends his whole career with the Bruins, he’ll likely be close to being the Bruins’ all-time goals leader. If that does happen, there should be no doubt that his number gets retired. 

There are so many players in recent history that could be put into this conversation. I’ll make this into a series so we can discuss guys who may be on the fringe or more guys who are purely speculatory like David Pastrnak. It wouldn’t be as fun just to name guys who we all know are going to have their numbers retired. Stay tuned for part two, where I’ll cover three more guys who have a resume that could earn them a spot in the TD Garden rafters. 

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2 thoughts on “Predicting the Bruins’ Future Retired Numbers (Part One)

  1. Hoping this isn’t the final part
    Brad Marchand should draw consideration as he is a self made Bruins great has great numbers as well
    Zdeno Chara should have his number retired as well longest Captain and a great defenseman who captained a Stanley Cup team

    • It won’t be the last part! There will be at least 3, maybe even more to keep us all entertained during the offseason!

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