Plenty of good choices for Ference's sweater letter

Plenty of good choices for Ference's sweater letter
September 26, 2013, 10:15 am
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When Andrew Ference departed the Bruins via free agency this summer, he took more than his impressive collection of tattoos and occasional glove malfunctions with him to Edmonton. The veteran defenseman was also one of four Bruins players wearing a letter on his sweater, and that vacated “A” left Boston’s coaching staff with a decision on its hands.

Clearly Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron would retain the respective “C” and “A” on their jerseys as the two main cogs in the B’s leadership hierarchy. But what would the Bruins do with the second alternate captain?

They could have handed it to Chris Kelly on a full time basis after he alternated home/road games wearing the “A” with Ference last season. That seemed to really work for both players as well as the rest of the Boston dressing room, so Claude Julien indicated he’ll continue to rotate the second “A” between Kelly and at least one other player.

“I’ll divulge it at some point. Obviously Bergeron has the permanent “A”, but we always rotated between Kelly and Ference,” said Julien. “So we’ll alternate with somebody else this year. We’ve got too many other leaders that I think it’s important to move it around a little bit more. Somebody will step into Ference’s spot.”

There’s been a steady stream of Bruins players wearing the “A” during the preseason: Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, Gregory Campbell and Johnny Boychuk among others have been given the honor during the exhibition games, and all could be considered candidates on a permanent basis. Any one member of that aforementioned group would be honored with the responsibility, but it’s not going to change the way a veteran group of leaders operate.

“Nothing is set in stone, but any time you have a letter on your jersey it means a lot,” said Boychuk. “It gives you a good feeling. As time goes on you get more comfortable saying stuff in the dressing room. Whether you’re younger or older, people will listen if you’re making valid points.

“It’s a little easier to say something when you’ve been here for four years instead of being the new guy.”

Thornton should get plenty of consideration given his influence within the dressing room and longstanding tenure in Boston.

But it’s more likely that Julien and Co. tap one of the younger group of Bruins players ready to take on more leadership responsibility as they graduate from new kid on the block to integral part of Boston’s veteran core of players. Lucic and Krejci both showed a great deal of leadership during last year’s playoff run to the Stanley Cup run, and could be rewarded for their efforts.

All one has to do is remember Krejci’s prescient comments from last year during their four game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals that resonated with so many in the organization.

“We don’t have the superstars on this team. We don’t have the best player in the world. But we might have the best team in the world,” said Krejci at the beginning of last year’s playoff series against the Penguins. “We play as a team. [Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin] are the best players in the world at this moment. There’s no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don’t have guys like that. We have a team. We all play as a team.”

Those are the words of a team leader, just as the actions of Lucic throwing the Bruins on his back during the third period of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs were the clear actions of a team leader. The same could be said for the inspirational moment when Campbell hobbled around in agony on a broken leg to kill a penalty against the Penguins, and showed what the expectation is for toughness and commitment among Bruins players.

The bottom line is this: there are countless Bruins players that will stand in for Ference with an “A” on their sweater, and Boston can’t go wrong with any of their choices.