December 3, 2013

Original Six: Best active former Bruins

By Jesse Connolly

In the span of three days in early November, ex-Bruins Tyler Seguin and Tim Thomas set up shop in the visitors locker room at TD Garden for the first time in their pro careers. They were once among the Black and Gold’s biggest stars, but now they’re on the marquee in other hockey towns. We put together our list of the top former Bruins in the NHL based on the impact they have on their current clubs. There certainly were some tough omissions.

6. Craig Anderson

G, Senators

As a Bruin: 0 wins in 0 games (2006)

Why he’s gone: Few of you likely recall that Anderson was once a Bruin. He was claimed off waivers but placed back on them 12 days later, going to St. Louis then back to the Blackhawks. The closest he came to game action was dressing as the backup.

Why he’s missed: Were it not for an injury, Anderson would have been a Vezina finalist, as he went 12-9-1 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 2013. Since being let go by the B’s, the 32-year-old netminder has won 159 games for the Hawks, Panthers, Avs and Sens.

5. Nathan Horton

RW, Blue Jackets

As a Bruin: 107 points in 169 games

Why he’s gone: Horton seemed like a goner until turning in another spectacular playoff performance, helping Boston reach the finals. But contract talks never came to be, leading to his decision to sign a seven-year, $37.1 million deal with Columbus.

Why he’s missed: Horton had a penchant for going quiet for stretches during the regular season, but the B’s will be hard-pressed to replace the winger’s knack for scoring big, timely goals in the playoffs. If the Jackets make it to the postseason, a healthy Horton likely will be a huge difference-maker.

4. Tyler Seguin

C, Stars

As a Bruin: 121 points in 203 games (2010-13)

Why he’s gone: Fresh off an immensely disappointing playoffs (one goal in 22 games), the B’s cut bait with Seguin and his off-ice/work-ethic issues prior to his six-year, $34.5 million extension starting. Boston reeled in Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser.

Why he’s missed: Seguin loyalists are going to be adamant that the B’s gave up on his sky-high potential for what could be many years to come. The former No. 2 overall pick is off to a strong start in Dallas, where he had 3-5-8 totals in his first six games.

3. Blake Wheeler

RW, Jets

As a Bruin: 110 points in 221 games (2009-11)

Why he’s gone: The B’s seemed to sour a bit on Wheeler — whose numbers regressed after a 45-point rookie year — in his third NHL season. He was dealt (along with Mark Stuart) to Atlanta for Rich Peverley, who was a big contributor during the 2011 Cup run.

Why he’s missed: In Winnipeg, the former fifth overall pick has lived up to the potential he didn’t quite reach here in Boston. Wheeler led the Jets with 64 points in 2011-12, had 41 points in 48 games last year and is a fixture on the team’s top line.

2. Joe Thornton

C, Sharks

As a Bruin: 454 points in 532 games

Why he’s gone: After the Bruins kicked themselves in the pants with a disastrous attempt at restocking their roster after the lockout, the B’s began their blowup by dealing their captain to San Jose for Brad Stuart, Wayne Primeau and Marco Sturm.

Why he’s missed: Aside from winning league MVP the year he was traded? Eight seasons later, Jumbo Joe is still among the game’s top pivots. The third-leading scorer among all active NHLers, Thornton remains a superb setup man and near-point-per-game player. He began 2013-14 with nine points through seven games.

1. Phil Kessel

RW, Maple Leafs

As a Bruin: 126 points in 222 games (2006-09)

Why he’s gone: After a then-career-high 36-goal season, Kessel and the B’s couldn’t come to terms on a new deal. He was traded to Toronto for two first-round picks (Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton) and a second-round selection (Jared Knight).

Why he’s missed: Kessel has become one of the game’s most consistent snipers, notching 30-plus goals in each of his first three seasons in Toronto before a 52-point campaign in last year’s lockout-shortened season. Kessel’s also proven he’s a playoff stud. He scored four goals in seven games in the first round against his old club, lifting his career postseason totals to 13-8-21 in 22 games.

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

Author's Note: Assessments and statistics for 2013-14 based on performances through late October.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ