When Zdeno Chara left Boston last year after 14 years as a pillar in the organization, it was an easy decision for coach Bruce Cassidy to turn to Patrice Bergeron to lead the locker room as captain.
As the Bruins prepare to start the season next week, they have another leadership void to fill after losing David Krejci in the offseason.
Cassidy plans on rotating the “A” patch that Krejci left behind. On Wednesday, David Pastrnak wore it on his chest in the Bruins preseason loss to the Capitals.
“It was obviously an honor,” Pastrnak said. “It just kind of reminds you how long you’ve been here. I’m going to become one of the leaders, getting older and older year by year, so just trying to learn. And being around one of the best leaders in hockey, so I had really good guys to learn from and I’ll continue with that.”
Pastrnak, who has become one of the league’s most potent scorers in seven seasons in Boston, said his approach didn’t change with the new role.
“I definitely don’t change, trust me,” he said. “There’s a reason I got to the NHL, there’s a reason I came here, so just trying to be myself.”
Cassidy said Pastrnak leads with his play, but his maturation over the years along with a growing comfort level have allowed him to take on that role in the locker room.
“He’s always talked,” Cassidy said. “He’s a very gregarious kid, full of personality. So that’s not an issue either. But just trying to pick the guys up and keep the room alive, I think, is definitely some of his traits.”
For Cassidy, rotating the second alternate captain is an acknowledgment of a new wave of leaders emerging in the Bruins locker room, including Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo.
“Those are three younger guys that have now been here for a while. I can’t predict where they’re going to be, but let’s assume that contract-wise and all those things that they’re here, they’re the next probably wave of the leaders and the core group of this team. They’re already kind of pushing their way into that core group if they’re not already in it. I would say they are but they’re the younger core, let’s put it that way, and the old core was more Bergy and [Brad Marchand] .
“So to ask them to lead a little bit now, I think, will help them down the road. There’s a pretty good chance, I want to speculate, they might be a captain in the Bruins down the road. At the end of the day, those are guys that we’re going to rely on down the road.”
The title carries weight in the locker room, and Cassidy said several players are worthy.
“I think there’s a lot of guys that can handle it,” Cassidy said. “We want to grow it a little bit. I think there’s different guys that we can grow into that and eventually we’ll decide if it’s permanent or not. Right now I think there’s different guys that can handle it and should have it.
“And I think if you ask any player, they’d like to get it. It just shows that there’s people that believe in you outside of just your raw talent. So that’s another thing to keep more players in the room involved.”
Curtis Lazar listed as week to week
Curtis Lazar is being listed as week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
Lazar, who came to Boston before last season’s trade deadline, has been the Bruins fourth-line right wing throughout the preseason, but his availability for the season opener next Saturday against Dallas is in question.
Cassidy said it will take time to get an exact diagnosis because of lingering inflammation, but was hopeful that the timetable for recovery wouldn’t be long.
With Lazar out, Cassidy said the team will have to consider whether Jack Studnicka is the best option on the fourth line.
“Now you’ve got to look at the bottom line, is that the best spot for Jack?” Cassidy said. “Is that going to be best for his development? Is it best for the team? And we’ll answer those questions internally. And that’s what he’s up against.”
With two goals and two assists in four preseason games, Studnicka had been solid on the second line alongside Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. But once Charlie Coyle returned Wednesday, Studnicka was squeezed out of a spot in the top nine.
“He’s done everything we’ve asked,” Cassidy said.
As the team figures out a plan, Cassidy said there were worse positions to be in.
“It’s one of those good problems,” Cassidy said. “And we’ll sort through it this week and make a decision. But we’re going to do what’s best for the Bruins and what’s best for Jack and if we decide that he has to be a top-nine guy then we’ll have to make that decision.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.