The Boston Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup with a defense featuring Zdeno Chara (33 years old at the time), Tomas Kaberle (32), Andrew Ference (31), Dennis Seidenberg (29), Johnny Boychuk (27) and the baby of the group, Adam McQuaid (24).
Heading into the 2013-14 season, the unit will be decidedly younger.
While four key parts still remain — Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk and McQuaid — there’s a group of kids that will be leaned upon to fill the void.
Dougie Hamilton, who just turned 20 in June, is one, along with breakout playoff sensations Torey Krug (22) and Matt Bartkowski (25).
The trio only has 65 combined games of regular season experience — and most of that comes from Hamilton, who was the lone youngster on a veteran defense last season.
This year, Bartkowski acknowledged they’ll all be in line for more playing time.
“It’s shaping up that way and looking that way,” he told ESPN Boston. “I think Kruger, Dougie and me have gained a lot of experience the past year. Especially during the playoffs, Kruger and me gained so much experience, and you saw what he did. And then Dougie played a lot in the regular season.
“I think we gained their trust in the playoffs and they’re able to play us in more situations now. Their confidence in us rose, and because of that our confidence skyrocketed.”
Boston has taken a slow approach to remodeling its defense. Kaberle was allowed to walk following the Stanley Cup win, as was Ference following the 2013 Cup Final appearance.
Other veterans have come and gone — Shane Hnidy, Joe Corvo, Mike Mottau, Greg Zanon, Wade Redden — but with little available cap space and a dearth of defensemen on the open market, Boston must now to rely on its youngsters (two of whom, Hamilton and Krug, are playing on entry-level deals; Bartkowski makes a mere $650,000.)
It’s a movement that GM Peter Chiarelli is excited about.
“I’m okay with it and we do have a different look to our D. There is a freshness, a young look to it. If things aren’t working out as the season progresses I may look into that, but I’m okay with it,” Chiarelli told CSN New England. “What I saw with these guys is there’s going to be some bumps along the road.
“But the new guys that I think will be in the lineup are competitive. They’re young, they’re all good skaters and they’re going to make some mistakes. But I like what they bring in general.”