A look at the Boston Bruins’ All-Decade team for the 1990s
This is part of a series detailing the all-decade team for every NHL franchise for the 1990s. The all-time teams were compiled using a mix of skill, longevity and statistics; it is not necessarily the best, most memorably or most talented players. Instead, this is the list of players by each position who had the best numbers over a prolonged period (i.e. at least three full seasons between 1990-91 and 1999-00) during the regular season.
Team: Boston Bruins (1990-91 to 1999-00)
368-306-112, .539 WIN PCT, 2,501 GF vs. 2,378 GA, +123, 8/10 Playoff Appearances, 0 Stanley Cups
Boston opened the decade as a powerhouse and true contender; three of the first four seasons saw them post point totals in the 97-109 range, and they had back-to-back appearances in the Conference Finals in 1991 and 1992 (losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins each time). But they began struggling as their core players began aging and/or leaving, and they dropped from dominant to merely competitive. The team’s goaltending situation was also incredibly painful during the four-year gap between Andy Moog and Byron Dafoe (with the likes of John Blue, Blaine Lacher, Jim Carey and more proving incapable of manning the Bruins net). The team struggled in ’96-97, and was rewarded with Joe Thornton in the 1997 Entry Draft. Pat Burns’ arrival coincided with the team’s return to a competitive position, but they only won one playoff series between 1995 and 2000 (they lost three times in the first round, and failed to make the playoffs altogether on two others occasions). Overall, Boston’s win percentage of 53.9% was still quite healthy, ranking 6th out of 26 teams that played at least four seasons during the 1990s. They had four seasons of 40+ wins, and two others of 39 wins. They were an anomaly in that their offensive AND defensive rankings were both below their overall rankings; usually a team relies on one as their success driver. Their offense ranked 9th, averaging 3.18 goals for per game. But their defense was middle-of-the-pack, with their 3.03 goals against per game ranking 13th. Their +123 goal differential was also right in the middle, ranking 13th for the decade. They could never quite get over the hump, and ownership’s budget constraints became a major issue in the back half of the decade. But at least they typically managed to ice a competitive team.
Left Wing: Ted Donato (465 GP, 113-142-255, +7, 279 PIM, 15 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Sergei Samsanov
No offense to Ted Donato, but he should not be the #1 left winger on a team as successful as the 1990s Boston Bruins. There was always a dearth of talent for Boston on the left side; Joe Juneau briefly filled the #1 LW slot, but he was dealt to the Washington Capitals (and never lived up to his 102-point rookie season). Sergei Samsanov was decent at the end of the decade, with a pair of seasons in the 22-25 goal range, but he topped out at 51 points and had a -6 rating twice in three years. So Donato gets it by default. He was never an offensive star, but he had three seasons of 20+ goals, and had three seasons in the 49-54 points range. He got limited powerplay time, managing to score 6-9 PPG in three seasons. His +/- was neither strong nor bad; he was in the -9 to +6 range in each of his six full seasons (he spent parts of eight seasons with the Bruins). His 15 game-winning goals actually accounted for a respectable 13% of his goal total. A talented 2nd- or 3rd-line player that every team needs, but certainly not what you want out of your “best of the decade” LW.
Centre: Adam Oates (368 GP, 142-357-499, +22, 123 PIM, 23 GWG)
As great as Oates was in St. Louis, he was phenomenal in Boston. He started out a little slowly, scoring 30 points in 26 games after his arrival in ’91-92. But in ’92-93 he erupted for an amazing 45-goal, 97-assist and 142-point season where he also finished +15 and scored 24 PPG. He followed that up with 112 points the following season, and he remained a point-per-game presence during the rest of his tenure in Boston. He spent parts of six seasons with the Bruins before being dealt to Washington at the ’96-97 trade deadline. In all, he had three 25+ goal seasons, two 100+ point seasons (and another of 92 points), and four seasons of 50+ assists (including 41 assist in 48 games during the lockout-shortened ’94-95 season). His +/- was up-and-down, but he had a positive rating in three of his four full seasons. He also managed an incredible 11 game-winning goals in ’92-93 (the team won 51 games that year), and another 12 during the rest of his tenure. In all, 16% of his goals were game-winners. He was an All-Star in every sense of the words for the Bruins.
Right Wing: Cam Neely (231 GP, 174-108-282, +61, 296 PIM, 32 GWG)
As if this could be anyone else. Were it not for Ulf Samuelsson’s knee, who knows what Neely would have accomplished. Despite never playing more than 69 games in a season (and only once playing 50+), he managed a pair of 50-goal seasons and another pair in the 26-27 range. He had 51 goals and 91 points in 69 games during ’90-91, but he was held to just 22 games over the next two years combined (scoring 20 goals and 30 points). He then had one hell of a comeback, scoring 50 goals and 74 points in ’93-94… despite playing in just 49 games! Neely actually scored his 50th goal in his 44th game, tying Lemieux as the second-fastest to hit 50 behind Wayne Gretzky (who did it in 39 games). It doesn’t count as “official” because Neely’s missed playing time meant it took more than 50 games by the TEAM for him to hit 50 goals, but that certainly takes nothing away from his accomplishment.
Neely scored 27 goals and 41 points in 42 games in ’94-95, but he was clearly struggling through his injuries; he played a final 49 games in ’95-96, scoring 26 goals and 46 points. His +/- was always positive, and he had three seasons in the 16-20 powerplay goal range. What’s more, 18% of his goals were game-winners. He was also tough, and never backed down from a physical challenge. He was a fan favourite in Boston, and deservedly so.
Defense: Ray Bourque (724 GP, 165-501-666, +115, 459 PIM, 26 GWG)
Never mind the 1990s Bruins, Ray Bourque was one of the all-time greats of his generation. He was the Bruins’ best defender in the 1980s, too. During the 1990s, Bourque only twice missed more than 10 games in a season. He had four 20+ goal seasons, and two others of 19 goals. He hit the 60-assist mark five times (including two years with 70+ assists), and he score d80+ points five times (including twice scoring 90+ points). During the first six years of the decade, he was an astounding +142 (including three seasons of +31 or better). But he slowed down during the last four years of the decade; his production fell from a point-per-game into 50-point territory, and his +/- was negative three out of four years. Still, he was a classy, skilled defenseman that any team would kill to have. He scored at least 6 powerplay goals in each of his ten seasons during the 90s, even the lockout-shortened season of ’94-95. And his 26 game-winners represented 16% of his goals for Boston in the decade. One of the all-time greats.
Defense: Don Sweeney (738 GP, 38-170-208, +65, 500 PIM, 11 GWG)
Honourable Mention to Glen Wesley
With Don Sweeney on this list, you basically have their starting lineup from NHL ’94 (minus Juneau). Sweeney didn’t get as much fanfare as Bourque, but he was a vital part of the Bruins’ blueline. He spent the entire decade in Boston, only once missing more than five games in a season. He didn’t score a ton of goals (maxing out at 7 in a season), but when he did it was clutch: 29% of his goals were game-winners. In fact, 11 of the 31 goals he scored between ’90-91 and ’95-96 won the game for Boston. He had six seasons of 20+ points, including a high of 34 in ’92-93. He played a disciplined game, only once recording more than 60 penalty minutes. He had a positive rating six times in ten ears, and was only once worse than -10 (-14 in ’99-00). Honourable mention to Glen Wesley; he was more talented offensively than Sweeney (three seasons of 40+ points, including a high of 58 in ’93-94), but his +/- was poor during the Bruins’ strongest era (-10 overall from ’90-91 to ’93-94).
Goalie: Bryon Dafoe (174 GP, 75-64-30, 19 SO, 2.31 GAA, 0.913 PCT)
Honourable Mention to Andy Moog
Andy Moog was a rock for the Bruins after coming over from the Edmonton Oilers. He spent the first three seasons of the 1990s in Boston, posting a winning record each year (including an amazing 37-14-3 record in ’92-93). His save percentage was decent for the era, but got worse in each of his three seasons. And he only once managed a GAA below 3.00 in a season. But even though Byron Dafoe played during the “Dead Puck Era” and therefore should have better stats than Moog, his two best years with Boston were incredible. After being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings, Dafoe went 30-25-9 with 6 shutouts, a 2.24 GAA and a .914 PCT in ’97-98. He was even better in’98-99; he went 32-23-11 with 10 shut-outs, while posting a 1.99 GAA and a .926 PCT. But he fell off in ’99-00, and he was never able to hit those heights again (either in Boston or with the Atlanta Thrashers). Still, he was practically the only Bruins’ goalie to be a solid starter for more than two seasons in a Bruins’ jersey between the eras of Andy Moog and Tim Thomas.