Milan Lucic was unaware of the Big Bad Bruins legacy in Boston when arrived in the city as a 19-year-old rookie in 2007, according to a personal essay posted on The Players’ Tribune on Monday, a day prior to his first game back in Boston as a member of the Los Angeles Kings, where he was traded from Boston this past summer.
The unawareness came with a bit of a surprise given the encyclopedic knowledge of the game the winger is known for, as chronicled by the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont.
But in fairness to Lucic, many others didn’t know of that identity. Or at least they’d forgotten about it. The Bruins had become boring, dull, soft. They were irrelevant. The buzz was all around its winter counterpart and forever overachieving younger brother, the Boston Celtics.
Lucic brought it back.
A strong, big, rugged player who had some skill, Lucic was part of a crew of brawn, brute, and camaraderie that also included Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, Shane Hnidy, Chuck Kobasew, and Glen Metropolit brought in during the 2007-08 season. Lucic was the closest of any of those players to heroes of the past Cam Neely and Terry O’Reilly. No, he wasn’t half the player of the two Bruins legends. But he didn’t have to be.
His toughness, compete, and physicality not only made him a fan favorite, it made fans proud of the Bruins again. Oh, and he liked to drop the gloves every once in a while, which helped.
The Bruins finished a point shy of the President’s Trophy in his second season. His fourth, they won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 39 years. He played an integral role in both accomplishments. Two years later, he was the best player on the ice when the Bruins made an historic comeback in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
However, at the end of the 2014-15 season, his $6 million cap hit outweighed his performance, which had steadily declined over recent seasons. The Bruins traded him in return for goaltender Martin Jones, defenseman Colin Miller and the 13th pick in the 2015 NHL Draft (which resulted in defenseman Jakub Zboril). Jones was flipped to San Jose for the Sharks 2016 first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly.
While the trade netted three good, young players and a fourth to be named later in the form of San Jose’s first round pick (which still has potential to be in the upper half of the first round), it can’t overshadow what Lucic did for the Bruins brand. He didn’t just bring it back, he made better than any Bruins fan in 2007 could’ve imagined.