by PuckStopsHere on 03/30/14 at 03:55 PM ET
The Boston Bruins have moved into first place in the NHL. They have a record of 52-23 with six regulation tie points. This gives them 110 points and a three point lead over anyone else in the league. They have been the hottest team in the NHL lately and haven't lost a game in regulation in their last sixteen starts. The question on my mind is could this be an elite team? The NHL hasn't seen any elite teams since the 2004 lockout.
I have a set of necessary, but not sufficient conditions for a team to be considered elite. Basically, it must have elite players. They must have a top NHL goalie and at least three players who are having Hall of Fame careers. Without elite players there can be no elite team. At the same time a collection of elite players is no more an elite team than a collection of bricks is a house.
Boston has one of the best goalies in the NHL in Tuukka Rask. Rask is my pick for the Vezina Trophy. Rask is on Hall of Fame track in his career. He needs to have a string of top seasons that are on the level he is having so far this year. That is a possibility, though it is a tough standard to meet.
Zdeno Chara and Jarome Iginla are Boston Bruin players who have cemented themselves as Hall of Fame players regardless of what happens in the remainder of their careers. There were some who thought Iginla's best days were over before he joined Boston, but he has proven to still be a top player in the league this year.
It is hard to argue that any other Bruin is on a Hall of Fame track. The best candidate is probably Patrice Bergeron who is the top defensive forward in the game today. That rarely makes one a Hall of Famer without some solid offensive stats to back it up, but it is possible that a long string of Selke victories might make him a Hall of Famer.
All told, Boston does have the elite players that they could be an elite team. It will require a top playoff for them to put together elite level play and show themselves to be an elite team. There is a possible elite team at this point in the season and that is more than could be said for most of the last few years.
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