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Castaway: Marco Sturm and the 2010-11 Boston Bruins

The 2010-11 Boston Bruins are coming up on the 10th anniversary of their triumph over the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and there’s one player that had been part of the resurgence of annual playoff hockey in Boston leading up to the Cup run, but never suited up for the team that season.

While it’s easy to remember the names of the 18 dressed skaters and two goaltenders for most of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs run, not everyone’s apt to remember some of the Bruins players that were traded away that season.

Chris Kelly was acquired from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 15, 2011, for a 2011 2nd round pick.

Then of course Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart were packaged together in a trade with the Atlanta Thrashers on Feb. 18, 2011, for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik, while Tomas Kaberle was acquired in trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs that sent Joe Colborne, a 2011 1st round pick and a 2012 2nd round pick to the Leafs that same day.

Those were the three biggest trades that had an immediate impact on the roster while the team traveled out west to face the Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers—sweeping the western Canada road trip while tearing through the second half of February in the process on route to swapping minor league players with the Anaheim Ducks on Feb. 27th and adding Anton Khudobin in a trade with the Minnesota Wild at Feb. 28th’s trade deadline.

In order to make the additions of Kaberle, Peverley and Kelly, then General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, had to move some salary around, losing the likes of a surefire top-six forward in Wheeler— though he struggled to play a consistent game with Boston— as well as a top prospect at the time in Colborne in the process.

But there was one move that just had to be made months before that altered the course of history for the club on Dec. 11, 2010. The player involved was part of a blockbuster trade before, but this time he was dealt for salary cap relief.

That player was Marco Sturm.

He was one of three components the Bruins received from the San Jose Sharks for Joe Thornton on Nov. 30, 2005.

Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau were the other two going to Boston with Sturm in exchange for Thornton to San Jose. Stuart and Primeau were later traded with a 2008 4th round pick to the Calgary Flames for Andrew Ference and Chuck Kobasew on Feb. 10, 2007.

Kobasew was later traded to the Minnesota Wild in 2009. Ference remained a vital part of Boston’s top-four defenders on the way to the Cup in 2011.

Arrival

Sturm’s National Hockey League career began when he was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 1st round (21st overall) of the 1996 NHL Draft.

Sturm had 79 points (29 goals, 50 assists) in 104 games with EV Landshut in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) after two seasons in Germany before making his NHL debut with the Sharks as a 19-year-old in the 1997-98 season.

He amassed 10-20—30 totals in 74 games in his rookie season with San Jose and proceeded to produce at least 30 points in two of his next three seasons before reaching the 20-goal plateau for the first time in his career with 21-20—41 totals in 77 games in 2001-02.

He went on to score at least 20 goals in seven of his 14 career NHL seasons including a career-high 29 goals in his time with the Sharks and Bruins in the 2005-06 season, when he also set career-highs in assists (30) and points (59).

The Bruins flipped Thornton to the Sharks for Sturm, Stuart and Primeau.

Both Thornton and Sturm had 29 goals in 2005-06.

Thornton won the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player that season, however, with 96 assists and 125 points in 81 games with Boston and San Jose.

Often remembered for his game-winning goal in overtime in the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, Sturm brought a level of consistency to his game from night-to-night.

Whereas Thornton’s early postseason stats with the Bruins reveal inconsistencies to his early success as a young star in the regular season, Sturm made as much of an impact when it mattered most.

That’s not to say that both Sturm and Thornton are even on the same plane in terms of their chances of making the Hockey Hall of Fame one day. Thornton’s a shoe-in as far as playmakers go, though he’s never won a Cup. Sturm, on the other hand, has a better chance of making it as a head coach someday, but also hasn’t won a Stanley Cup ring.

Though his Winter Classic goal is a memory shared by many in New England as the Bruins were on the rise, perhaps Sturm’s biggest moment in a B’s uniform came in Game 6 of Boston’s 2008 Eastern Conference Quarterfinal with the Montreal Canadiens.

Prior to Sturm’s arrival in Boston, the Bruins and Habs had met in the 2002 and 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs with Montreal coming out on top in six games in 2002 and seven games in 2004.

From 2000-08, the Bruins made the playoffs four times— missing the postseason altogether in 2000, 2001, 2005*, 2006 and 2007 (*the 2004-05 season was canceled due to a lockout, so technically it doesn’t count).

Montreal jumped out to a 3-1 series lead before Boston mustered a 5-1 win at Bell Centre in Game 5.

Once more on the brink of elimination, the Bruins needed to win in Game 6 to force a Game 7 back in Montreal.

Chris Higgins kicked off the scoring for the Canadiens in the first period before Phil Kessel scored a highlight reel goal at 1:54 of the second period to tie the game, 1-1. Tomas Plekanec answered back for Montreal, however, and gave the Habs a, 2-1, lead at 7:43.

Vladimir Sobotka tied the game for Boston, 2-2, early in the third period before Francis Bouillon put the Canadiens in command once again, 3-2, just past the midpoint of the third frame.

Milan Lucic tied the game, 3-3, at 12:13 of the third period before Kessel scored his second goal of the night to give the Bruins their first lead of the game, 4-3, as the two teams swapped goals at a rapid pace.

TD Garden was vibrating, NESN play-by-play announcer, Jack Edwards, noted on air in an ode to longtime Bruins play-by-play announcer, Bob Wilson.

Something about the late 2000s Boston Bruins felt different from how they started the new millennium. The team was on the rise and had a bunch of characters that matched the stereotypical profile of residents of the Hub— blue collar, tough and ready to call someone out if they weren’t giving it 100% every night.

But the forerunners of Boston’s Cup-winning culture in 2011, were still inexperienced as Montreal tied the game, 4-4, 11 seconds after Kessel’s go-ahead goal in 2008.

The sheer joy of possibly forcing a Game 7 came to a screeching halt with the sudden realization that history may very well repeat itself.

But not that night.

Because Sturm found a loose puck and held onto it while dangling around a sprawling Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price, before pocketing the game-winning goal to make it, 5-4, Boston at 17:23 of the third period.

The team held off an onslaught from Montreal in the dying minutes to force a Game 7.

Though the Bruins went on to be shutout, 5-0, and eliminated at Bell Centre two days later, the seed was sown.

The following year brought a first round miracle— the Bruins swept the Habs and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinal for the first time since 1999, but the 2009 Carolina Hurricanes ultimately defeated Boston in seven games.

Sturm had four points in seven games against Montreal in 2008, but suffered his first major knee injury and missed most of 2008-09.

He made it through the first six games of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Bruins downed the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal, then injured his knee on his very first shift against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup.

He had no points in seven games that postseason and would never play in a Bruins uniform again.

Departure

Sturm finished with 106 goals and 87 assists (193 points) in 302 career regular season games with the B’s from 2005-10.

By the time his injury was nearly rehabilitated in December 2010, Boston needed to move someone to fit his $3.500 million cap hit under the salary cap ceiling or face the possibility of forfeiting games until they were cap compliant.

Chiarelli dealt Sturm to the Los Angeles Kings for future considerations on Dec. 11, 2010, where he went on to switch from his usual No. 16 with Boston to No. 10 with Los Angeles (No. 16 is retired by the Kings for Marcel Dionne).

Sturm had nine points (four goals, five assists) in 17 games with the Kings before the Washington Capitals claimed him off waivers on Feb. 26, 2011.

He then amassed one goal and six assists (seven points) in 18 games with Washington and recorded three points (one goal, two assists) in nine postseason games with the Capitals while the Bruins went on to win the Cup in 2011.

On July 1, 2011, Sturm joined the Stanley Cup runners up— the Canucks— as a free agent.

Six games into the 2011-12 season, after failing to record a point and earning a minus-five rating, he was dealt to the Florida Panthers, where he recorded 3-2—5 totals in 42 games, to finish 2011-12 with five points in 48 games and a minus-13 rating.

He returned to the DEL for the 2012-13 season, signing with Kölner Haie that February, playing in five games and failing to record a point. He then retired from his playing days in professional hockey on Jan. 27, 2014— finishing with 242-245—487 totals in 938 career NHL games.

Sturm played a vital role on the ice as a consistent winger and in the dressing room as a leader as an alternate captain in Boston.

He never won a Cup, despite being penciled in on Boston’s 2010-11 roster at the start of the season (albeit on the long term injured reserve).

He did, however, shock the hockey world while coaching Germany in the 2018 Winter Games.

Sturm led the team from behind the bench to the gold medal game against Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).

Though OAR won, 4-3, in overtime to take home the gold medal, Sturm’s emergence as a rising star as a coach coincided with Germany’s rise in international hockey prominence at all levels— since he had been named head coach and general manager of the German national team on July 10, 2015.

Winning the silver medal— despite losing the gold— was quite the accomplishment, considering Germany’s upset against the international hockey powerhouse (even without NHL talent that winter) Team Canada, 4-3, in the semifinal.

Due to his impressive run as head coach with the Germans, the Kings hired Sturm as an assistant coach on Nov. 4, 2018, after firing then head coach, John Stevens, and his crew.

He’s been behind the bench with Los Angeles ever since.

Almost ten years after Boston won the Cup without him, Sturm remains chasing the Cup from a different perspective.

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