PLYMOUTH, Mass. - Patrice Bergeron has heard the questions all summer long.
As he gets set to embark on his 18th season in the National Hockey League this fall, the Boston Bruins captain is also entering the final campaign of the eight-year contract he signed in the summer of 2013.
Naturally, everybody has been wondering what the 36-year-old is thinking about his future.
"That's something a lot of people have asked me this summer. For me, the way I want to approach this year is to concentrate on this year. I have a year left on my contract and I think it would be useless of me to think about the future," Bergeron said ahead of the 18th Annual Boston Bruins Foundation Golf Tournament on Wednesday at Pinehills Golf Club.
"I want to create something special. We obviously want to work toward winning a Stanley Cup. I know everyone says that, but that's definitely our goal as a team. I think we're always competitive to be in that group of teams. I think that's where my focus is at right now."
When pressed about whether he would consider contract negotiations during the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Bruins No. 1 center was clear that his focus will remain on the ice.
"I'm gonna play out this year and then talk about that after," said Bergeron, who added that he is feeling great physically entering training camp.
Bergeron, who notched 48 points (23 goals, 25 assists) in 54 games last season, is looking forward to this version of the Black & Gold creating its own identity as the club's core group blends with a bevy of free-agent additions that were brought in to stem the losses of long-time center David Krejci, fourth-line staple Sean Kuraly, and backup netminder Jaroslav Halak.
"There's a lot of guys, a guy like Nick Foligno that's been around, that's been a leader, that's been a captain [in Columbus] - that kind of character coming into the room, I think, is gonna be helpful for us in trying to come together as a team," said Bergeron.
"Lots of new faces, but also a lot of the same faces are coming back as well. Everyone taking that lead and taking that next step and creating something special together."
Video: Bergeron talks with media at B's Golf Tournament
While the addition of Foligno will certainly help fill the veteran void left by the departures of Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, David Krejci, Kevan Miller, and David Backes in recent years, the Bruins' captain also believes that Boston's next leadership core is already beginning to develop.
"It's part of life. Everything kind of matures and changes and you try to go along and ride that wave," said Bergeron. "I think we have some players that have been around for a while that are getting older but also some younger players that are taking a bigger role, whether it's on the ice or off the ice in the locker room.
"I think you want to have those guys and make them understand that it's gonna become their team at some point soon. They have to take some more responsibilities. I've always said that I believe in leadership by committee. It can't just be about one or two guys. It has to be a lot of guys that learn and grow. I think there's gonna be a lot of that this year."
A Father's Pride
One of those up-and-coming leaders is Brandon Carlo, whose view on life has changed significantly over the last couple of weeks. The 24-year-old and his fiancé, Mayson Corbett, welcomed daughter, Wren - their first child - on September 2.
"The sleep hasn't been going great, but other than that it's been fantastic," Carlo said with a smile. "What an amazing blessing it is to be a first-time Dad. Man, I can't even explain how full my heart is and I feel like that's a great thing going into the season.
"Kind of gives you a different perspective on gratitude and the situation of life. I think it will really ground me in a lot of ways and help me in life and as a hockey player."
Carlo, who missed the final three games of Boston's second-round series against the New York Islanders last spring with a concussion, is looking forward to what he believes will be somewhat of a new chapter for the Black & Gold.
"It's exciting. It is significant," Carlo said of some of the changes to the B's roster. "Over the past five years of being here we've had kind of a stable group of the same guys but it definitely revives the energy. I met Nick Foligno the other day and love him. He's been fantastic so far. I feel like he's gonna be great for our team.
"It's just fun meeting new guys, honestly. Just building chemistry with guys, friendships…I love it. I love the feel around the room and I'm really excited to get going."
The blue liner is also eager to team up once again with Mike Reilly - who inked a three-year deal with the Bruins on the opening day of free agency - after the two built a strong rapport as Boston's second defense pairing at the end of last season.
"I really love playing with Mikey," said Carlo. "I feel like our skating ability enables us to get up the ice a little bit more and I feel like he gives me the luxury to be able to do that as well, getting up the ice. I would say I'm probably the more defensive-minded one on the pair, but overall, I feel like he does a good job of trying to implement me into certain things.
"I love communicating with him. Mostly, I love just being on the bench with him and having fun. I've noticed that right off the bat with him. He loves to enjoy the game and enjoy the moment.
"That's the biggest thing that I need to do moving forward and that will make my game that much better and he definitely helps me with that."
Video: Carlo speaks with media at B's Golf Tournament
Man in the Middle
Charlie Coyle is on the mend after offseason knee surgery and expects to be at full health at some point during training camp. The pivot said the issue had hampered him for the past two or three seasons.
"Getting there, inching closer and closer. Just doing rehab, been on the ice for the last couple weeks. Getting stronger and back to 100 percent," said Coyle. "I really didn't know what it was for a while. It's been two or three years, just got progressively worse over the last couple and then finally addressed it and found out what it was and took care of it. Hopefully put that behind me and be good to go."
Coyle has quite an opportunity in front of him entering the 2021-22 campaign having been tapped earlier this summer as the "obvious choice" by coach Bruce Cassidy to get the first shot at replacing Krejci as Boston's second-line center between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith.
"When opportunities are out there, you always want to prove yourself, make yourself better, a better player for your team," said Coyle. "When there's new opportunities, there's a number of guys that are gonna be fighting for that spot which will make our team better. That internal competition will be great for us and it's gonna be a great spot to earn and a lot of responsibility.
"There are a number of guys up for that challenge and up to do that. I'm gonna do my part and work as I can to be the best players again for this team and be in that position and take full advantage of it."
When it comes to Krejci's departure, Bergeron said that the Bruins "wish him all the best" as he returns home to play in his native Czech Republic, while adding that "hopefully we'll see him back."
"We had those conversations over the summer and even before," Bergeron said of Krejci leaving. "It wasn't something new for myself and a few guys. I think you have to respect that. Krech has done so much for this organization, and I always say that family has to come first…it was a hard decision for him, but we respect that decision."
Video: Coyle speaks with the media at B's Golf Tournament
Calling it a Career
Backes, who played in Boston from 2016-20, announced his retirement on Thursday after signing a one-day contract with the St. Louis Blues. In his written announcement, the former Bruins forward had some fond words for his time in the Spoked-B.
"My stretch in Boston is something I am so grateful for," Backes wrote. "It was an amazing group of men that I was able to play with and grow alongside of. Arriving there and being a complementary piece to the great core that had been there since they won the Stanley Cup in 2011 was an incredible learning experience for me. I learned about leading from the rear and was able to pour into teammates in ways I had never been able to do before.
"I found in the latter parts of my time in Boston that you can take something you would never ask for - like being a healthy scratch - and turn it into something good. It was a humbling lesson learned through sport that will permeate through life."