"This is for Chara," he began, microphone in hand, standing in an aisle of the lower bowl at TD Garden. "Do you think you're going to make it to the playoffs this year?"
It brought out a smile from the Bruins' captain, who was seated on a stage at ice level, for the annual "State of the Bruins" event held prior to each season. The rest of the crowd smiled with approval as well.
"What's your name?" asked Chara.
"Johnny," the young man responded.
"Johnny, I believe we will."
With that, Johnny had the confidence he needed.
Maybe, six or seven months from now, he'll watch as the Bruins earn a postseason bid, and he'll remember those words from 'Big Zee.' Maybe they'll reach the pinnacle, and the words will still be echoing in his ears.
As the 2014-15 season opens with an October 8th matchup with Philadelphia, the Bruins' main goal remains the same: make the playoffs, win the Cup.
It's consistently attainable, and that didn't always used to be the case a decade ago. Questions like young Johnny's didn't use to bring out careless laughter and smiles. They used to draw uncertainty, frustration and ridicule.
"You know, we talk about it all the time: what does our Stanley Cup roster look like? We talk about that constantly," said Bruins President Cam Neely. "We talk about winning, all the time - that's first and foremost here."
"Didn't win the Stanley Cup, therefore, we are not happy," were the words of Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs. "We want to take this great team and have them achieve at the level to win the Stanley Cup, and we're going to do it. We've got a great organization, we've got great people coming up, young talent coming up, and I think we're going to be there, I really do. I'm very, very comfortable and confident."
"We've made this team, we've continued to try and make it better and you see it with people like Peter [Chiarelli], who spends his full time, all the time, thinking, talking and working and he's put together a terrific team."
"I have every reason to be very confident, and I think you all have a great reason to be confident that that's where we're going."
While players have come and gone, and the 2014-15 version of the Black & Gold may be younger and less experienced than in recent years, there's stability.
"Great core," said Bruins Principal Charlie Jacobs. "I think when you talk about our pillars, you start with Zee, you start with Tuukka and the defense and you move down the middle with Patrice and Krech, it really is our core."
"To know, for at least for the next seven years here, we're in a really good spot to build around them, and that's by design…I really have high expectations."
Those core players - and the entire roster - do, too.
"That's exciting as a player, to know that management is going to do everything in their power to have a team that's going to be competitive every year, and for us as players, it gives you the motivation to do great things on the ice," said Bergeron.
"We have the core guys who are coming back from one year to another and I think we've created some great friendships and it makes it so much more fun to come to the rink every day."
With a mix of those veterans, along with younger, less familiar faces, competition will carryover into the start of the season. The Bruins play seven games in the first 11 days. They will need to establish their identity early, and mesh quickly as a group.
Whichever way the roster shakes out, the Bruins are confident in the product they're putting on the ice.
"We're making decisions in the best interest of the organization and you have to trust us with that," said GM Peter Chiarelli. "We want to win, and we want to ice the best team - we have to ice the best team, to win."
"I promise you, that we'll make the best roster for you fans."
Heading into opening night, there are high expectations. There will always be high expectations.
"We had a successful regular season last year. As we all know, we fell short of what we wanted to accomplish in the playoffs," said Neely. "I know the guys are hungry. We have a lot of returning players that want to improve upon what we did last year. Based on what I’ve seen and the way they’re talking, they’re excited about getting the season going."
"We know what's been with this team in the past and what's coming in the future," said Chara. "The certain standards are always there and the expectations are always high with this team. You have to accept that and that's part of our job, to play up to our potential - and we'll be ready for it."