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The ones that got away

There's no doubt this century has been the best time to be a Boston professional sports fan.

If a season doesn't end without a Duck Boat parade, we're a little shocked. That's because we've only had 12 of them between the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins since February of 2002.

The Pats are favored to make it 13 come next winter.

But of course, during any reign of greatness, you have the occasional "what if." And all four of our professional sports teams have had them.

So let's take a look at the four best Patriots, Celtics, Sox and Bruins teams to NOT win it all.


OK, I know what you're thinking: What about that 2007 team that was undefeated until a little luck went the New York Giants' way?

As great as that Brady-Moss-Welker machine was, we forget how great the Pats were in the mid-1970's. Especially in 1976.

Led by quarterback Steve Grogan, those Patriots sent the sport back to its roots in an era wen offenses were starting to open up. They played great defense, and had a strong running game built around Sam Cunningham. which averaged a robust 5.0 yards per carry in an 11-3 season, including a 48-17 pasting of the Oakland Raiders in Foxboro.

Back then, the playoff format was different, as only four clubs from each conference made it, and since the Pats lost a divisional tiebreaker with the 11-3 Baltimore Colts, that sent them to Oakland for a rematch with the Raiders.

That's where the infamous "Ben Dreith" game happened, when a phantom roughing the passer call on Ray Hamilton kept a late Raiders drive alive, and they scored late for a 24-21 win. I'll go on record as saying that if the Pats don't get hosed by a bad call - the Raiders got a LOT of calls back in those days - they likely win the Super Bowl, which Oakland went on to win.

That 2007 team is pretty close behind. You could argue for either.

2018-19 BRUINS

Probably the biggest no-brainer on this list. The spring of 2019 was supposed to bring another Stanley Cup to Causeway Street, and our third Duck Boat parade since November 2018.

Unfortunately, the St. Louis Blues, who featured more grinders than a Red Gendron UMaine hockey team, bullied and bruised the more talented Bruins, and got the benefit of some ticky-tack officiating, en route to a seven-game victory.

It didn't help that the B's didn't show up in Game 7, and that Tuukka Rask morphed back into his not-so-clutch playoff self that night.

Fortunately, these Bruins are young and talented, and we shouldn't be surprised if they learn from this and are hoisting the Cup in 2020. Anyone remember 2010 when they blew a 3-0 series lead to the Flyers? The next season brought a championship.

2008 RED SOX

Another tough one. That 1986 team certainly comes to mind.

But did anybody really think the Tampa Bay Rays - a perennial American League East bottom-feeder - would come out of nowhere and unseat the Sox for the 2008 American League pennant?

I sure as heck didn't think so.

Even after trading slugger Manny Ramirez midway through the season, the Sox won 95 games and dispatched the 100-win Anaheim Angels in the Division Series, and Sox fans were poised to see a World Series repeat in the wake of the 2007 championship.

The bargain-basement Rays had other ideas though, sending the Sox home in a 7-game series.

It's hard to say whether the Sox would've beaten the Phillies in the World Series, but I'd have liked their chances. Philadelphia dismantled the Rays in five games, and Tampa Bay is still playing in the worst stadium in professional sports. Anyone else want to see the Rays head up to Montreal?

2008-09 CELTICS

The 2007-08 Celtics proved that Anything was Possible, winning 66 games and Banner 17 in the first year of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen era.

The 2008-09 team was poised to do it again, running roughshod over the NBA over the first half of the year. A rematch with the L.A. Lakers in the Finals was inevitable.

Then came a night in Utah. KG landed awkwardly, and was subsequently unhealthy for the playoffs.

In spite of a 62-20 record, the Celtics were dispatched in the second round of the playoffs by the upstart Orlando Magic, who went on to lose to the Lakers in five in the finals.

Numerous players have stated if Garnett hadn't of gotten hurt, the Celtics would've repeated, and I can certainly see their point. The following year? Kendrick Perkins gets injured during the Finals against the Lakers, and L.A. takes the series in 7.

If not for those two injuries, the Green could've three-peated from 2008-2010.

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