Lucic/By S. Bradley

Fans love Shawn Thornton.

That is an undeniable fact.

Last week, readers of expressed how much they appreciate what Thornton means to the Bruins by voting the winger as the player they’d like to see replace Mark Recchi as Boston’s second alternate captain.

Who should wear the 'A' left behind by Mark Recchi's retirement?

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Thornton edged out veteran defenseman Andrew Ference, who’s another player deserving of wearing the ‘A’ next season.

Now, I believe the Bruins will probably go back to a rotating monthly ‘A’ like they had prior to making Recchi the permanent second ‘A’ in addition to Patrice Bergeron. But should they opt for a permanent replacement, I believe it might be time to look at someone younger.

With no disrespect to Thornton or Ference, it’s time to start grooming Milan Lucic for a future captaincy. Now if he stays with the Bruins for the long haul and captain Zdeno Chara plays out his seven-year deal and Bergeron remains here as well, Lucic might never get a shot at the ‘C.’ But it’s well worth adding responsibility to the power forward’s plate as he tries to build off his breakout 30-goal campaign of last season.

Lucic, a former captain during his junior hockey days with Vancouver of the WHL and a natural leader from the time he arrived at Bruins’ development camp several summers ago, might need a little extra incentive next season after such a great year. A letter on the 23-year-old’s sweater would definitely put him square in the spotlight, where he’d be unable to hide from slumps or even analyses of his teammates’ performances.

The Bruins have a young core that they figure to be building around for years to come. Lucic is one of the higher-profile guys in that group, in addition to being one of the better speakers. He can be at times serious and analytical, at other times humorous. He seems to be one of those guys that has a knack for knowing what a team and a dressing room need at a given time.

He’s signed through the 2012-13. Thornton is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, not to mention he plays the least minutes on the team and is a candidate for an occasional healthy scratch depending on the depth the Bruins are working with. Ference is signed beyond this year, but might become expendable should Boston’s younger defenseman emerge. Plus his personality is such that not everyone appreciates his opinion as much as they appreciate the little things he does on the ice.

Chara often talks about how much easier his job is with so many great leaders around him. Thornton and Ference can continue to be great role models without a letter. If the Bruins are going to sew an ‘A’ on one sweater for the entire season, it should be Lucic’s — to help the franchise both in the present and the future.