Chara steps to the head of the line

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Chara steps to the head of the line

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Zdeno Chara may finally be rounding into the leader everyone always wanted him to be.

Thats no knock on the 6-foot-9 defenseman and Bruins captain in his fifth year with the team, and his 13th year in the NHL, of course.

Its more a nod to the demands that come along with wearing the C on the Black and Gold sweater of the Spoked B tribe, and the downright crazy expectations of a frothy fan base that hasnt tasted from the Stanley Cup in 39 anguish-filled years.

Chara couldnt just be a sterling leader by example or the hardest worker on the team as hes always been during his All-Star, Norris Trophy caliber career with the Islanders, Senators and Bruins.

Chara had to show fire and emotion in times of need for his team, and learn how to connect with every single member of his hockey club on a greater level than simply showing them how many pull-ups he could do in 60 seconds.

There was an emotional component to the job that Chara always seemed to be searching for, and it was clearly a process. It would seem that in his most challenging NHL season the Bs defenseman finally broke down those walls, and everyone within the organization has taken notice of his evolution as hes battled true adversity all along the way.

Weve been together for both our tenures here. We went to one conference final with Ottawa and lost, so that was a bit of painful memory. We just kind of connected briefly after Game 7 and I could see a little bit of a twinkle in his eye, said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. It was kind of a special moment for me to share with him. I cant say enough about him as a player and his defensive impact on the game.

I think in the Tampa series you saw him try and do a little more offensively on his own and at clutch times. That was -- for me -- him stepping up. His leadership abilities have grown exponentially. I cant say enough about Zee and the impact that he has in the locker room -- and on the ice.

The crowning moment came following the Game 7 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning when Chara finally experienced the victorious glory hes waited for his entire career.

Chara was invited to center ice to accept the Prince of Wales Trophy from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly that signified Bostons Eastern Conference Championship, and his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final.

This was after taking down the Montreal Canadiens in seven games after that team, that city and that whole region forced Chara through the ringer for his clean hit on Max Pacioretty. This was after a police investigation for a hockey hit deemed a hockey play by the league that polices these sorts of things.

This was after Chara missed Game 2 with a case of severe dehydration that forced his hospitalization and caused him to drop a sickening 10 pounds over a 24-hour period leading up to the game.

This was after Chara blew away the questions about his 0-5 career record in Game 7 leading into this years playoffs with big performances in Game 7 victories over the Habs and Lightning.

It would have been natural for Chara to be thinking about himself when he was called to accept the Prince of Whales Trophy, pondering deeply what the victory meant to his standing both in the league and in the long history of the Bruins organization.

But thats not what happened at all, and it spoke volumes about Charas priorities.

Chara conjured up images of the 2001 New England Patriots when he summoned all of his teammates to crowd around the conference trophy and get a group picture with a mildly surprised Daly.

Why surprise?

Because its not normally done that way in the tradition-beholden NHL.

Chara departed from the norm to include an entire team thats grown incredibly tight over the last four years amid concussions, cheap shots, playoff collapses and a European trip that bonded the squad tightly together.

It was a group gesture that made a lot of people happy up and down the organizational ladder, and revealed just how closely the Bruins have developed into a unit that rises and falls on a united front.

It says a lot about the team. Zees never been there so he goes up there and you always talk about whether you touch the trophy or not. Youre probably thinking about a bunch of different things like Wow, we made it and all this stuff, said Chiarelli. You can tell what was first on his mind Lets get the team up there.

You look at the photo afterwards and its a pretty cool photo. Zee is growing exponentially as a leader. Im certain that he would say also that his support group is very strong. It has been getting stronger as a group. Hes a very effective and very good leader for this team.

Chara was anointed leader because of his role as a captain, but hes been supported by a stalwart leadership group within the Bs dressing room.

Mark Recchi has been a big factor in the Chara evolution as a leader because its given the big defenseman a veteran thats seen everything during his 21 years in the NHL. Chara listened to the 43-year-old from the first day he arrived in Boston via a trade with the Lightning three years ago.

Patrice Bergeron is the emerging force thats becoming a voice just as strong as Chara and Recchi when it comes to leadership, intensity and the commitment to bringing a Cup back to Boston. It was Bergeron and Chara after all that believed so much in the Bruins Way of doing things that they both signed on for lengthy contract extensions before the season commenced in Prague.

That trio is supported fully by Shawn Thornton, Andrew Ference, Tim Thomas and now by Chris Kelly, Shane Hnidy and a burgeoning group of young leaders within the dressing room taking their paces from the vets. Its created the perfect environment of winning inside the Bs dressing room, and Chara has seen it built from the ground up when he arrived in Chiarellis first season.

Its pretty special here, said Chara. Winning Game 7s thats when you know that everybodys buying into it. Everybodys willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes for the win.

We are just showing our desire. We want it bad and for every player in this room and every fan outside of this arena. We are very thankful to the fans and all the people for our support.

Chara has shown it while playing against the Canadiens at much less than 100 percent when he did return from his dehydration episode, and managing to lead the NHL playoff field with a plus-11 while lining up against the best offensive players in the world. Its left little doubt how much of a game-changer Chara is on the ice, and what his standing is within an organization thats boasted some pretty outstanding defensemen in its black and golden history.

It does validate that were filling the holes with the right people and bringing the right organization together. It validates the quality of the management and the leadershipnot just at the top but throughout the organization, said Bs owner Jeremy Jacobs. From the player on the ice, you take Zdeno Chara. His leadership is indispensable. I think the organization from the top to bottom has evolved into a singular objective.

Its taken time and some stunning defeats over the years for that message to be honed into something ready for a Cup-worthy ascension, but Chara has finally reached it this season as a leader still operating at an elite level.

Chiarelli always envisioned what Chara would become before his career was finished in Boston, and big Zee is now that guy forged through the fire of experience and time.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

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Hagg Bag: Some offseason B’s questions while waiting for Vesey’s decision

With Bruins development camp in the rear-view mirror and the Bruins roster pretty close to full barring any bold moves from B’s general manager Don Sweeney, there isn’t much movement anticipated for the Black and Gold the next few weeks. 

Certainly there isn’t much expected until the Bruins learn about their chances in the Jimmy Vesey Sweepstakes Aug. 15. The addition of the Hobey Baker winner and Harvard captain could spur on a couple of moves from the Bruins front office and would certainly result in some alterations in terms of talent and salary cap makeup on the NHL roster.

But it’s all quiet on the Black and Gold front for right now, so there’s ample time for another edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always, these are tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails to my jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and messages to my CSN Facebook page. Now, on to the tag:

Joe

I still keep coming back to that interview, which for a Bruins fan had to make you giddy like Jimmy [Vesey] was when he responded to you about the possibility of putting a B's jersey on.  

After hearing your podcast with Jim Murphy, I agree with you there are a lot of options out there such as Toronto, Buffalo, Chicago, San Jose to play with [Joe] Thornton his idol, or New Jersey but if his father lets him make his own decision, as he's stated, then the B's have a great chance of signing him.

He wanted the B's to [draft] him but Don was not the GM then so being given a chance on August 15 to do just that has to be one of his biggest factors. Add that to having his family close by, knowing Jimmy Hayes, Matt Grzelcyk, & Ryan Donato (plus knowing and appreciating Torey) I can't wait until the 15th. Why wait until your later years to play in Boston when you can sign now?

Question is with Loui gone taking 30 goals off the board I think his signing on top of acquiring [David] Backes will be more than replace those goals. But who then can the B's trade away, not right away, but into the season to acquire some help in other areas?

The first name is [David] Krejci, [Adam] McQuaid, and possibly Jimmy Hayes if he has a second subpar season. Could the inclusion of Krejci, who can produce, be dealt along with some other pieces to acquire a player like [Jonas] Brodin or [Matthew] Dumba & also have a chance of getting a player like Charlie Coyle?

What lines do you see?  What about the following:

1st Line- Jimmy Vesey-David Krejci- David Backes

2nd Line- Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-& David Pastrnak who, like Seguin, might be better suited with Patrice?

3rd Line- Matt Beleskey-Ryan Spooner-Jimmy Hayes

4th Line- Frank Vatrano- Noel Acciari- Riley Nash

Backend- Zdeno Chara-Colin Miller; Torey Krug-Kevan Miller; & John Michael Liles-Adam McQuaid or Brandon Carlo (long shot is to acquire Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg because he wants top four minutes and has Buff and Myers ahead of him on the depth chart…if possible slot him in the second unit with Torey and deal either McQuaid or Miller)

Another point I would like to touch on is also from your comments on the podcast or NHL XM/Sirius radio when you mentioned the Bruins have to caution themselves from dealing away valuable picks, or assets, for rental players at the trade deadline.  One point that Don Sweeney has made on a number of occasions was that the Bruins targeted defensemen and big center-men. My hope now is that since they have re-stocked the system they need to draft the top potential player available on the board rather than selecting based upon a particular need. Not to knock who they have drafted but they need to pick the best player available keeping in mind the importance placed on picks to having hockey sense and leadership or character traits. The selection of David Pastrnak is a case in point as he's a high skilled player who needed to learn the defensive game.  I hope that future drafts will see the Bruins focused on the best player available not based on the position they play. 

Greig Young

 
JH: Glad you enjoyed the Jimmy Vesey, interview. I came away with a much better feeling about the kid in general than I did going in without knowing much about him. I think a lot of the whispered stuff you hear about him is coming from those around him rather than him. It’s understandable that Vesey’s dad might have strong opinions about it all given that he played in the NHL. So, surely he’s advising his son, but I got the strong sense this is about the 23-year-old Vesey making the decision for himself, and what’s best for his career and his own chances of NHL success.

I went into the interview thinking that the Bruins had a very good chance based upon what I’d heard, and talking with Vesey did nothing to dissuade me from that feeling. Could the Blackhawks swoop in and snatch him at the last minute? Maybe. Or maybe he’s had designs on going to Toronto all the time.

But I’ve heard Boston was one of the frontrunners all along, and I’m going to continue to believe that until we know for sure.

Whether it’s Brodin, Dumba, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, Jacob Trouba, Tyson Barrie or somebody else, I do think the Bruins are poised to pull the trigger on another move if Vesey does indeed sign with Boston next month. It would certainly make a winger on the NHL roster expendable, and the Bruins already have a slew of NHL-caliber centers as well.

As for the draft, I’m a firm believer in always picking the best player available. When you pick by positional needs over best player, that’s when you end up with nonsensical choices like Malcolm Subban in the first round in 2012.

 
If they get Vesey do they run at Barrie with 54, 72 & 51?

--Russ Romandini (@goldenpipesss)

 
JH: Who knows? If the arbitration process goes badly enough for Tyson Barrie and the Avalanche then perhaps he’ll get dealt somewhere. If the Bruins sign Vesey, then I’d expect a couple of those players you mentioned (Adam McQuaid, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner) might be in play to get a dynamic, young top-four defenseman the Bruins could immediately plug in as a top-pairing candidate with Zdeno Chara.

That would be my expectation of how things go down with the Bruins, but if we’ve learned one thing it should be this: it’s awfully, awfully difficult to close a deal in the NHL for a high-caliber defenseman, and it might not be in the cards for Don Sweeney and the Bruins prior to the start of the season.

The Bruins need to get one of those D-men if they really want to compete this season, so we’ll see what happens if/when Vesey signs with them. If Vesey signs elsewhere then I’d expect the Bruins will go into the season with what they currently have.

 

#StrangerThings have you ever played D&D like Mike, Dustin and Lucas? Did you ever sport a mullet in the 80s?

--borisan (@borisan28)

 
JH: Yes, and don’t forget about poor Will. He was there playing at the beginning and the end too. Right around that age I played my share of Dungeons and Dragons along with love of baseball cards, addiction to Strat-O-Matic baseball, football, basketball and hockey and a steady diet of outdoor sports playing with the many kids in my neighborhood.

I definitely owned a Players Handbook (though I was never hardcore enough into it to be a Dungeon Master, and wasn’t nearly geeky enough to suitably fit in with the real bone fide D&D nerds in the town I grew up in), and had a longstanding high-level fighter/magic user named Huon Pendragon that I role-played with. I’m willing to bet I still have some 20-sided dice around the house somewhere. And don’t forget about the golden age of Nintendo right around then as well: RBI Baseball, Tecmo Bowl, Mike Tyson’s Punchout, Spy Hunter, and Nintendo Hockey among others.

What a great time to be a kid. I definitely had some form of a mullet in middle school during the mid-1980’s, but it was probably not as definitive as many during that time period.

 
Which prospect will surprise us and make the roster?

--Michael Matthews (@MMATTHEWS4)

 
JH: Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen are both expected to compete for spots, so I’m not sure I’d label either one of them a surprise. How about Jeremy Lauzon? He’s a 2015 second-round pick coming off a big junior season and the Bruins rave about his approach, his work ethic and certainly seem to think he’ll be a top-four defenseman someday soon. Perhaps it’s as soon as this season. Jake DeBrusk would be my best guess among the forwards after a strong development camp performance. Claude Julien is already on record as being a fan of his toughness and his willingness to do the work as a young player, and the NHL bloodlines from his dad Louie don’t hurt either.  

 
With plenty of cap space and losing a 30 goal scorer, was it foolish of Sweeney not getting Versteeg for a cheap 1 or 2 yrs?

--Jeremiah Kilburn (@vtmxjer66)

 
JH: Not a huge Kris Versteeg fan and, incidentally, neither is the rest of the NHL if he had to go to Europe for steady work for next season. Versteeg is a tough player: good enough to be paid decently in the NHL based on his numbers, but not a good fit in anything but a supporting role on a good hockey team. I’d rather see the Bruins bring along young kids in that spot or hope that something has inspired Jimmy Hayes this summer.

 
Will Rask bounce back from last year? What will Cassidy provide behind the bench to help the B’s this year?

--Bob Falfa (@FalfaBob)

 
JH: I think Rask will have a better season provided the Bruins can execute a deal for another puck-moving defenseman. If they go into the season with the current group of D-men, then I think Rask will be in line for another season similar to this past one. Why would anybody think there’s going to be a radically different result?

I obviously don’t think Rask was consistently at his best last season, but I also think 80-90 percent of his troubles last season are attributable to the shoddy defense in front of him. Plain and simple, cut and dried. Bruce Cassidy is a keen offensive mind and he’s good with young players, which means he either A) will be a nice compliment to Julien as sort of a counter-point on the coaching staff or B) will end up replacing Julien and pushing the Bruins more in the offense and youth direction if the B’s struggle mightily at the start of next season.

The Bruins should get more out of Ryan Spooner and Colin Miller with Cassidy on the staff, or should in theory at least.

I’ve long been of the opinion that things are a little stale with this Bruins group, and that a change of coaching voice might be the best thing for them given the current direction of the franchise. It doesn’t take away what Julien has done over the past 10 years, or reflect his standing as an excellent hockey coach. He just might not be the right coach for this Bruins team and the direction that they’re headed. It should be a really interesting season because I don’t think Cassidy takes the NHL assistant gig in Boston unless he thinks there’s another NHL head coaching shot in his future. That’s just my opinion, of course, but certainly an informed one.

 
Hey Joe - why do the Bruins not promote Tommy Cross? Too old now?

--John Thiell (via CSN Facebook page)

 
JH: Tommy Cross is what he is: a solid, tough pro and leader of men at the AHL level, who can perform in spots when called upon at the NHL level. I just don’t think he skates well enough anymore to be a regular NHL D-man after all of his knee surgeries, and it’s a shame given the kind of player he was before all of the knee issues. He would not be an upgrade if he was among the Bruins D-men group to break NHL camp this fall.

 
I think the B's will be better than predicted. But if things go south do you think they move Chara at the deadline? #HaggBag

--Ray Guarino (@rayguarino)

 
JH: I like your optimism. If things go south for the Bruins, I would hope they’d explore that kind of a move while clearly changing the blue line guard. They should have explored it last year as well, in my humble opinion.

 
Who the hell is Chief Hopper feeding in @Stranger_Things? Elle? Demogorgon? Ryan Fitzpatrick?

--CP (@cpierce1994)

JH: I’m going with “El”, but not ruling out Ryan Fitzpatrick. Something tells me that El and the Demogorgon are linked together, or perhaps two sides of the same being. It will be interesting to see how they explore it in Season Two, but suffice to say that I recommend “Stranger Things” on Netflix to anybody that hasn’t seen it: an awesome, addictive 1980’s homage eight episode series that combines E.T., Poltergeist, Firestarter, War Games, Goonies and Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s just that good.

 
Brad Marchand for Hampus Lindholm and Chris Wagner

--Joe Harris (via CSN Facebook page)

JH: Okay, but are you asking me or telling me? If you’re asking me, I don’t think the Ducks are going to do that unless Marchand is signed to a reasonable, long-term contract. And I don’t think he’s going to be signing one of those: he’s going to get something in the neighborhood of eight years and $50 million on a new contract if the Bruins are willing to go there.

 
Joe, will the Bruins look at either Kris Russell or James Wisniewski before camp or wait till to see what happens with the young guys

--Eugene Mannarino (@steelman58)

JH: Perhaps, but the price would have to be right. I also don’t think either of those would be candidates unless the Bruins go into training camp and don’t like what they see out of Joe Morrow, Miller and Carlo. Russell was a consideration, but I think he’s still looking for far too much money and term for the Bruins to be interested right now.

 
What is the most realistic situation for the Bruins adding to their D? And who do you see as the most promising B's prospect

--Colin Miller (@sportschatterHD)

 
JH: The most realistic situation is the Bruins signing Vesey, and then trading Vatrano or Spooner and a first round pick to St. Louis for Kevin Shattenkirk, or perhaps even trading David Krejci to the Blues for Shattenkirk once they get into the season and show that he’s fully recovered from his hip surgery. I think Charlie McAvoy is the most promising Bruins prospect and that he’s a legit top-pairing talent a couple of years down the line.

He’s got the skating, the passing, the size, the willingness to mix it up physically, and the offensive instincts to be effective while skating big, big minutes. He says he wants to play like Drew Doughty and there’s more than a little of that kind of player within McAvoy’s game. Even if he can be 80 percent of Doughty, that is a guy the Bruins can win with as one of their top defenders. He’s exactly what they need, but it will be a year or two before the 18-year-old is ready for Boston.

Combine McAvoy with Carlo, Jakub Zboril, Lauzon and a young NHL talent in Torey Krug, and you have the makings of a pretty talented back end a few years down the road. That doesn’t excuse the mess of a blue line the Bruins have right now, however, that’s alarmingly the same as last year’s weak unit that dragged down the hockey club.

 
Joe,

I am very disillusioned with the Boston Bruins.  I am angry they traded Seguin (Chiarelli), Reilly Smith and Dougie Hamilton, for essentially nothing.

They allowed Eriksson to walk, not even getting a draft pick.  They draft terribly and usually choose checkers…meanwhile, other teams in the East are improving. Bruins are not pro-active. I honestly think they do not know what they are doing.  Sweeney and Neely must be listening to dinosaur Harry Sinden.  Harry also hated scorers and offensive-minded prayers.

This team needs an upgraded defense, plus some young dynamic scoring (work so hard to score goals) talent up front, especially now that Eriksson is gone. I am so frustrated with idiots Don Sweeny, Cam Neely, Gretzky, Claude and scouts.  I want them to be fired immediately; I want Jacobs to sell the team. I want some young scoring forwards on this team... and a coach/organization that is more offensive-minded/friendly. They are so boring....

Thanks for your attention.
J.E. Shay

JH: Get it all, out. Get it all out, J.E. This mailbag is cheaper than any Bruins therapy session you’d ever attend in person. I suspect your opinion will change if the Bruins make the playoffs this season while introducing more of the young talent in their pipeline. If they don’t, then I’ll expect another one of these from you next summer. See you guys in a couple of weeks and thanks for the great questions. 

Monday, July 25: A new home for Isles in Queens?

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Monday, July 25: A new home for Isles in Queens?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Alec Baldwin hosting the new “Match Game.” What a throwback that is.

*Larry Brooks asks if there is even one person that would support the New York Islanders building a new hockey arena in Queens.

*Friends to hockey, Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole, sat down Montreal Canadiens fan Jonah Keri for a podcast this week.

*A really good piece from 15 years ago by Jon Paul Morosi, back in the days when we both wrote pieces for USCHO, about Jim Prior’s dedication to BU, and to the world of hockey.

*Connor McDavid says that being named the captain of the Edmonton Oilers would be an “unbelievable honor” for the young player.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has the Philadelphia Flyers signing Brayden Schenn to a four year contract.

*Speaking of the Flyers, Sean Couturier has a street named after him in his hometown within the province of New Brunswick.

*For something completely different: if you’re into Andre the Giant drinking stories then this is the article for you.

 

Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

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Sunday, July 24: Dominic Moore mulls NHL offers

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling at how good the Justice League and Wonder Woman trailers were this weekend.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has veteran center Dominic Moore mulling a couple of offers as he looks for an NHL contract for next season.

*Jordan Eberle joined Canadian sports radio, and agreed that something needed to change with the Oilers after continually missing the playoffs.

*I will miss Jim Prior’s trademark “The Teams are ready, so let’s play hockey!” open to every game as a PA announcer, and I’ll miss his warm personality around the rink. It’s a sad day for the BU hockey program.

*The Arizona Coyotes continue to put together a very interesting D-men picture by signing Luke Schenn to a two-year contract. For my money, Schenn has long been one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

*The Hockey News’ Mike Brophy has some thoughts and observations about the NHL offseason as it continues to wind on.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dave Stubbs on Andrei Markov and his candid thoughts on everything from the Montreal traffic to the PK Subban/Shea Weber trade.

*Here’s a spot to track the travels and stories of the Pittsburgh Penguins amid their summer with the Stanley Cup.

*For something completely different: as mentioned above, here is the trailer for the Justice League that shows a much lighter, better touch with what should be a fun movie to watch. Hopefully this means it won’t be another pretty-looking, Zack Snyder funeral dirge.