Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

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Mary Paoletti's 1-on-1 with Zdeno Chara

More of Mary Paoletti's interview with Zdeno Chara:

You seem like someone who takes comfort in control. Are there times out there when you feel like you're out of control on the ice? That a situation is out of control?
I don't feel that way. There are times when we are losing games or when the opposite team is playing really well . . . there are parts of the season when you're going to lose games and you aren't playing your best hockey . . . but never I feel like we are -- or I am -- out of control of the situation. You're going to win some and you're going to lose some and you're going to try to win as many as possible and to win more than you lose, but . . . I would maybe correct that. Maybe not as being a control person. I'm a very organized person. I like being organized and to know what we are doing and how to get better. I'm a disciplined person.

I've noticed is that you're often handling the blade of your stick...you're doing it almost every time a play dies. What is that? Is that just a habit?
Smiles It may be a little bit of a habit. I don't like to have frozen snow on my blade. Or ripped tape. I just don't know why, I immediately have to cut it out or get rid of that frozen snow or ice. It really changes the direction of the way you pass and move the puck.

In April of 2009 you were asked what your greatest career moment was and you said you hadn't had it yet. Can there be a greater moment in your career than winning a Stanley Cup? What would satisfy someone like you who's so driven?
For sure, winning the Stanley Cup would be top of the list before leaving hockey, right? Winning Norris trophy was really, really a nice feeling. It was great. It is something that, even if it is personal or individual, I feel like the team helped me. It's such a great satisfaction that all that hard work paid off. Maybe some people are not believing me being the right captain or they are questioning my leadership. I want to prove them wrong. I think I am the right captain.

You're going to be, what, 330 or so kilometers from where you grew up when you're in Prague? What does it mean to be so close to home?
It means a lot. I'll be nervous for sure, playing in front all my friends and family live. But at the same time, I already did that. But it's going to be a little bit crazy I think, there's might be meetings with a lot of my friends and family. I have to make sure it doesn't affect my rink time or the time I spend with the team. It's going to be exciting, something different.
Your schedule is crazy. You have to focus on the Coyotes but at the same time you have all these other things going on . . . family, friends, etc.
I'm going to try to make as much time as I can for them, but in a way that doesn't affect anything. If I have some time, yeah, I'll see them for half-an-hour, an hour. But I just got back, I saw them, what, a month ago? Two months ago? I just got back, so, I think they should be happy with the time I can give.

So tell me something about you. People ask you stuff all the time but you never get a chance to say anything unprompted.
Laughs I don't know. You'd have to ask me. I don't know what to tell ya' . . . Pauses Yeah. You'd have to ask me because I don't know where to begin.

All right. What's good for you right now? What makes you happy? I know you're a very disciplined guy and training makes you happy . . . blah blah blah, we've heard that before . . .
A few things. Being healthy is number one: I'm happy when I'm healthy. Nothing really bothers me or my family when we're healthy. I'm happy when we are winning. I'm happy when . . . long pause . . . I don't see any big changes, bad changes with what's going on in the world . . . like when there's a leak in oil. There's so much bad stuff happening. When none of that's happening it makes me happy.

What sacrifices have you made?
Well, I made a lot of my sacrifices when I was quite young. When all my friends from school, or even the teams I played on went out, had a good time, went to movies, went to playgrounds or whatever, I stayed home and I worked out, I went for a run, I went on my bike . . . So, that fun part that they had, I didn't. But I spent a lot of that time trying to get better. And, believe me, now I love it. I love that I can do what I love. And now when I meet with friends they wish they had sacrificed as much as I did, or anybody else. Now they have to get up at six in the morning and work 'til four in the afternoon at jobs they don't love. They missed their train. Now it's gone. It's one of those things with growing up. You get to choose what you want to do. I was very lucky, I guess, in the way that my dad was an athlete and he helped me work out when I was very young. Otherwise it would be too late. But now I don't really take it as much as sacrifice. I take it as, that's my job and that's what I do. You can be complaining about it or you can be excited about it.

From what I've read about you, it sounds like you had impressive maturity at a young age. When you were young, coaches told you you shouldn't play hockey and you had said something like, "a growing guy needs time to adjust to his body." How did you know that at age 14?
I didn't. I found that out later on. I think that sometimes coaches, they only see guys who are scoring goals -- which is fine, naturally, it's what you always like is players that are very skilled who will perform for you -- but especially when I was younger, they didn't realize I was still growing, I was still getting taller and taller, and my body had to fill in with muscle and I had to learn coordination and all that. And it took some time and they didn't give it to me. So I had to leave and I had to go where they gave me enough time. And they didn't give it to me back home so I had to leave to another country. And I was 18 and I was living on my own, which wasn't easy. But being in a different country at 18 and living totally on your own . . . there was no adults, there was no somebody I was living with, I was totally on my own. I had one bedroom apartment and they gave me some money and said, 'Take care of yourself.' So, that's when it hits you. That's when it hits you that you have to really mature, it's your job. You can't be a kid anymore. It was such a big change . . . buying groceries, you have to cook for yourself, laundry smiling, laughing, eyes wide . . . clearly a big deal you were like, "Oh my God!" At 18 you were like, 'This is so hard.' But you get used to it and that's when really you have to mature because, again, I was going from a Junior to a men's team. And even the conversations in the locker room, it was so different, there was no like, 'Hey, uh, something I don't know . . . '

'What are you doing this weekend?'
Yeah! It was like 'Hey, my family, my kids' and you're like 'Wha-wha-what?' All of the sudden these conversations, there was this different perspective and it was so different.

Do you think back to that time a lot?
Smiling Yeah! Yeah.

What do you think you took away from that besides responsibility?
Exhales deeply Well, take care of myself, most of all. Up to that time your parents are taking care of you . . . cooking for you most of the time, doing your laundry, and all that stuff. And all of a sudden, you know, most of all it's taking care of yourself and learn to talk like an adult. If you want to talk to the coach you do it yourself. It's like straightforward 1-on-1 with the coach or with the GM. So yeah, you had to know how to have conversations on different levels and be an adult.

Bruins taking a chance on Clarke in the fifth round

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Bruins taking a chance on Clarke in the fifth round

The Lone Star Brahmas aren’t exactly a household name in the junior hockey world, but NAHL team did produce a player worth of a Bruins draft pick last weekend. A 20-year-old defenseman named Cameron Clarke showed his offensive skills and playmaking en route to nine goals and 50 points in 59 games last season for the Brahmas, and continued to add strength to a wiry 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame that still needs to be developed as he heads off to Ferris State University.

The Tecumseh, Michigan native was floored at the prospect of being drafted by the Bruins after he was selected in the fifth round (136th overall) at last weekend’s draft in Buffalo, and excited to see some results for all of his hard work over the last few years.

“It’s a feeling like no other. I was just sitting in there with my family and when it happened, it was just pure excitement, and to go to Boston, they’re an Original Six organization,” said Clarke, who described himself as a good-skating defenseman and a good puck-mover that models his game after Capitals D-man John Carlson. “It’s just — it’s something you dream of growing up and it’s a great feeling.

“I talked to Mr. Sullivan [Bruins Scout Keith Sullivan] I believe it was in December and I knew that they had come watch me play a couple of times so I knew that they were interested. I knew that they were a team that could be a possibility that could be picking me and I’ve always watched hockey and my dad used to be a Bruins fan growing up when he was little [he grew up in Ottawa and was a big Bobby Orr fan], so it’s a great feeling. Boston’s an Original Six franchise. It’s very special, for sure.”

Clarke will obviously take a big step in his development headed to the Ferris State hockey program next season, and the Bruins hope to continue seeing improvements in the size and strength department during his college hockey years.

“We knew there were teams that were there [ready to take him], and our guys really liked him,” said Bruins Director of Scouting Keith Gretzky. “He’s gained a lot of weight in a year-and-a-half, but we know he’s going to take some time. We’re good with that. Our guys really liked him, so we took him.”

The Clarke pick is a pretty low risk/high reward selection that was off the beaten path of the normal OHL/European junior league paths, but it remains to be seen if it will pay dividends later for selecting the over-age player. 

Bruins may be getting cold feet on Trouba offer sheet

Bruins may be getting cold feet on Trouba offer sheet

The Bruins are still mulling the idea of a massive offer sheet for Winnipeg Jets restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba, but they’re having second, and third thoughts about the bold move according to a league source.

While a seven year, $49 million offer sheet could net them the 22-year-old Trouba with a high ceiling as a possible No. 1 defenseman, there would also be massive costs in assets, and in the kind of major stink it would cause around the league. The Bruins would have a manageable $7 million cap hit for Trouba if they did indeed fire off seven year, $49 million offer sheet to the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder on Friday morning, and they would potentially fill in a big piece of their blue line puzzle for years to come.

But the Black and Gold would also surrender four first round picks given that they don’t have the draft picks to offer anything less than a contract with an AAV (Average Annual Value) of $9.3 million after shortsighted trades sent their 2017 second round pick (for Lee Stempniak) and 2017 third round pick (for Zac Rinaldo) to other teams. Wrinkles within the offer sheet language in the CBA would turn a seven year, $49 million contract into a $9.8 AAV for draft pick compensation purposes, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the Black and Gold.

Perhaps the one thing Bruins GM Don Sweeney didn’t anticipate, however, is the bad blood that poaching an RFA would create across a league where all 30 GMs apparently play by the unwritten NHL Commandment that “thou dost not offer sheet to anybody.”

If the Bruins indeed followed through with the massive offer sheet for a player that finished with six goals and 21 points last season, then the Bruins would live in fear that it could be open season on their own restricted free agents for the foreseeable future. There’s little doubt Winnipeg, and perhaps others, would come sniffing around 20-year-old right wing David Pastrnak when his contract is up next summer, and so on down the line with Boston’s next wave of talented young players coming through the pipeline.

There’s also the simple fact that opinions are very mixed on the ultimate NHL ceiling for Trouba given the possible investment involved. One Western Conference scout thought he was on track to become a No. 1 defenseman, and could be worth all of the assets involved in preparing an offer for a player like Trouba.

“He has elite skating, and has the shot to go with it. He’s built for the new age of mobile defenders that dominate through the neutral zone,” said the scout. “[The physicality] is there, but guys don’t punish anymore because you can push and pin. They defend with their sticks and feet. Upon zone entry is when they lay the body, and he checks all those boxes.”

One other NHL executive wasn’t so sure, and harbored some doubts about whether Trouba could be “The Man” for a blueline crew that had Stanley Cup aspirations.

“The physical tools alone allow him to be big minute guy, but his overall hockey sense could prevent him from being a top D-man,” said the exec.

That seems to be the knock on Trouba: he turns the puck over under pressure, and his decision-making while moving the puck hasn’t really improved from a rookie year as a 19-year-old where he posted 10 goals and 29 points. But the tools, the impressive body of work since entering the NHL as a teenager and the cachet of being a lottery pick keep all NHL observers ever-optimistic that a young player like Trouba will eventually figure it out.

There’s also the very real scenario that the Bruins don’t have the trade assets to get a young defenseman like Trouba given that the Edmonton Oilers had to surrender Taylor Hall in a one-for-one deal to get Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils. They have to hope they can build up some kind of trade package that could net them Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler, or hope that Jason Demers somehow picks Boston as his free agent destination.

That’s barring the offer sheet from the Bruins for Trouba, which is still being discussed by the Bruins even as it becomes less of a possibility for Don Sweeney heading into the July 1 opening of the free agent market. That’s because throwing an offer sheet at Trouba might be the only way the Bruins can land a young, potential No. 1 defenseman this summer that can give them the building block to compete for the next decade, and that’s something for Sweeney, Neely and everybody else on Causeway Street to seriously debate over the next two days.