Archive for the ‘Zdeno Chara’ Category

Krejci, Kessel or none of the above? A Boston Bruins salary cap outlook

May 21, 2009

So far, CLS looked at the salary cap situations of the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. With news of off-season surgeries and Sporting News executive awards for the Bruins’ front office, it seems like a natural time to take a look at the future of the Boston Bruins.

Boston Bruins
Current projected 2009-10 Cap number:
approximately $47.5 million (One goalie, five defensemen and nine forwards)
Best contract(s): Marc Savard (one year left, $5 million cap hit); Milan Lucic (one year left, rookie contract)
Worst contract(s): Tim Thomas ($5 million per year through 2012-13); Marco Sturm ($3.5 million through 2010-11)
Dude who is Seven-feet-freaking tall (on skates)’ contract: Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million per year through 2010-11)

It’s been a really nice two years for the Boston Bruins. After suffering briefly from a Joe Thornton hangover, they snagged the former assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators to construct a team that shares some similarities with Peter Chiarelli‘s old squad: staggering depth, splendid regular season play and … Zdeno Chara.

An unexpected (and utterly, undeniably dominant) run to the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference allowed the Bruins to stuff another gluttonous bowl of Chowder in the over-fed mouth that is the Boston sports market. At their best, the Killer Bees looked good enough to make Western Conference teams nervous.

That great run came at a price, as the Bruins were forced to hand their admittedly exhilarating goaltender a contract that will almost definitely bite them in the end. A Vezina-caliber season notwithstanding, Thomas has a few prominent strikes against him. Not to be an age-ist, but at the ripe age of 35, how long can an unorthodox goalie like Thomas thrive before he turns into Roman Cechmanek with a nicer yacht?

Still, signing Thomas allows the Bruins to focus solely on the extremely difficult decisions regarding their two young forwards Phil Kessel and David Krejci.

Kessel has the pedigree. After having some up and down years (including earning the respect of any human by overcoming cancer), the 2006’s #5 draft pick exploded as much as any Boston Bruin this season. In an abridged 70 games, he managed an impressive 36 goals. To put that in perspective, his .51 goals per game average ranked eight best in the NHL. He also showed impressive speed and was at times very dangerous in this year’s playoffs, with 6 goals and 11 points in 11 games. Despite injury concerns, Kessel is a true game breaker.

Say what you want about the dubious nature of the plus/minus statistic, it’s still pretty astounding that David Krejci lead the league with a +37 rating. After flying under the radar with 27 points in 56 games last season, Krejci managed a 73-point season. He’s a smart player who played a full season in 2008-09.

So, the question is: how much is each player worth? With All-Star caliber Marc Savard and former stud Patrice Bergeron already on the roster, should the Bruins settle for getting for a few draft picks for Krejci and/or Kessel? If you had to choose, would you rather get the dynamic but injury prone (and potentially more expensive) Kessel or the heady and steady work of Krejci (who you cannot be totally certain isn’t a contract year guy)?

Obviously the decision is circumstantial. If Krejci only wanted $3 million per year, Boston would be crazy to let him go. On the other hand, if Kessel wants to be paid Sidney Crosby money, that wouldn’t work for the B’s at all.

It’s funny that Chiarelli received a GM of the year award, because the next seasons will test that honeymoon period immediately. Three crucial contracts will be up for renewal for 2010-11: Savard, Blake Wheeler and borderline folk hero Milan Lucic.

While the Chicago Blackhawks are my pick for the team with the most potential to make shortsighted analysts look silly (“Why, they have young players so that means they automatically have a bright future derp!”), the Bruins’ window could close quickly.

It could end up a lot like Chiarelli’s Senators did. After being a dominant-yet-frustrated team for years, the team could no longer keep Chara, Martin Havlat and other solid-to-great players not named Spezza, Heatley or Alfredsson. By the time Chiarelli left, Ottawa became a top-heavy, deeply flawed team. Then again, there are also Buffalo Sabres parallels: a team featuring a talented cast-off (Savard/Daniel Briere), staggering depth and an exciting score-by-committee approach that ultimately became unsustainable within the confines of a salary cap structure.

Let’s not be TOO negative, though, as a very tough summer might turn into a series of shrewd, Ken Holland-sque maneuvers for the Bruins. There are definitely bright sides to look on: Chara is the only guy with a huge contract and he’s (probably) worth it. And for all the negativity about Tim Thomas’s gamble of a deal, it’s at least not as bad as questionable No. 1 contracts floating around the league like Cristobal Huet ($5.6 million through 2011-12), J.S. Giguere ($6 million through 2010-11) or Rick Dipetro‘s lifetime $4.5 million per year cap hit.

So, what do you think? Are the Bruins the Team of the Future in the Northeast division, just a fortuitous blip on the radar or somewhere in between? Either way, the Big Bad Bruins should be an interesting team to watch the next few years (on and off the ice).

(For the record, I strongly believe that the Bruins should do whatever they can to keep Kessel. Seriously.)

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Jussi Jokinen’s slash on Zdeno Chara: shades of ‘Dumb and Dumber’

May 11, 2009

I haven’t been able to find a good clip of Jussi Jokinen‘s slash on Zdeno Chara (so this might be updated, please e-mail me if you found it already), but there was something oddly comical about Chara’s animated reaction to the slash. Then I realized it was eerily similar to a scene in the artistic masterpiece “Dumb & Dumber.”

You may recall a scene where Harry (Jeff Daniels) viciously canes Lloyd (Jim Carrey) in the back of the knee. If you need to refresh your memory, start at about the 6:40 mark of this video:

Pretty good match, right?

Update: Denson from Bangin’ Panger sent the clip of the timmmbbbbeeeer slash

Zdeno Chara: a seven foot goat on skates? (and other playoff thoughts)

May 9, 2009

Zdeno Chara isn’t a hockey player, he’s a big angry tree who can slap a puck through my soul. Please don’t take this as a concentrated attack on the big Z.

But let me take you back to a fuzzy age for many of you young ones. You see, there was a time when this team named the Ottawa Senators roamed the earth as near-dominant hockey dinosaurs. While it never really worked out for that team, they were just loaded with talent.

During this period, the Senators chose Wade Redden over Chara and allowed the Big Z to sign a huge contract with the Boston Bruins. It’s hard to believe this really happened, especially since Redden’s play dropped horrifyingly enough to make him become an absolute whipping boy … for the New York Rangers.

Most would say Chara was the obvious choice for the Senators, but it’s more than a bit off putting that he might once again be a scapegoat for a team’s playoff disappointments.

I say “might” because it hasn’t been possible for me to watch much of Chara’s performances. We all know that plus/minus and offensive scoring do not necessarily define a defenseman, but without knowing his Corsi rating and his totals for goals for/against during the playoffs , those stats still tell you a somewhat disturbing story:

If you don’t feel like clicking on that image, Chara’s been held scoreless against Carolina with a -5 rating in the last three games (+1 in Boston’s dominating game 1 victory). Overall in the playoffs he has 1 goal and 1 assist. He’s also been on the ice for some dramatic goals, most noticeably Jussi Jokinen‘s OT GWG in Game 3.

Surely, the blame cannot fall only on Chara’s gigantic shoulders. That being said, don’t be surprised if the Norris Trophy-level D gets a big bowl of blame barring a near-miraculous turnaround.

  • Maybe the Carolina Hurricanes have found the perfect formula: only make the playoffs when you can make a dramatic run.
  • Whether you like the Alex Ovechkin knee-to-knee hit or not, there is NO WAY the NHL is going to have the cajones to suspend him. Even if the Penguins make it to the Conference Finals, truly threatening for the Cup is unthinkable without Sergei Gonchar.

From a “headaches for the league” standpoint, they are probably hoping that the Penguins advance without Gonchar. If not, the league’s in a lose-lose situation: if AO does get suspended, the Caps were screwed; if the Penguins get bounced then Yinzers will claim that we live in a godless society where the (talent) rich are above the law.

Let’s hope this controversy doesn’t mar what has been a true dream series for the NHL.

  • Even though Jonas Hiller had a superhuman performance against the Sharks, I keep finding myself expecting J.S. Giguere to play the role of Ghost of Playoff Goalies Past against the Red Wings. Weird, huh?
  • Finally, make sure to keep your eye on the sidebars.

The Ducks-Red Wings and Penguins-Capitals blogs have been especially busy lately and we also have plenty of goodness going on in the Hurricanes-Bruins and Canucks-Blackhawks blogs. I’ll try to keep a better eye on them as the series go deeper, but don’t let their great (no, make that superior) work slip under the radar.

Hockey Orphan: Boston Bruins

January 12, 2009
Chara = unmitigated beast

(Definitely make sure to read the Hockey Orphan by Evan from Stanley Cup of Chowder first. My take is meant to be the fattening dessert after Evan’s main course.)

Evan covered the key pluses and minuses that come with being a Boston Bruins fan but there’s a few other things to think about when considering the Killer Bees.

Zdeno Chara, mountain of a man

When talking to my sports-but-not-hockey-fan friends, Chara is one of the guys who achieves mythical status. After all, is there anything more terrifying than a guy who ends up being seven feet tall on skates?

My favorite Chara story came from last summer. During the off-season, it was rumored that Chara wanted to be completely awake during his shoulder surgery to make sure that it was completed properly. Can you imagine being the surgeon in that situation … conducting a challenging, precise surgery while some Slovak monster stares you down?

That’s just so freaking manly. The shoulder surgery story was brought you by The Campaign to Make Mike Milbury Cry.

Phil Kessel
When Kessel came into the NHL, it seemed like he was considered something of a punk (at least by NHL standards). That image changed quickly once the American sniper courageously battled testicular cancer during his rookie season.

If you cannot root for Phil K just go ahead and jump off of a tall parking garage.

Fantasy hockey implications

Definitely cannot say that I saw the Bruins coming. Not to this extent.

But from a fantasy hockey standpoint, players such as Marc Savard, David Krejci and Tim Thomas are helping savvy (or lucky) owners get a leg up on the competition.

Wicked cool jerseys

The Original Six teams have the market cornered on cool jerseys and the Bruins are no exception. Great color scheme, the spoked wheel … it all works so well.

The unmatchable quality of their classic jerseys probably explains why they’ve struggled to come up with a good third jersey. That being said, their solid current third unis definitely look a lot better than those yellow bear monstrosities from the Joe Thornton days.

The Jacobs Factor

Evan touched on this, but the biggest mark against the team is its cheap ownership. Will the Bruins be able to lock up the red hot Kessel before he becomes a popular target for offer sheets? Can the team manage to either keep its two-headed goaltending monster (they are both free agents) or possibly make an upgrade in net?

If Jacobs is willing to pony up the cash, the Bruins could be the class of its division for years to come.

Grade: A-

Promising future, some very likable players (there is not one NHL fan who looks at Milan Lucic without a feeling of envy) and an awesome tradition. If only they mattered more to Boston fans with a slew of successful teams and to their polarizing owner.

There aren’t many teams with a mix of promise and still a hint of pre-bandwagon sneakiness quite like the Bruins.