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Is Chara really elite?

Zdeno Chara is signed with the Boston Bruins through the 2017-18 season. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Zdeno Chara is signed with the Boston Bruins through the 2017-18 season. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s mailbag time once again. Thanks for all the mail you’ve put in my virtual bag – and thanks for not cracking any jokes about that last sentence. Now read this:

Hey Adam, It's been long enough... How about a Jim Balsillie question (kinda)? Do you expect the league to protest the sale of the Buffalo Sabres for $150 million? Perhaps a paltry sum in the estimations of Scrooge McDuck – cough, Commissioner Bettman – that may drive down the value of every other team.

When, not if, another team becomes available, Balsillie can potentially again come in with a bid that blows all others out of the water and the league may not have a choice but to accept, whereas if the league says no to Terry Pegula's offer, it potentially gives them an out to devaluing their product as well as keeping out the league office's Public Enemy No. 1.
Steve Malone, Freeport, N.Y.


Steve,

I agree with your logic, but let’s get real for a second: there are very few people stepping up to buy NHL franchises these days. The Phoenix Coyotes and Dallas Stars have needed new owners for some time, yet all we hear are occasional reports on how close they are to being sold.

The fact that hasn’t happened tells me Bettman and the NHL brass have to be well aware of the dearth of multimillionaires interested in owning one of their franchises, leaving the league with little leverage in driving up any particular team’s sale value (the term “beggars can’t be choosers” comes to mind).

That may, in fact, open up the door for Balsillie to show up one more time and try again to gain entrance into the NHL owner’s community. He has always been willing to pay more than the market price for a team, so long as he can move it to Southern Ontario.

With an ever-shrinking pool of potential owners, the league eventually may have no choice but to reconsider its relationship with him and let him in. But the Sabres’ sale really has no effect on Balsillie.

Hey Adam, Why is Zdeno Chara always talked about as one of the NHL’s top defensemen? When the Bruins gave him a seven-year extension this year, I had to shake my head.

Sure, he's got a heck of a reach and a blistering shot, but it seems like (a) he's always getting burned at the blueline by small, agile skaters (like Martin St-Louis); (b) his shots are never on net; (c) he turns the puck over every time he takes more than two strides with it; and (d) he's always taking mental-mistake penalties at the worst times.

I grew up watching Ray Bourque and hearing my dad talk about Bobby Orr. Are my expectations too high? Am I missing something about why the guy gets Norris Trophy votes every year?
Jeff Abbott, Worcester, Mass.


Jeff,

Certainly, there are people in the hockey industry who feel as you do, but I’m not one of them. Which isn’t to say I put Chara at or near the top of my Norris ballot each year – in fact, he wasn’t in my top five last season.

That said, the guy averages two more minutes of ice time than any other Bruins skater; has missed an average of just five games in each of the past eight seasons; currently is tied for second on the team in plus-minus (at plus-13); and, since he was traded from the Islanders organization in 2001, has been a plus-156 in 639 regular season games.

That may not qualify him for Hall of Fame status, but in today’s NHL, Chara’s skill set is more valuable than you imply. Was he given too many seasons in his latest contract? Sure he was, but virtually every top player in the league receives that same perk as well.

Adam, how do you feel about the fans voting for the NHL All-Star Game? Personally, I think it’s nonsense. If you look at the list now, thugs like Sean Avery and Paul Bissonnette are ahead of stars like Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Richards. Give me your thoughts.
Phillipe Gameriou, Shawinigan, Que.


Phillipe,

I mentioned this on THN Radio last week, but I’ll repeat it here. I can’t get angry about All-Star Game voting for the same reason I can’t get excited about the event itself: the game means nothing, the hockey that is played is in no way reflective of the NHL’s product and players would rather have the all-star break to decompress from the league’s brutal schedule.

Personally, I don’t think Avery should be anywhere near an All-Star Game because of his gutless behavior on the ice. But why shouldn’t a guy like Bissonnette (or less recently, Rory Fitzpatrick) get some love from hockey fans? I’d bet he would have a lot more fun during the festivities than superstars who’ve seen it all before.

Hey Adam. Alex Ovechkin's numbers are way down lately. As a Caps fan, I can say that I'd rather have the Caps win the Cup than have Ovie ever score again.

Do you think it's better for the team if he starts playing more of a team game, rather than going for 10 shots every night like he has the past five seasons? Even without him putting up points, the Caps are still winning, so do the Caps finally have a team that can get it done without the Great 8?
Jerred Jackson, Gaithersburg, Md.


Hey Jerred,

It’s impossible to say whether Washington has a Cup-winning team this season, but I don’t think anyone in the Capitals organization would be upset with Ovechkin trying to become a more well-rounded player.

And just about every NHLer would tell you the same thing – they couldn’t care less about personal statistics as long as the team was successful. That may not be true in every case, but in Ovechkin’s case, I think he has seen what Sidney Crosby has achieved and his competitive streak has driven him to try and match it.

Adam, do you think a trade could happen between the Red Wings and the Devils if the Wings packaged Jiri Hudler and draft picks for Martin Brodeur? We have too many talented forwards and no depth at goaltending. Chris Osgood is suspect, man.
Darin Sirois, Ypsilanti, Mich.


Darin,

Like most fans, you’re seeing the trade strictly from your team’s perspective. Try to see it from New Jersey’s. You’d trade the greatest player in team history for an underachieving forward and draft picks that, because of Detroit’s regular season success, likely will be at the bottom of any round?

You might, but there is no chance whatsoever Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would. My money is on Brodeur retiring as a Devil (and Osgood retiring after this season).

Moreover, the Wings’ goalie situation, should they decide to address it, can be dealt with a little later in the season. Right now, they’ve got enough wiggle room in the standings to wait it out and see if it comes around before looking to improve via a trade.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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