Opinion: Zdeno Chara Stands Tall as Number Two

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When you look back on the Boston Bruins franchise there have been so many great defensemen to don the black and gold. From the days of Eddie Shore to the obvious greatest of number four, Bobby Orr.

The B’s have a rich history of building their teams from the back end out, with the aforementioned Orr being the cream of the crop. However, who is the second-best defenseman in team history?

Let me guess, you all shouted out Ray Bourque without hesitation. Yes, Bourque will always be one of the most decorated athletes in team history, however, the man standing behind Bobby Orr as the second greatest defenseman in franchise history is current captain, Zdeno Chara.

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Team Success

As the late Al Davis once said, “Just win baby”. And, under Zdeno Chara, the Boston Bruins have done just that. They have appeared in three Cup finals this decade, winning in 2011 to snap a 39-year drought. Bourque sure had a lot of individual success and of course, this article is not meant to be disrespectful to Ray, but at the end of the day, results matter.

Chara’s work ethic and demand for individual accountability from the players around him make him the far superior leader between the two Garden legends. From the time each guy took over their respective Bruins teams, there is no denying that Bourque was handed the far better situation for success. When Big Z found the Bruins they were a team in the dumps from the late Bourque years right through the Joe Thornton era.

It took one bad season for Z to stamp his attitude and presence on a young Bruins roster. Don’t get it twisted, Chara’s leadership and snarl brought the “Big Bad Bruin” right out of the grave and back to the success of generations past.

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Individual Success

Obviously, when you look at the individual awards Bourque stands far ahead with his five Norris Trophies as the leagues best defenceman. On the other hand, Chara has won just one Norris trophy. With that said, Chara had to contend Red Wings defenseman Niklas Lindstrom, arguably the second-best defenceman to ever lace up the skates. When Chara finally got his hands on the Norris Trophy he ended Lindstrom’s three-year reign as the top d-man. All in all, in Chara’s best years, Lindstrom won seven out of 10 seasons. If not for the perfect Swede, we would be talking about Chara a multi-time Norris Trophy winner.

In Closing

No matter what side of the fence you land, there is one absolute fact, Zdeno Chara took a Bruins team who, partially under Bourque’s watch, became the laughing stock of the NHL. The franchise was in such dire straits that when Bourque, after 22 years, finally won his first Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche the Boston fans celebrated downtown with a rally. For the Avalanche. That is just as low of a point as a franchise can be in.

Zdeno Chara looks up only to Orr in Boston Bruins team history because success trumps individual awards. There no way to quantify what Z has brought night in and night out for a decade. Whether he was blanking the games best player in Sidney Crosby in the Eastern Conference Finals or dropping the gloves with the opponents toughest, ‘Big Z’ brought the Bruins out of the swamp of mediocrity and back to the forefront of the NHL.

He has brought back memories of years past with the best decade the franchise has seen since the days of Sanderson and Orr.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The fans have already made their case. I have seen all the Boston Bruins great since 1970 and in my mind Raymond Bourque IS easily the second best defenseman in Bruins history and all of hockey for that matter. I would say it’s closer between Bobby Orr and Bourque than it is between Bourque and Zdeno Chara. Aside from being the overall better player, some more things to consider.

    It’s just sad Bourque never had the supporting cast of players Orr had (Phil Esposito, Johnny Bucyk, Gerry Cheevers, Derek Sanderson, Wayne Cashman, Johnny McKenzie, Ed Westfall, Don Awrey, Ken Hodge, Dallas Smith etc) or Chara (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask nearly all the time, then first Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin, Dennis Seidenberg, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Johnny Boychuk, Jarome Iginla and lately David Pastrnak, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Charlie Coyle etc).

    At least 9-10 above average quality players in each era while Ray Bourque had fewer guys help on high level support during his era. First (Brad Park, Rick Middleton, Barry Pederson) and later (Cam Neely, Glen Wesley, Steve Kasper, Craig Janney or later Adam Oates).
    It would have been differentif for Bourque and his Bruins if not for three very crucial reasons .
    1- The tragic trauma of winger Normand Leveille. Leveille had the speed and goal scoring ability the Bruins of this era were lacking to win against teams like New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers and later Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins. Leveille was cut down with brain hemorrhage at just 19 and never could play again.
    2-Gord Kluzak a big defensermen who was compared to Larry Robinson (size, skating, skills and toughness) was also cut down tragically. Kluzak was forced to retire long before reaching his peak. He would have given the Bruins another great defenseman to help Bourque.
    3-Harry Sinden was Bruins GM during Bourque’s era. Sinden who was sometimes a genius and sometimes not. But, Sinden was always on the cheap side of player contracts. There for the Bruins rarely could compete for a big player contract in free agency and left Bourque and Middleton or Bourque and Neely with less help or above average supporting cast than in this case Zdeno Chara.

    Raymond Bourque and his Bruins teams came close but not winning the Cup. With a little better help he could have won with the Bruins. It took Raymond Bourque just two tries with another team to win the Stanley Cup.
    Raymond Bourque is the second best defenseman in the history of the Boston Bruins.

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