Chara doesn’t ‘understand why all of a sudden my age is an issue’

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Zdeno Chara doesn’t get why his age is such a big deal. And the 38-year-old, younger than just 13 other NHLers this season, is getting tired of hearing about it.

“I don’t understand why all of a sudden my age is an issue just because I got hurt and I missed a lot of games, a big chunk of the season,” Chara told the Boston Globe. “I don’t like it. I don’t like when people start to judge you based on age or the amount of games you played.

“I still feel very motivated, very confident that I’m going to be healthy and strong next season. I don’t know. Obviously I am planning to play beyond what maybe people are guessing or expecting.

“Age is obviously a number, but some players or some people are meant to play for way beyond that.”

The counterpoint is that Chara’s advancing age was a topic well before he got hurt this season. The big defenseman’s fitness is legendary, but he’s still human. Next season, there will be even fewer NHLers older than he is. (Kimmo Timonen, 40, will retire, to name just one.)

Really, it’s the ultimate compliment when Bruins fans fret and skeptics wonder how Chara’s age will affect his team’s chances at competing for a Stanley Cup. Without him, would the B’s have won it all in 2011? Almost certainly not. It was the same thing in Detroit when Nicklas Lidstrom was approaching retirement. Lidstrom called it quits soon after he turned 42. The Wings last won the Cup when he was 38.

To be sure, Chara still has a couple of seasons left where he can play at a high level (even if it’s not as high as it used to be). If the Bruins are going to compete for a title while he’s still around, it’ll be up to youngsters like Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug to keep improving, and for whoever the next GM may be to improve the depth on the back end, not to mention any issues up front.