How much does Zdeno Chara have left at 40?

This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…

By most measures – including the “eye test” – Zdeno Chara has lost a few steps, with last season providing the starkest example.

The tricky thing with declining superstars is weighing how you remember them vs. whether or not they remain effective. In the case of the Boston Bruins, the archaic structure of Chara’s contract makes it easier to reconcile his decline in 2017-18; his cap hit sinks from just under $7 million to a trimmer $4 million.

If things were totally fair to “The Big Z,” both fans and management would expect Chara’s work to be closer to that of a $4M player.

A No. 1 defenseman’s burden

Such a mindset would represent a change of pace, as reports of Chara’s decreased workload seem largely exaggerated.

Yes, 23:20 time on ice per game represents his lowest average since 2001-02, but he still easily topped all Bruins skaters in ice time. Torey Krug was second with 21:36 and Brandon Carlo was a quick study with 20:48, representing the only B’s who averaged 20+ minutes.

Those aren’t cushy minutes, either. Chara easily averaged the most shorthanded time per game, too, with 3:46 per night. Carlo came in second with just 2:36.

More of his shifts are starting in the defensive zone, too. In 2016-17, he began 58.9 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone versus just 41.1 in the offensive zone. That’s his highest d-zone percentage since Hockey Reference’s numbers began recording in 2007-08 and the lowest of his career for offense via those same metrics.

In stating that he wants to play beyond next season, Chara not-too-surprisingly welcomed the big minutes, as NESN reported in late April.

“I can only control what I can control, and that’s being in shape and when they give me those minutes, I’m handling them,” Chara said. “I love it. I enjoy it. I want to be on the ice all the time and I want to be on the ice in all the situations.”

Time to temper expectations?

Even at his advanced age, Chara tends to put up decent possession stats, though things admittedly get fuzzier when you go deeper.

To his credit, he’s still scoring at a decent clip, relatively speaking.

He generated a respectable 29 points (including a robust 10 goals) last season, and managed 37 in 2015-16.

Chara’s effectiveness seems to trend toward those offensive numbers lately. This chart compares him to its template for a No. 1 defenseman, and it seems that Chara seemingly slipped out of that designation:

By the fancy-stats-friendly (but also eye-friendly) setup of HERO charts, Chara probably rests closer to a No. 2 defenseman. There’s no shame in that, especially for a 40-year-old man, but his precipitous drop is as apparent in “fancy stats” terms as it is to most onlookers.

Pass the torch

As painful as 2016-17 was at times, it also seemed like Carlo and later, Charlie McAvoy, really rose up the ranks in the Bruins’ defense.

Between Carlo, McAvoy, and Torey Krug, Boston is gaining players they trust more and more. Even if Chara were to continue playing and continue playing with the Bruins, the 2017-18 season seems like an obvious time to transition a greater share of the responsibilities to younger blueliners.

Chara isn’t what he used to be, but he still has the potential to help the Bruins win. Just not like he used to, and if the B’s are smart, not even like he used to last season.

Predators’ P.K. Subban named EA Sports NHL 19 cover athlete

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As announced during Wednesday’s NHL Awards, P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators will be the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 19 video game.

This is Subban’s first time on the cover of the series, which featured Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid last year.

More details from EA:

For the first time in franchise history, NHL® 19 allows players to journey from the pond to the pros and play on outdoor rinks in new and returning game modes. Players can create a character and express their look and playstyle with over 900 new customization items including, for the first time, lifestyle apparel inspired by pond hockey. On the ice, the cutting-edge animation technology Real Player Motion (RPM) Tech delivers explosive-edge skating with more acceleration and responsiveness that looks and feels better. NHL® 19 also lets players compete with and against over 200 of the greatest hockey legends to ever play the sport, including Wayne Gretzky.

In NHL® 19, the sport returns to the ponds where players can compete under a unified progression hub called World of CHEL that unites EA SPORTS Hockey League, NHL THREES™ Drop In and two new modes, NHL ONES™ and Pro-Am. NHL ONES™ pits three players against each other in a 1v1v1 free-for-all with no rules and no stoppages. Players can win to rank up to new outdoor locations and defend their position as king-of-the-hill. Players can also play in any World of CHEL mode to progress their online Create-A-Character, unlock rewards, and customize their look and their playstyle.

EA Sports

Here’s the full trailer:

The game is set to be released Sept. 14 for Playstation 4 and XBOX One.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Golden Knights’ William Karlsson lands Lady Byng

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William Karlsson just finished a fantastic season, so it’s nice to see him take home a trophy at the 2018 NHL Awards.

Karlsson generated 43 goals, 78 points, and just 12 penalty minutes during the 2017-18 season on his way to winning the Lady Byng Trophy. The other finalists were Aleksander Barkov and Ryan O'Reilly.

(Note: it’s unclear if Karlsson edged out his competition by way of hair flips.)

Here are the voting results. Note that this was cut off at the top 20, while 49 players received at least one vote. As a reminder, the Lady Byng is “given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

This is a nifty factoid about Karlsson’s win:

Devils’ Brian Boyle receives Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

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Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils is the recipient of the 2018 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The award is given to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association nominate a player from each of their 31 chapters and three finalists are named after a vote.

Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes were the other two finalists.

A $2,500 grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.

Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in September and missed the opening month of the season before returning Nov. 1. One week later he scored an emotional first goal of the season. He inspired a mural in New York City and later represented the New Jersey Devils at the NHL All-Star Game in Tampa in place of teammate Taylor Hall.

The Devils forward didn’t only deal with a cancer diagnosis this season. Boyle and his wife, Lauren, also went through an ordeal where doctors believed their two-year-old son Declan was possibly dealing with Ewing sarcoma of the mandible. Turns out it was a rare condition that impacts blood flow and oxygen circulation, and after a handful of procedures the situation is under control.

Boyle’s red and white blood cell counts show little traces of CML remaining. He told Dan Rosen of this week that he could be off medication in three to six months.

“I am in a good spot,” Boyle said. “I’m certainly not concerned.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Islanders’ Mathew Barzal claims Calder Trophy

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Mathew Barzal became the fifth New York Islander to win the Calder Trophy, which was handed out during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.”

Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Bryan Berard were the previous Islanders players to win the rookie of the year award.

“This is an amazing honor to win the Calder Trophy,” Barzal said. “The players that have won this award, within the Islanders organization and then others around the league, includes Hall of Fame players and Stanley Cup Champions. To have my name next to those guys in the record books is very humbling.”

Barzal led all rookies with 85 points and 27 power play points, and finished sixth in goals with 22. He was also the only rookie to average over a point per game (1.04). He finished the season as the Islanders leading scorer and was fourth on the team in goals.

One of the many highlights of Barzal’s rookie season was the three 5-point games he recorded, which made him him the second rookie in league history to achieve the feat. Joe Malone last did it 100 years ago during the NHL’s first season in 1917-18.

Here’s what the voting looked like as Barzal beat out the other two finalists, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.