Thursday Thoughts: A beginning (And thank you Zdeno Chara)

Welcome to my first Thursday Thoughts column. I’ve always wanted to do a weekly column on sports, but between the Worcester Railers and Bravehearts eating up a lot of my time, my weekly Thursday bowling (and whatever else usually happened) night, the podcast I’m doing with friends, plus all the assorted projects I’m doing, my schedule didn’t usually have any open time to write one each and every week. Even when I was doing a post for the now shelved “Worcester Sports Scene” it really wasn’t what I pictured I would do for a weekly column here in 210Sports.

My intent was to cover more local sports in these Thursday Thoughts, sort of like I was doing on WSS but with it being more about the athletes themselves than just the results of the games. The fact that under the current COVID restrictions there aren’t many local games at all means that I’m already looking at doing something different than I intended. So until we’ve reached the point in this pandemic where there’s a ton of games I’m going to have to focus on what’s being played locally, which over the last week appears to be just one Holy Cross Women’s hockey game. That’s hardly enough for a weekly post, so now I’ll also keep my eye open for anything in the sports world that has any sort of local connection.

One change that will absolutely be made is with the graphic I’m using. It looked much cooler to me sitting on my desktop than it does in actual use here on the post. Once I create a better one I’ll edit this (and any other posts I make) to use the new graphic. Which will mean people that stumble into this post in a few weeks will see the new logo and wonder what I’m talking about. Or at least I hope that’s what they’re wondering and not why I didn’t change the graphic.

Local Results
Women’s Hockey
From the Holy Cross’ press release: “Three power play goals and 49 saves from Jada Brenon lifted the Holy Cross women’s hockey team to 5-2 victory over New Hampshire Wednesday night at the Hart Center Rink. The win goes down as the program’s first-ever over the Wildcats. Millie Sirum led the way offensively with a pair of goals and one assist. Bryn Saarela and Emma Lange also had three points on the night as Saarela scored once and had two helpers and Lange assisted three times. Carly Beniek and Lilly Feeney had the Crusaders’ other two goals on the night. Brenon’s 49 saves were a season-high and the most she has stopped since making 51 saves against Vermont last February. The junior netminder played perhaps her best game of the season as she was able to see the puck extremely well all night and made a number of impressive saves.
Holy Cross’ site doesn’t allow direct linking to highlight videos, so I’ll just point toward the main page and you can click on your own. In my opinion they need to drop the background music in the highlight package, but some grad student probably likes it so we’ll have to put up with it.

Worcester Hockey Alumni in ECHL
A few former Worcester Railers players had some highlights posted to Twitter:
Saturday Mitch Gillam save

Saturday Ross Olsson fight

Sunday Nick Pierog shortie

Tuesday Eamon McAdam save

Tuesday Patrick McNally nice assist

Tuesday Patrick McNally OT assist

Thank you Captain
In news that came out yesterday, the Boston Bruins will be looking for a new captain as they’ve informed veteran Zdeno Chara they won’t be re-signing him. According to Chara on Instagram, “Recently, the Boston Bruins have informed me that they plan to move forward with their many younger and talented players and I respect their decision. Unfortunately, my time as the proud Captain of the Bruins has come to an end.” The 42-year old defense completed his 14th season with the Bruins in 2019-20, all of them as captain of the team.

I remember the first time I saw Chara. It was during the 1998-99 season when he was playing for the New York Islanders AHL affiliate, the Lowell Lock Monsters, in a game at the then-named Worcester’s Centrum Centre against the IceCats. I was standing at the glass watching warm-ups and didn’t notice him skate on to the ice. I did notice when him when he skated by me as he was taller than I was despite me standing six inches above the surface of the ice. I watched him closely that game, and he was not anywhere close to the NHL player that he would become. The smaller IceCats forwards skated around him like he was a traffic cone. I recall my notes from the game: “Big reach, super strong, can’t skate at all”. It wasn’t until his years in Ottawa that he figured out the pro game and became one of the best defensemen ever.

One thing I’m finding amusing on social media is the sheer volume of posts about people being mad that the Bruins decided to not re-sign him. The games after the NHL’s COVID shutdown showed that Chara has not lost a step, but instead has lost two or three. He’s a shell of the player he once was, and while you could argue that the $795,000 deal he signed with the Washington Capitals could have easily been matched by the Bruins there’s a bigger picture here. There are a lot of games being played this season in a short period of time, so one needs to wonder how many of those games Chara, who has already been slowed by age, would be able to play competitively in. I suspect it’s not enough.

One thing I see a lot of when a fan-favorite leaves is hatred toward the organization that their favorite guy wasn’t brought back by the team. It’s great that people have an emotional attachment to players, but oftentimes the point of view of those fans is based on local teams winning over the last couple of decades. Trust me, when teams start signing players based on what they did in the past and not what they’re projected to do, they end up not winning. For years the Bruins and Red Sox both signed “names” and not talent. And there’s a long line of “over the hill” signings to show that doesn’t work.

Names like Andre Dawson, Tony Perez, Don Baylor, and Jack Clark litter the losing records of the BoSox before they realized that young pitching beats old hitting every time. The Bruins also liked names, signing guys like Al Iafrate, Mats Naslund (who was going to retire but instead came back to the US from Sweden to sign with the Bruins), Kevin Stevens (who the Bruins managed to offload once it was clear he wasn’t the player he once was, but took another “name” in return, Rick Tocchet), Joe Mullen, and Paul Coffey. It’s actually a lot worse with the Bruins, I easily could have listed another dozen, but you get the point.

It’s great that Chara was able to get a contract for this season, but I suspect once Boston fans see him in another jersey and watch his play on the ice that they won’t be so upset over his departure. Although some people still get angry when you mention Dustin Pedroia won’t come back to play for the Red Sox, so what do I know?

Stuff you may have missed from 210Sports this week
2020 NFL Week 17 Schedule, TV, Announcers
Shenanigans Special: Happy Holidays 2020 (podcast)
December in Worcester hockey history

Not so big finish
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