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A closer look at what rocky Norris voting has meant for Zdeno Chara 10.08.14 at 1:56 am ET
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The following is a complementary piece to today’€™s feature on Zdeno Chara. To read the full piece, click here.

Zdeno Chara's lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Zdeno Chara‘s lone Norris win came in 2009. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Last season, Chara finished a distant second to Duncan Keith for the Norris Trophy, which is voted on each season by members of the Professional Hockey Writers’€™ Association (full disclosure: I am a voting member who gave Chara my top vote last season).

Intended to go to the league’€™s top defenseman each season, the Norris is perhaps the most up-for-interpretation award on which the writers vote.

Voting, in the eyes of the players and at least this member of the media, is out of control. Either more specific criteria should be set for voters or writers shouldn’€™t determine who wins. The Vezina Trophy, for example, is voted on by NHL general managers. They mess it up sometimes, too, but general managers are (for the most part) smarter than writers.

“A lot of times, it’€™s like a political campaign,” Ray Bourque, a five-time Norris-winner in his day, told WEEI.com.

Defensive metrics are becoming more widely available, but as they become fine-tuned and the hockey world slowly begins to accept them, the statistic that voters continue to look to first remains points. Lunacy.

In 2012, Erik Karlsson won the award, while Chara finished third. The year after that, P.K. Subban won. Both Karlsson and Subban’€™s Norris wins were based exclusively on points; Karlsson did not kill penalties for the Senators and Subban was 12th on the Habs in shorthanded time on ice the year he won.

Yet Subban, after tying for the lead among NHL defensemen in points in his Norris-winning season, finished fifth in points last season but dropped all the way to 14th in voting, receiving a single third-place vote and a single fifth-place vote. So is the award about playing defense or putting up points? If it’€™s the latter, why were Subban’€™s points ignored last season? And why, then, were Mike Green‘€™s 31 goals in Chara’€™s Norris-winning season not enough to wrest the trophy from Chara?

It’€™s that inconsistency in voting that each year brings Chara closer to finishing a Hall of Fame career with just one Norris to show for it.

“You kind of feel like, ‘€˜OK, is this going to ever happen again or is this going to change or are they going to look at it differently?’€™” Chara said. “Because every year they tell you, ‘€˜He didn’€™t get it because he had a lot of points, a lot of goals, but he’€™s not an all-around defenseman.’€™ Then the next year they’€™ll be like, ‘€˜Hey, he’€™s an all-around defenseman but this [other] guy got 25 goals as a defenseman,’€™ so it’€™s like every year it’€™s almost like it swings, the way they look at it. How do you know really [what they want]?”

Over the last 10 seasons, Chara has been a top-three finisher in Norris voting six times and finished in the top five eight times. His only win came in 2008-09, and while both Niklas Lidstrom and Keith have won the award multiple times in that span, no defenseman has finished near the top with Chara’€™s consistency in the last 10 years.

Translation: Chara comes up short a lot.

He loses because of points. In fact, he even understands that though he was the best all-around defenseman in the league last year, his 17 goals (10 of which were on the power play, where he mostly played forward) were probably as big a reason that he got as many votes as he did as his defensive dominance.

Winning the Norris is important to Chara, but he shouldn’€™t expect to win it again. Last season he was as deserving of the award as he usually is –€“ Chara’€™s performance was backed up well by both advanced and old-fashioned stats (his plus-25 rating was tops among the top 10 vote-getters; Shea Weber, who played tougher minutes, was a minus-2) — but he was blown out of the water by Keith, a well-rounded defenseman who was used on Chicago’€™s second pairing to maximize his offensive output. That meant a sensational 61 points (second among defensemen) but it came against easier competition than Chara faced.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com.

A usage chart for the top-five Norris vote-getters last season, courtesy of HockeyAbstract.com. X-axis: Offensive zone start %. Y-axis: CorsiRel Quality of Competition. Bubble size: Time on ice. Bubble color: Corsi On

The Blackhawks’€™ usage of Keith was brilliant, but it should have done more for Joel Quenneville’€™s Jack Adams (top coach; voted on by broadcasters) candidacy than it did for Keith’€™s Norris odds. Regardless, the voting wasn’€™t close. Keith finished first in votes with 1033 points and 68 first-place votes. Chara was given 667 points, receiving less than a third of Keith’€™s first-place votes with 21.

“I’€™m not mad about Duncan or anybody who is winning the trophy,”€ Chara clarified. “€œI just feel a little bit disappointed at times that I’€™ve really felt I had a strong season, I really had an all-around season and I would deserve it, but it’€™s voting. It’€™s in the hands of writers, and [that] is obviously something that only [writers] who have votes can change and make a difference, if that’€™s something you guys feel should be different.”

Bourque’€™s five Norris seasons give him the fourth-most in NHL history behind Bobby Orr (eight), Doug Harvey and Nicklas Lidstrom (seven apiece). Keith, who won the award as a shutdown defenseman in 2009-10, is now in the exclusive club of players with multiple Norris wins (12 players).

It’€™s very easy to argue that Chara should be in that club, but both he and anyone who has seen how the votes have fallen over the years should be wise enough to not hold their breath.

“If you want to get me started talking about the Norris Trophy and who should win it and how that all comes about in terms of who wins it in certain years,’€ Bourque said, ‘€œ’€… I think that Karlsson in Ottawa is an incredible offense player, but I think that when you look at the Norris Trophy and the position of DEFENSE-man, and I put an emphasis on DEFENSE-man, it’€™s incredible to me sometimes, the voting and how it all happens.

“Believe me, I’€™ve been there,”€ Bourque added. “I’€™ve been in his shoes many, many times. I won it five times, but it was very frustrating at times, not saying that I’€™ve won it more times.”

Read More: Duncan Keith, Ray Bourque, Zdeno Chara,
Endicott names hockey arena after Ray Bourque 07.29.14 at 4:31 pm ET
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Endicott College broke ground Tuesday on a new sports complex that will be named after Hall of Fame Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque.

Raymond J. Bourque Arena is expected to be ready in time for the 2015-16 academic year and will be the home of Endicott’€™s Division III hockey teams.

“When we began speaking with Ray about the naming of the arena in his honor, our thought was that we wanted to inspire our youth, our students, and our community to emulate the qualities that he has as an athlete and as a man,”€ Endicott president Dr. Richard E. Wylie said in a press release. “€œIn true Bourque fashion, he was most appreciative about being honored but far more interested about what impact this would have on the kids and the community.”

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Ray Bourque on M&M: Dougie Hamilton ‘a little bit like I was at that age’ 01.16.13 at 2:19 pm ET
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Bruins legend Ray Bourque talked with Mut & Merloni on Wednesday about the end of the NHL lockout, his son’s play at Bruins camp, and Dougie Hamilton‘s situation as a promising teenage defenseman.

Through Celebrities for Charities, Bourque is sponsoring a raffle in which the winner gets to watch the Bruins’ season-opener with him and his family — an opportunity many Bruins fans would love no matter what, but even more so considering that Chris Bourque could be taking the ice.

“He is so excited about the opportunity,” Bourque said of his son. “This kid grew up in the old Garden and the FleetCenter and the new Garden, skating. I’d bring him to the rink as much as as I could, two, three times a week, and he’d start skating. He was on skates at 2½. Chris and his brother Ryan ran around that room and drove the trainers crazy for many, many years. To put that Bruins jersey on last night [in the Bruins’ scrimmage against the AHL Providence Bruins] and go out and play in the Garden was a real thrill for him.

“I wasn’t at the game last night — I actually went and saw my younger son Ryan play in Portland as part of the Rangers’ farm team — but I’m really excited and hoping to see [Chris] this weekend. And I got a lot of texts saying he played well and did a good job.”

Bourque also weighed in on Hamilton, who will try to establish himself as a high-scoring 19-year-old Bruins defenseman this year, just as Bourque himself once did.

“The position is not an easy one to play in the NHL at a young age,” Bourque said. “But I’ve got to say, he’s coming into such a good situation, just like I did. I didn’t come in with an expansion team or where expectations are for you to carry a load, to be the savior. He’s just here to do his job and play his game, and his game is a very good game.

“He’s got a lot of talent, he’s got great size, he’s got all the tools. Who knows how it’s going to start, but this kid could play for the Bruins for many many years. It’s a comfortable situation to come into as a young guy you’re supported by so many veterans. Guys like [Zdeno] Chara and [Dennis] Seidenberg and their whole defense corps are very solid and such great veterans in how they go about their business and how they prepare and all that stuff. For a young guy to see that and to live that, there’s no better situation to be in, and I know they’re going to be right there in terms of support for him and giving him advice. Just watching with your own eyes and seeing how they’re doing their job will be great for him.

“I met him the other night. He was at my restaurant, Tresca, and he was coming out. Very quiet, very shy, a little bit like I was at that age. I just spoke to him for a little bit and look forward to talking with him more. He’s excited about the opportunity. I think we’re going to see him around this year, but many, many years to come, we’re going to see this guy and he’s going to be a big part of the Bruins.”

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Read More: Chris Bourque, Dougie Hamilton, Ray Bourque,
Ray Bourque on D&C: Physical play and will the key for Bruins 06.09.11 at 9:47 am ET
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Former Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque joined Dennis & Callahan Thursday morning following the Bruins 4-0 win in Game 4 to discuss the game and the remainder of the series with the Canucks. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

‘€œI saw the Bruins come out with a different will in Game 3, from the opening shift when [Mark] Recchi went out ran over two guys, they were trying to be so much more physical than they were in Vancouver,” Bourque said. “I see a different will from the Bruins, and obviously that hit on [Nathan] Horton fueled things even more for the guys to rally around and make them more determined and hungry and want to win it for him. They just kept coming and coming to Vancouver in terms of physical play ‘€¦ As both games wore on you could see the Bruins were wearing down Vancouver and how they were playing physically and it was fun to watch.’€

Bourque discussed how goaltending has been such a major difference in the series.

“As you look at both teams their backbone is their goaltending and  they rely on their goaltending so much, and Tim Thomas has been so much better than [Roberto] Luongo. I think that is wearing on Vancouver, as they are saying, ‘€˜what are we going to get tonight from this guy?’€™ He’€™s been struggling.’€

Although Luongo has in fact struggled, Bourque does not expect a Cancucks goalie change for Game 5.

‘€œI think you have to go with the guy that has gotten you there and is a Vezina trophy finalist, with Thomas, and you hope he gets back home and feels comfortable and plays his game,” he said. “I think you can’t go away from him, his track record in regular season is so strong … he’s got to the finals so you have to ride him out.”

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Read More: 2011 NHL Playoffs, Nathan Horton, Ray Bourque, Tim Thomas
Andy Brickley on D&C: ‘I expect to get Tampa’s best game of this series’ 05.25.11 at 10:28 am ET
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NESN hockey analyst Andy Brickley joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to offer his views on the Eastern Conference finals. The Bruins are in Tampa for Game 6 Wednesday night, holding a 3-2 series lead. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

“I think the Bruins have the edge,” Brickley said. “I guess there’s a piece of them that says, ‘Look, even if we don’t win this game, we still have Game 7. We play it on home ice. We know that we’ve beaten this team three times. We’re confident. We’re coming off a victory. We’ve shown that we’re a bigger, more physical, stronger team when we execute the way we’re supposed to play. We felt that we were a deeper more balanced team coming into this playoff series.’

“So, I think the advantage goes to Boston. They feel they have another level to their game that they haven’t reached yet. They really haven’t put together that proverbial, perfect 60 minutes. They feel that if they do that, there won’t be a Game 7.”

However, Brickley predicts there will be another game in this series Friday night. “I originally said it was going to be Boston in seven … and I’m going to stand by that,” he said. “I like Boston tonight, I think they’re going to play well. But I expect to get Tampa’s best game of this series.”

Lightning coach Guy Boucher will return Dwayne Roloson to goal after giving him a break in Game 5. Brickley said he agrees with Roloson starting. “I was more surprised that he actually played Mike Smith, to be honest with you,” Brickley said. “As well as Smith has played in this series, I felt that that trust between GM, coach and goaltender when they acquired Roloson was for this purpose, was to play the biggest games, the biggest moments. I thought last game was one, and certainly tonight is another.”

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Read More: Andy Brickley, Bobby Orr, Dwayne Roloson, Mike Smith
Ray Bourque on D&C: Defensively, Zdeno Chara is ‘one of the best that’s ever been’ at 7:56 am ET
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Legendary Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque stopped by for a chat with Dennis & Callahan Wednesday morning during a charity benefit for the Massachusetts Soldiers Legacy Fund at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Boston. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Asked if the Lightning have a psychological edge over the Bruins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night because they are the more desperate team, Bourque said: “I think it brings the best out of you, so I’d say yes. But the flip side of that, the Bruins are kind of a good counter-puncher kind of a team.

“Sometimes when you come out with that kind of energy or intensity, you might try to do too much and make mistakes and counter and maybe take advantage of those mistakes and go down early in the game, like you saw in Game 4 in Tampa. That’s what happened. It’s not that the Bruins played an incredible first period and came out of that period up 3-0. It’s Tampa that made some mistakes, and the Bruins capitalized on it. So, a game like tonight, you could see that happening again.”

Should the Bruins finish off the Lightning, the challenge in the Stanley Cup finals would be enormous. “Vancouver’s going to be very tough,” Bourque said. “That’s going to be by far their toughest series.”

Bourque said no matter how the season ends this year, the future looks bright for this Bruins team. “I think it’s a very good team with a great goalie, and a team that’s only going to get better, I think, in years to come,” he said. “And experiencing what they’re experiencing this year in the playoffs, the growth of some of these players is going to be tremendous.”

Asked where Zdeno Chara rates among the best Bruins defensemen ever ‘€” a list that includes Bourque and Bobby Orr ‘€” Bourque was highly complimentary of the Czech standout.

“I think defensively he’s better than both of us,” Bourque said. “He’s a shutdown D that is like no other in the league. I’ll tell you that any player playing against him ‘€” you’re not hearing much about [Martin] St. Louis or [Vincent] Lecavalier because of Zdeno. That’s why.

“Defensively, he’s the best, and one of the best that’s ever been because of his size and his strength and his reach. I mean, this guy’s 7 foot on skates and his reach is incredible. You just watch him, like Inspector Gadget all of a sudden ‘€” bang, that stick comes out, and it’s amazing.”

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Read More: Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara
Ray Bourque on M&M: Bruins ‘shouldn’t lose’ to Canadiens in potential playoff series 03.25.11 at 12:45 pm ET
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Bruins legend Ray Bourque appeared on the Mut & Merloni show Friday to talk about the NHL‘€™s crackdown on hits to the head, rookie Tyler Seguin and what to expect from the Bruins in the playoffs. To hear the interview, visit the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Bourque said that not only are hits to the head more noticeable now because of the NHL‘€™s crackdown, but also because it seems like there are just more of them. ‘€œI think some of the stuff has changed,’€ Bourque said. ‘€œYou might’€™ve seen certain hits that were similar in our day, but it seems like there were less head shots.

‘€œJust flagrant elbows to the head, you’€™re seeing a lot more it seems like, like [Matt] Cooke a few times that he’€™s done,’€ Bourque continued. ‘€œI don’€™t think you used to see that as much. I’€™m not sure why you’€™re seeing more of that now, if it’€™s lack of respect for each other out there or what. I’€™m happy that they’€™re really trying to cut it down.’€

Bourque also discussed Mark Recchi‘€™s comments about the Canadiens embellishing the severity of Max Pacioretty‘€™s concussion after Zdeno Chara‘s hit on him. Bourque said that sometimes it’€™s necessary for a veteran leader to step up and take some pressure of a teammate.

‘€œThat was a nice veteran move and great leadership in terms of taking a little of the pressure off and moving it on him and bringing some things up for question that were being talked about,’€ he said.

The guys asked Bourque about Seguin and some of the challenges he’€™s facing as a rookie, particularly when it comes to the physical play in the NHL. ‘€œWell, I think that’€™s a big part of it, the physical part of the game,’€ Bourque said. ‘€œBut also, he’€™s such a young guy. You’€™ll look at this kid three years from now, in terms of maturity mentally and physically, he’€™s going to be in a different place. That’€™s what he has to gain and he has to grow.

‘€œAnd he’€™s in a different situation than Taylor Hall,’€ Bourque added. ‘€œTaylor Hall, [the Oilers] can play him all they want. He can make mistakes and they can keep throwing him out there. That’€™s not the case with the Bruins. The Bruins are going for something here. Every shift is an important one for them.’€

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Read More: Mark Recchi, Ray Bourque, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara
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