Touching All the Bases

Sunday Mail: If Bruins Can Survive Without Chara, They Can Thrive When He Returns

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I’m not about to go so far as to suggest Zdeno Chara’s knee injury could be a blessing in disguise. That would require blindly shrugging off all that he means to the Bruins.

He is not just one of the league’s premier defensemen, even as he slows subtly at age 37, but he is essential to the Bruins’ approach and philosophy. Few players in the league better fit the scheme and vice versa than how Chara fits the Bruins. Hell, yes, he will be missed.

But I also do believe this to be true: It does not spell the end of their Stanley Cup hopes. It may not damage them at all, really. Chara is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. If it’s the conservative end of that estimate — and he does not require surgery — let’s say he returns for the Dec. 11 game against the Blackhawks. That would mean a 20-game absence. That is certainly surmountable and survivable.

Even if they play .500 hockey in that stretch — a reasonable expectation given that the core of a 54-19-9 team, save for Chara and the departed Jarome Iginla and Johnny Boychuk, remains in tact — they should not struggle to make the East playoffs. And really, that’s all that matters. Seeding in the NHL playoffs is more of a suggestion than an accurate ranking of the teams. The reigning Stanley Cup champion Kings finished with just the sixth-most points in the West last year. And we know how the Presidents Trophy winners fared against Montreal.

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In Chara’s absence, some other Bruins will be forced to take on a larger role. That’s a good thing, even as the Bruins’ supposed training-camp depth on the blueline suddenly feels like the Red Sox gloating about having too much starting pitching right before they traded Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena.

Dennis Seidenberg has to shake off the rust. Dougie Hamilton has the weight on him to make that anticipated leap now. Matt Bartkowski is going to be asked to get the puck out of his own end at least once a game now. The pressure is on them to do the job better.

They can’t lean on Chara now. This may benefit them in the long run, when Chara comes back, rested, hopefully healthy, and ready to help the Bruins make a run no matter where they are seeded.

On to …

THE MAILBOX

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You think Joe Maddon could fit in Boston…. he’s always so involved with the media. Successful types have always been more withdrawn, see Bill Belichick, Terry Francona.
— BB

Yeah, he’d fit here. Excellent manager (albeit one with some annoying look-how-sharp-I-am tendencies), and being engaging with the media isn’t going to hurt him in any market. I wouldn’t call Francona withdrawn, either. I’ve never seen any coach or manager in any sport better explain his thought process than Francona did.

I’m glad they’re not pursuing Madden. John Farrell may not be the tactician Maddon is, but he’s respected by the players, has an honest relationship with the general manager, understands and even helps shape the organizational philosophy. He’s a big part of what they are trying to do here.

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And the Red Sox would look downright ruthless if they fired Farrell a year removed from winning the World Series. I get why they would — and should — stand by him. What I don’t get is why the Dodgers are committed to Don Mattingly right now.

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Better chance of being on the Pats by season’s end: Larry Fitzgerald, Vincent Jackson or me?
— Steve D.

If you’re 5 feet 9 inches tall and had a spectacular time in the cone drill at the combine, I like your chances, Steve.

We’ve all pined for Fitzgerald — can you imagine what he and Brady would have accomplished together when they were both at their peak? He’s not the deep threat Randy Moss was — who is or was? — but he is/was a better all-around receiver. But I just can’t see how it happens, because they have to find some way to circumvent a $23.6 million cap number next year.

It would make sense for the Bucs to trade Jackson, but he’ll be 32 before the Super Bowl, hasn’t always been a max-effort guy, and has a $12.2 million cap hit each year through 2016.

It wouldn’t shock me if the Patriots traded for him. the NFL Network reported this morning that they have inquired with the Bucs. But it wouldn’t shock me if they think Brandon LaFell is a better fit at this point, either.

q

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Harold Reynolds seems to know less about baseball every time he’s on TV. How does he keep getting on TV?
— Guest

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Because he’s affable, friendly, amiable, genial, congenial, cordial, warm, pleasant, nice, likable, personable, charming, agreeable, sympathetic, simpatico, good-humored, good-natured, jolly, kindly, kind, courteous, civil, gracious, approachable, accessible, amenable, sociable, hail-fellow-well-met, outgoing, gregarious, neighborly … and he’s these things especially when he’s around baseball executives with real decision-making clout. I’ve heard Selig loves him. (h/t Merriam-Webster thesaurus.)

Your feeling on Renee Zellweger’s transformation?
— Inquiring Minds

If it brings her happiness in some way, who are we to judge? Maybe she looks the way she always wished she did. But I always thought she was distinctively lovely, and the things she changed sure didn’t seem like flaws. There haven’t been many women, real or fictional, who were as adorably attractive as Dorothy Boyd.

Jerry Maguire holds up well, by the way, considering it’s 18 years old. Other than the Ki-Jana Carter cameo, I mean. Also: Cush equals Peyton Manning, right? Right down to the dopey younger brother. (Forget that racist dad angle, though. That is not Archie.)

Chad – Why doesn’t NESN pay competitive salaries and retain their own on-air talent? Appears to be a stepping stone to national opportunities. This doesn’t happen as much on Comcast.
— BoSoxFan

Just not their mode of operation. They try to hire talented people at their rates. If they stay, cool, so long as they appease management. If not, the attitude is, we’re NESN, we can ID talent, we’ll find someone else. CSNNE pays better, the atmosphere is collegial, and they do have the NBC Sports connection for talent with national aspirations. Carolyn Manno is one notable who moved on. Trenni Kusnierek had a prominent role during the Olympics. Just comes down to what the people running them want them to be.

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CHAD WHAT THE **** IS WRONG WITH YOU?!? HOW DARE YOU POST A QUESTION WHILE MY OFFENSE IS ON THE FIELD?!?!?!!??
— Peyton Manning

I … I’m sorry. I was too busy trying to memorize your choreography of our post-touchdown Almost Authentic Keep Away From Peyton Game to notice the offense was on the field. I mean, there’s a lot of footnotes here, sir.

Until next week, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.

Kind of obsessed with this show right now. Darryl gets bonus credit for not knowing the lyrics here.

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