Once a creative glimpse into a player’s style and soul, hockey nicknames sure aren’t what they once were.
It’s a shame to think Maurice Richard, known as ‘The Rocket’ in his day, would probably be referred to as ‘Richie’ today.
However, for all the bland monikers that are merely alterations of a last name, there is one that perfectly crystallizes what a player and person is all about; ‘Big Z.’
Everything about Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara is big, from his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame, to his 100 mile-per-hour slap shot, to the grin on his face when one of those rockets bulges the twine.
He has become the complete embodiment of the Boston Bruins. Not every player on the team can contribute as much as Chara, but they can take their cues from the immense dedication he has to his craft, both as a disciplined, hard-working player on the ice and a notorious workout fiend off of it.
Chara is Boston’s franchise-defining player. He’s a captain the organization can feel confident in telling every other person clad in black and gold, ‘be like this guy.’
But, who’s that player for the Montreal Canadiens?
They have a courageous captain in Saku Koivu, but his on-ice presence stands in stark contrast to Chara’s. Koivu is all heart, but he barely comes up to the ‘C’ on Chara’s jersey. He’s not a player who can carry a team on his undersized back.
Alex Kovalev is proving once again he’s full of talent, but is he really in a position to challenge teammates to elevate their game when he tends to disappear for long stretches at a time?
Even defenseman Andrei Markov, Montreal’s best player throughout the regular season and one who the Habs dearly missed in the playoffs, lacks the all-around tools and fierce intensity to truly lead a team.
The Canadiens will have a lot of questions to answer this off-season, particularly with regard to which free agents the team wants to re-sign. What the Habs really need is to find that player who can become as big a deal to them as Big Z is to the Bruins.
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Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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