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Chiarelli Says Chara Has Grown as a Leader

by John Bishop / Boston Bruins
BOSTON -- Clearly there's a connection between former Ottawa Senators Assistant General Manager Peter Chiarelli and former Sens standout Zdeno Chara. Before the pair arrived in Boston, the B's GM and captain were both part of an Ottawa squad that fell to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2003.

Chara and the Bruins surround the Prince of Wales Trophy (photo: Babineau).
"That was a bit of painful memory," said Chiarelli during a press conference on Saturday.

"But we just kind of connected briefly after last night’s game and I could see a little bit of a twinkle in his eye.

"It was kind of a special moment for me to share that moment with him," he said.

Chara and Chiarelli got to share that moment with most of New England (and, for that matter, Bruins fans throughout the world), but the GM was also pleased to see his captain shine in the spotlight throughout this season.

"I can’t say enough about him as a player," said Chiarelli, who spoke of Chara's defensive impact. "I think this series you saw him try and do a little more offensively on his own and at clutch times. So that was for me, the was him stepping up.

"His leadership abilities have grown exponentially...[and] I can’t say enough about Zee and the impact that he has in the locker room and on the ice."

On the ice, Chara was one of the current Bruins building blocks. Signed by the Bruins on July 1, 2006, the now 13 year NHL veteran was joined by Chiarelli officially on July 8th of that same year. Since then, Chara has garnered a reputation as one of the most fearsome defensive forces in the NHL, a reputation the 6'9 blueline only augmented in Game 7 versus Tampa Bay.

Combined with current defense partner Dennis Seidenberg, and thanks to a shutout performance by Tim Thomas, the B's closed down a very talented Tampa Bay offense during the most important game of the campaign.

"It was a conscious effort on the part of the coaching staff and the management get Chara and Seidenberg those heavier minutes, to really put them in to a strong shut down role," said Chiarelli when asked about the changes Boston Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien had made to the B's lineup during the series.

"That’s part of the plan and we’ve kind of worked from that end out," added Chiarelli of the B's defense-first outlook. "This year we’ve went in to this year trying to score more goals, but it was always maintaining the defensively side of things.

"I know sometimes we get knocked for that, but we...have two of the best defensive players in the league, Chara and Thomas. So why not build around it?"

But Chara's on-ice prowess is only part of the story for Chiarelli.

It's the B's captain's commitment to the team in and around the locker room that has made the difference and Chiarelli thought that point was illustrated perfectly by Chara's insistance that the entire team surround (but not touch) the Prince of Wales Trophy after the club's victory over Tampa Bay.

"It says a lot about the team," explained Chiarelli. "Zee’s never been there so he goes up there, and you always talk about whether you touch the trophy or not, and you’re probably thinking about a bunch of different things like, 'Wow, we made it' and all this stuff.

"Well, you can tell what’s first on his mind, like let’s get the team up there.

"And you look at the photo afterwards, it’s a pretty cool photo."
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