by PuckStopsHere on 01/06/11 at 06:07 PM ET
One interesting question I try to track is at which point an active player cements his case as a Hockey Hall of Famer. At what point should he be inducted regardless of what happens in the rest of his career? I think Zdeno Chara has reached that level. This is not because of any single recent event, but rather looking at the totality of his career at this point.
Chara has won the Norris Trophy as best defenceman in the NHL in 2009. He was also a first team All Star in 2004 as well as his 2009 Norris year. In 2006 and 2008, he was a second team All Star. He has been a strong performer for Slovakia in international play, having been on their last two Olympic teams.
We are essentially halfway through the current NHL season and Chara is having another solid season. He leads the Boston Bruins in ice time. When ranked by ice time per game, Chara ranks third in the league (behind Dan Boyle and Duncan Keith). He is clearly having another very good season and is extremely important to his team.
He is a darkhorse candidate to get a Norris Trophy nomination this year. The Norris Trophy is often a trophy that requires a good defensive reputation to win. It is arguable that it has never been won by a player who hasn’t been a serious Norris Trophy candidate in a previous season. This year, several of the top defencemen have not been Norris candidates in the past. Players like Dustin Byfuglien and Kris Letang will find it hard to receive enough votes to win it because they have never been serious candidates in the past. This leaves Nicklas Lidstrom the top candidate in many minds, since he is a proven Norris winner in the past. Lidstrom however has not done so well at even strength. He only has 14 even strength points this season (though he has been a beast on the power play). This is reflected in his puck possession stats such as Corsi and +/- and shows that he is not playing at the level he was during his prime, but no other defenceman has stepped up to take his place. Chara does not have the offensive numbers of the current top Norris Trophy, but he has strong defensive numbers and a good reputation as a past Norris Trophy winner.
The fact that Zdeno Chara is a former Norris Trophy winner and a multiple time post season all star, who has such a strong reputation to be a Norris Trophy candidate in a year when there are few frontrunners, he is a Hall of Fame defenceman in my book.
Zdeno Chara is the 15th player on my list of currently active hockey players who should make the Hall of Fame regardless of what happens in the rest of their careers. This list is:
This list is likely to grow as more hockey is played this season, as more players might make it. It may also shrink as it seems a Peter Forsberg retirement announcement may come soon.
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