TAMPA – Zdeno Chara was already looking forward to a return to his former NHL stomping ground in Ottawa for this month’s All-Star game festivities, and now he’ll do it in the familiar role as a captain.
The NHL named the B’s captain and Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson as the acting captains for the two All-Star squads set to play against each other at Scotiabank Place on Jan. 29.
That means Chara and Alfredsson will be selecting individual players at the second annual All-Star fantasy draft three days prior to the event, and the B's defenseman said he’ll take the responsibility seriously. There’s no salary cap and it’s all for fun, but Chara will get to step into the shoes of Peter Chiarelli and 29 other NHL GMs making moves and evaluating players for "Team Chara".
“It’s gonna be interesting. It’s another honor on top of being selected as an All-Star. I found out this morning, so I’m a little bit surprised,” said Chara. “I’m going to at least try to see how it is to be in the position that some GMs are in, or people that are making those decisions. In the group of players that are being selected I don’t think you can make a wrong choice.
“I’m not going to do too much research, but I’m going to do the best job I can to build the best possible team.”
It should be a satisfying homecoming for Chara going up against his former Ottawa teammate in Alfredsson, and playing in front of a Sens fan base that's treated him like an enemy since his free agent departure. It should also be interesting to see if the big defenseman gives Phil Kessel a mercy pick this season.
It was Kessel, after all, who was the final player selected last year in the memorable first edition of the fantasy draft. It was an All-Star moment that could only be defined as "awkward" while Alex Ovechkin snapped pictures of him on the stage, and Kessel appeared to be searching for the nearest rock to crawl under.
Chara and Kessel had their run-ins over No. 81’s toughness and commitment to hard work while Phil the Thrill was in Boston, but the 6-foot-9 defenseman appeared to have no qualms taking him on his All-Star team. And if Kessel turns about to be the NHL All-Star game version of Mr. Irrelevant again, then he’ll get another new car out of the deal.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. Somebody has to go last,” said Chara with a smile on his face. “I don’t know if they’ll have a car for him or something else . . . we’ll see how it goes.”
The B's defenseman is, of course, referring to the new Honda car and $20,000 donated to charity that Kessel received last season for being the last player tapped in the All-Star draft.
If Chara and Kessel are All-Star teammates, one thing is certain: it will be a relief to the Toronto sniper as he finally won’t have the gargantuan B’s defenseman knocking him all over the ice.