New faces on the ice

By: Matthew Jacob

New players for the Bruins has captured some attention.

With all the big deals going down this season and all the new faces joining the Boston Bruins, it is hard to believe that the biggest player the Bruins acquired went seemingly unnoticed. Boris Valabik was traded to the Boston Bruins with Rich Peverley in exchange for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart. Valabik was taken 10th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2004 NHL entry draft. The 25 year old, left-handed shooting defenseman stands at 6′ 7′ and is a native of Nitra, Slovakia.

Three seasons ago, it was Boris Valabik who met with the idolized Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara. Valabik asked for some pointers from his fellow Slovak. During the game that followed, Valabik went hard after [then-Bruin] Phil Kessel, only to have Chara challenge him to a fight. Although it must have been difficult for Valabik to fight his idol, it was a learning experience that only the NHL can provide. While Chara was fighting the rookie, he was teaching him something too.

Both Chara and Valabik’s careers have taken comparable paths. Both broke into the NHL in their early twenties. Each player saw limited time in their first couple of seasons with the teams that drafted them; both were used as tough-guy defensemen on the bottom defensive pairings. It wasn’t until Zdeno Chara was traded to the Ottawa Senators that he began to learn how to use his size to his advantage and achieved proper amounts of ice time. This allowed him to become one of the premiere shut down defensemen in the game today. The Islanders weren’t giving Chara the proper ice time he needed to succeed and it wasn’t until he was moved to a better team, which was willing to work with him, that he was able to fully develop.

You could say the same thing could happen for Boris Valabik. Valabik, like Chara, wasn’t getting the ice time he needed to develop his game in Atlanta. This has led to Valabik basically wasting away in the minors for most of the season. Having been acquired by the Boston Bruins, Valabik now gets to play in a system that is focused on a defense first game-plan and a balanced offensive attack. Valabik is also fortunate enough to play for the same franchise as his idol Chara. Chara in turn will likely mentor the young Slovak and possibly help him to reach his true potential.

I am not going to say Boris Valabik is the next Zdeno Chara. Chara is a Norris Trophy winning defenseman who has been widely considered one of the top defensemen of all time in the NHL. However, I will say that Boris Valabik is at the same point in his career that Chara was when he was Valabik’s age. Entering a larger hockey market can do a lot for a player; some thrive while others don’t. Zdeno Chara is one of those players that was able to thrive in a bigger market, leaving no reason to believe that Boris Valabik with all the chances to succeed, won’t do the same.

Valabik has joined the Providence Bruins, and will likely play out the rest of the season in AHL. This of course means we probably won’t get to see Valabik have an impact with the big club this season. The acquisition of Valabik was made with the intention of getting a player who can contribute in the future. Look for Valabik to use his clean slate with the Bruins organization to step up his game. He may have to work on his skating and speed but the same could be said about Chara when he was Valabik’s age. Expect Valabik to fight hard for a job next season as the Bruins continue to rise among the NHL’s elite.