Friday, August 19, 2005

Tale Of The Tape -- Chara vs Redden

By Nick Faris
Red Line Corp. Writer

After the 2005-06 playoffs are completed, the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy awarded, the rest of the NHL awards given out, then the off-season will begin. And for one team, that off-season will be the toughest it will have faced in its' entire existence.

The Ottawa Senators have a dilemna: their two top defensemen will be unrestricted free agents after the season, and both will be looking for salaries in the neighbourhood of the player restriction - $7.8 million. Add in the possible unrestricted free agency of top scorer Marian Hossa (if he continues his route to arbitration and a one-year deal), and it is sure that the Senators won't be able to award all three with marquee money, and still fit under the cap. Those two defensemen are Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden.

Both Redden and Chara are earning the same amount of money ($3.724 million) this season. Both will be looking for money like Scott Niedermayer ($6.75 million) or Chris Pronger ($6.25 million) received. Hossa is already looking for money like Jarome Iginla's ($7 million), so it would be impossible for the Sens to keep all three. Ottawa wants to retain the forward out of the three, so here's the question: Chara or Redden. Who to keep and who to let go?

Here is the tale of the tape:

Scoring: Last season the scoring race between these two was close, with Redden edging out Chara in goals and assists by one each time (17-16 -- 26-25). You can't eliminate Chara on those counts, obviously, so let's look at the past few years.

Redden's scoring actually decreased from 2002-03, as he was able to put in 45 points over 43. He beat Chara again, this time by a wider margin of 6 points. The year before, Chara's first with Ottawa, he only mustered 23 points, losing again to the career Senator, this time by 11 points. Both player's point totals have increased in the years they have played in Ottawa, however, and Chara's have gone up more dramatically. However, Redden gets the nod in this category.

Experience: This concerns both NHL and international experience. Both players are the same age (28), and Redden has played one more season than Chara (8-7). However, Redden has played in nearly 200 more games than Chara, saying something about Chara's early seasons in which he would only play 50-60 games. In major international competitions, Redden has made it about the same amount of times as Chara, both representing their countries in last year's World Cup. Chara has made it to the World Championships four times with Slovakia, redden just twice. However, Redden was on Sens teams that were making the playoffs and missing those Championships, while Chara was tolling on dismal Islanders squads. Redden has also competed on two gold-medal World Junior Championship squads, enabling him to edge out Chara in this category.

Awards: This is an important category. Basically, neither has won any major awards (ie: Hart Trophy, Norris Trophy), but Chara did finish second in the voting for the Norris last year after a dominant season. He was also named to the season-ending first all-star team, while Redden was named to the All-Star team for his second year. Chara, surprisingly, was not named an All-Star, but still beats Redden in this area.

Defense: Chara is obviously the bigger of the two, with his 6'9, 260-pound frame looming large over opposing forwards entering the zone. That was the main reason he was named to the first All-Star team and finished second in the Norris voting. He dominates along the boards, and almost never gets knocked down. His +/- suggests that he is the Senators' top defender - (-33) last season and (-92) since joining Ottawa. Redden is certainly not known as a top defender, although he has led Ottawa in +/- several times in earlier seasons. However, that lead has gone to the Slovakian in past years. Chara beats out Redden again.

Style: This is probably the most important area, seeing as the NHL is looking to shift into another style of play, from defensive to offensive. Chara is mainly known as a defender, with his Hulk-like frame and ability to dominate in Ottawa's zone. He can still contribute offensively, but Redden looks like he will be more of an asset than Chara. His scoring ability is fantastic - he is Ottawa's power play quarterback, scoring all but five of his goals in that situation. Redden certainly beats out Chara in this category.

Local Impact: This, the last category, is definitely Redden's to lose. He does it all - organizes the program Wade's World for CHEO (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) patients, buys a suite for those patients to watch games in, visits those children in the hospital, supports Roger's House...the list goes on. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Chara. He is like all other Senators, a helper in the community, but Redden stand out above all. This may be the one category Redden blows Chara away in.

Verdict: Zdeno Chara is a fantastic defenseman, hard worker, dominant force...but Wade Redden is the man Ottawa should keep in this situation.

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