It’s hard to gauge Chuck Kobasew’s value to the Boston Bruins.
You can look at his five goals and 10 assists this season and get a solid idea that he’s a productive second- or third-line winger who’s received a respectable amount of first-unit power-play time.
His plus-8 rating tells you that he’s been reliable throughout the season, even if he’s been a minus-3 since the calendar flipped to December.
But the ingredient he brings to the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins isn’t a number-related element. It’s something you have to see with your own eyes.
Kobasew’s value is on the forecheck when he forces a defenseman to make a turn or a pass he doesn’t want to make. It’s evident when he’s in front of the net and the opposing goaltender wants to throw him into the stands or the opposing blueliner wants to bury him in the ice. It’s apparent when he digs a puck out from along the wall and slides it to a teammate while one or two opposing skaters are beleaguered and frustrated after losing a battle.
“He has an edge, he works hard, he’s physical,” said Bruins center Stephane Yelle, who was also Kobasew’s teammate in Calgary. “He goes to the net hard; gets the dirty goals.”
Perhaps the kindest words of all from Kobasew come from Bruins head coach Claude Julien.
“Chuck is probably as professional and as dedicated as you’ll find in a player,” the bench boss said earlier this season. “He takes really good care of himself because he dedicates his time to the game and puts in the time that’s needed to be ready. He goes out there every day and practices and plays like a pro and there’s never a soft day for him – it’s all out. And he brings that game in and game out.”
Words like that are music to Kobasew’s ears, even if he doesn’t do all he does just to get adulation.
“That’s very nice of him to say that. I try to pride myself on coming to the rink and working hard every day. That’s the one thing that we can control as players – how hard we work. That’s just something I pride myself on,” he told thebruinsblog.net one day after a recent morning skate.
The 26-year-old British Columbia native has battled the worst kind of injuries each of the last two seasons – the type a player can’t control. Broken bones just come with the territory when you play the style Kobasew plays. After missing the first month of this season due to a broken foot suffered in the regular-season opener, Kobasew’s stayed in the line-up and fit in on a number of trios. Most recently he’s been skating with Yelle and P.J. Axelsson, forming a sort of checking line. When Patrice Bergeron was centering that line, it took on more of a two-way look. Kobasew’s also skated alongside center David Krejci and winger Blake Wheeler.
Success has followed him up and down the line-up.
“We’ve all played with each other before. So it shouldn’t be a big deal who you’re playing with,” said Kobasew, who closed November with two goals in two games but has just two assists this month. “I think guys are confident and comfortable with each other. Whether it’s a game or practice, you see different combinations all the time.”
The nonchalance with which Kobasew shrugs off his ability to click with any number of linemates is a total 180 from his work ethic during the season and even out of season. Yelle for one has heard from friends he has that work out with Kobasew how hard the former Boston College standout labors in the summer. And Kobasew doesn’t deny that when the final horn sounds on a season, there’s little time to lick one’s wounds before it’s time to get ready for the next campaign.
“It’s a job. Just because our season only goes seven, eight, nine months, that doesn’t mean those three months or four months you take time off,” he said. “You’ve got to be prepared for the following season and try to improve. We skate. We work hard in the summer as well.”
The hard work has paid off. And no less a hard worker than Bruins fourth-liner Shawn Thornton has been impressed with Kobasew over his time as a his black-and-gold brother.
“On the ice, I think he might be the hardest working – practice in, practice out. That’s definitely not an area that needs to be corrected. I know playing with him was a treat – for the 10 games or whatever it might’ve been – because of how hard he works, he makes the game easier for everyone else. He’s always in on the forecheck, he’s always there on the backcheck, and he’s pretty easy to play with.”
Easy to play with, easy to coach … those are about the only things easy when it comes to Kobasew. Opponents would never use that word to describe playing against him. And it’s seems that he never takes it easy. Safe to say that no coach has even told him, ‘Chuck, work harder.’
“If that’s the situation, I’m not doing my job,” he concluded.