This offseason the Boston Bruins parted ways with two key pieces to their defence. Torey Krug, who signed with the St. Louis Blues, and 43-year-old Zdeno Chara, now with the division rival Washington Capitals. Losing Krug was mostly a matter of money and the salary cap. Krug has a pricey seven-year $45 million ($6.5 million per season) contract with the Blues. Chara, shocked the hockey world this offseason, signing with the Capitals, after captaining the Bruins for 14 seasons. This decision was not about money. In a 2021 season like no other, with COVID, a compressed schedule, and taxi squads, you need leadership. You also need depth and experience. The Boston Bruins should have kept Zdeno Chara.
This was never about money. Zdeno Chara saw a reduced role with the Boston Bruins and wasn't prepared to accept it, so he signed with Washington and wants the world to know he still has game.@THNKenCampbell has more:https://t.co/vdpfDQVcxo
— The Hockey News (@TheHockeyNews) December 31, 2020
Boston Bruins Should Have Signed Zdeno Chara
Boston Bruins Go Young On Defence
From General Manager Don Sweeney‘s perspective, you can see why he would push for this move. Boston has a slew of high draft picks on defence that has yet to blossom into full-time NHL calibre players. 2015 first-round pick (13th overall) Jakub Zboril, 2015 second-round pick (52nd overall) Jeremy Lauzon and 2017 first-round pick (18th overall) Urho Vaakanainen. Bearing no fruit from such high picks four and six years after the draft isn’t going to give you job security. You need to at least try to showcase your prospects to ownership. But why so many at once?
On top of this, the rest of the Bruins defensive core is also young. Charlie McAvoy just turned 23 in December. Brandon Carlo is just 24 years of age as well. The “veteran” of the group that played in 2020 Matt Grzelyck was a ripe old 26 at the start of 2021. Combined, these six defencemen had played just 725 games prior to 2021. An average of 120 games, or one and a half NHL seasons. That is very little experience to have at the toughest position to play in hockey. Zdeno Chara has over 1500 regular-season games played, mostly with the Boston Bruins. And 14 years as the team Captain.
Where Is The Bruins Leadership On Defence?
Charlie McAvoy has become the leader of this young and inexperienced defensive group. He leads the team in minutes played by far, averaging 24:04 minutes per game. No other defenceman averages more than 19 minutes. Zdeno Chara averaged over 21 minutes per game with the Bruins in 2020 and is averaging over 19 minutes of ice-time this year with the Capitals. McAvoy is also being asked to pick up the offensive slack left by Krug. He has 17 points through 27 games in 2021 while no other Bruins defenceman has more than 8. There is a lot on the plate of a 23-year-old who is still learning the position himself.
"It meant everything."
Charlie McAvoy talked about what it was like having Zdeno Chara as his mentor while they were Bruins teammates. https://t.co/E5T0iTVw0G
— NESN (@NESN) March 4, 2021
The Boston Bruins have always spoken candidly about what Chara brought to the team. Leadership and an unparalleled work ethic. First to practice, the last one out of the gym. Even Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has said he learned more from Chara than Chara did from him. That leadership and ability to teach is sadly missed in this current group. How great would it be for all these young players to have a Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Famer to learn from day in and day out? The Boston Bruins should have kept Zdeno Chara for his leadership and the need for depth in this compressed COVID season.
Injuries And COVID-19
The Bruins currently have several defencemen who are injured. Jeremy Lauzon is out until at least April with a broken hand. Veteran Kevan Miller has missed the last 12 games with knee issues, which is not surprising given his history. Brandon Carlo remains sidelined from a concussion brought on by an illegal hit by Chara’s teammate in Washington, Tom Wilson. The Bruins depth at this position was not great, to begin with. Connor Clifton has been the main “seventh defence”, but there has been a revolving door of players in and out at the back. John Moore (also currently injured) and Steve Kampfer have all found themselves in the lineup. The Bruins also picked up Jarred Tinordi off waivers from Nashville. A six-foot, six-inch 230 lb d-man. Hmmm. He has played in all eight games since arriving in Boston, despite playing just 88 games in the NHL since 2012. And he just got injured last night on a controversial illegal hit by Brandon Tanev of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In a season with so much uncertainty, having a player like Zdeno Chara on the team would be a huge asset. He is as tough and as durable a defenceman as any in the NHL. He is in incredible shape, even at the age of 43. Even if his skills had declined somewhat, he is proving he is still a better defenceman than the majority of players on the Bruins right now.
Bruins Mistake In Evaluating Chara
The Bruins made a huge mistake in assuming Chara would take on a lesser role. A role where he would sit out the start of the season and be a healthy scratch on back-to-back nights. Could they not let him compete for a job, at the very least? They should have known their captain of 14 years is the ultimate competitor. He just wanted a fair chance to compete and let the best players play.
“I just want to have a fair chance and compete with the guys for the Stanley Cup,” Chara said. “That’s something that is the goal.” https://t.co/pa6eDi0A4M
— Post Sports (@PostSports) January 3, 2021
That is what he was offered in Washington. No promises of ice-time or where he will play. Also no restrictions on how and when he will play regardless of performance. They offered him a chance to compete and he has earned his role. And he is proving that the Boston Bruins should have kept Zdeno Chara.
Zdeno Chara By The Numbers
Chara has played in all 29 games for the Washington Capitals this season. He has two goals and eight points and is averaging 19:04 in ice-time, 2nd most time amongst the Capitals defence. Washington is first in the East Division (eight points ahead of the Bruins) and tied for first in the NHL with 42 points. It is quite obvious he can still play at a very high level, despite being 43 years old. Didn’t Tom Brady just win the Superbowl at age 43? Transfer these numbers to the Boston Bruins and he would rank second on the team in goals, points, and time on the ice for defence. He would also lead the entire team in plus/minus.
Hindsight is 20/20, but it doesn’t take a set of eagle eyes to see the Bruins made a huge error. A team with an ageing core in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask have a window that is closing fast. Boston should be doing everything they can to make this team better this season. Having a player like Zee, who knows the team and the system at a near league minimum contract is a no-brainer. Especially when you see how well he is still able to play. He would make this team better right now. Add in injuries and COVID and this crazy compressed schedule and it is pretty clear. The Boston Bruins should have kept Zdeno Chara.
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