‘19-’20 season grade: A-
This player review is really delayed, and though most of the blame can be placed on the passage of time in 2020 being very subjective (it’s not late, it’s... been marinating...).
I also didn’t want to s**t on Zdeno Chara’s 2019-2020 performance only to have him read it and decide he was done with all the haters (as we all know, Bruins players are avid readers of random Chowder-based hockey blogs).
In all truth, the Bruins could use him back on the ice this coming season. That, however, is conversation for the coming days and weeks as CharaWatch progresses.
Now, we belatedly look back on Chara’s 22nd NHL campaign, and his 14th as Boston’s captain. He played in 68 of the 72 shortened-regular-season games, so that’s a good metric for him, considering he missed 20 games the year prior. (Barely relevant factoid - he’s only played two complete seasons - his 23-year-old year with the Islanders, and the lockout-shortened 48-game season in ‘12-’13.)
As has been the case for a few years, he was mostly paired with Charlie McAvoy and played on the penalty kill, to the tune of nearly 235 minutes and sharing the heaviest PK lifting mostly with his body double, Brandon Carlo (217 minutes).
Long since demoted from a power-play unit and no longer prone to getting involved at all offensively, Chara had 16 games (of the 72) where he failed to register a shot.
That’s all fine. The absence from the power play is fine. The reduction of overall ice time to make sure he’s playing in the best situations for him to succeed is fine. What’s expected, though not as fine in the grand scheme, is the precipitous drop in his usage in a typical game, down to 21 minutes a night from 23 minutes two seasons ago and long removed from his peak of 28 minutes per game in his first season in Boston - at age 29.
With McAvoy clearly coming into his own as the team’s top all-around defensive player, Chara should feel some space to step back and let the thoroughbred set the pace of zone exits rather than asking his old legs to skate it out, not that it was a strength of his anyways.
It’s been a blessing for McAvoy to receive such tutelage in real-time scenarios; when the skaters line up for faceoffs, you can clearly see the captain demonstrating the need for communication. He’s also great at seeing strengths in his teammates, and I’m sure would have no problem putting their opportunities to succeed before his own.
In this way, Chara has been doing what has been asked, and expected, of him - and in the face of declining effectiveness and usability, he has as always met the challenge with grace and focus.
These are the things that we knew we would see: we won’t see the Chara of old exerting physical dominance over the entire league anymore; we know he’s going to continue to slide down the depth chart for as long as he plays in the NHL.
When considering Chara’s grade for the season, it’s important to look at things with realistic expectations. No one expected him to challenge for the Norris or the continue to play a half an hour every night.
Most people expected him to continue to play reasonably effective minutes, continue to be useful on the penalty kill, and continue to help the younger defensemen grow into their games.
In those areas, he certainly succeeded.
By now, we know what to expect from Chara. What we don’t know is how quickly this once-ageless-wonder will really fade.
It’s just... not now, please?
Show Your Work
All five goals of Chara’s season gets summed up pretty quickly... 47 seconds oughta do it.
So, since you have some more time, here’s all his fights from this past year!
(Spoiler alert: none of them are spectacular bouts. Though, it is fun to watch Tom Wilson get ragdolled a little bit.)
How would you grade Chara’s 19-20 season?
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