It really is a weird thing to consider, isn’t it? Zdeno Chara, suiting up for a different team.
The nitpickers among you (and there are plenty) will point out “WELL ACTUALLY HE’S ALREADY PLAYED FOR OTHER TEAMS,” but you get the point.
Chara has presided over a wildly successful run for the Bruins as a franchise, arguably the most successful since the invention of the Internet.
And this is how it ends?
To get this out of the way, it’s unlikely that Chara’s departure makes or breaks the Bruins’ 2021 season. Their fate, as it usually is, will be decided by goaltending and secondary scoring.
But the idea, being put forth by many, that Chara didn’t have any value on this team or that the Bruins somehow deserve credit for cutting bait is insane.
Zdeno Chara is no longer elite. He’s no longer a top-pairing defenseman, nor is he a guy who can play 20+ minutes a night.
That’s fine. As Adam mentioned in his review of Chara’s season, it’s important to look at Chara in the present, not in the past.
And in the present, Chara is still better than John Moore. He’s better than Urho Vaakanainen, better than Jakub Zboril, better than Jack Ahcan.
Too many people are getting caught up in the whole “youth movement” idea, as if a player being younger automatically makes him better.
“Well you’re just getting caught up in nostalgia,” you type in the comments. “He was bad in the playoffs.”
He was! You’re absolutely correct. You know who else was bad? Patrice Bergeron. And Charlie Coyle. And Torey Krug.
Oddly enough, those guys were injured, or in a slump, or just had trouble getting started after the bubble.
But for Chara, it was age catching up to him. “Father Time,” you say. “He just doesn’t have it anymore. He was bad in the bubble, so clearly he won’t be able to handle a compressed season.”
What this conveniently ignores is that during the regular season prior to the shutdown, Chara was playing some of his best hockey of the past few seasons. Again, not at an elite level - but at an effective level, including against the opposition’s top talent.
Many of you will deny this now, and that’s fine. But you’re letting a bad playoff run cloud your memory of what came before it.
“He’s slow! The game has passed him by!”
I’m not sure how to break this to you, but speed has never been one of Chara’s strengths, even in his Norris days.
He’s a player who was effective due to positioning, smarts, and reach...things that don’t really get worse with age.
What makes this decision especially puzzling is the fact that the Bruins have elected to go with a youth movement on defense during what, by most accounts, is likely their last serious kick at the can.
Their #1 goalie is likely gone after this season. Their #2 center is likely gone as well. If those problems with secondary scoring were bad before, just wait!
To me, this move would have made a whole lot more sense after this coming season. It’d be a tacit admission of “look, we have to start looking to the future, even if it means a lean year.”
But why now, when everyone seems to be in agreement that the Bruins’ Stanley Cup window is rapidly closing (if not already slammed shut)?
There are ways out of this for Don Sweeney, and I suppose it’s important to hear what he has to say tomorrow morning.
If, for example, the Bruins told Chara he’d need to accept third-pairing minutes and the real possibility of being on the 9th Floor at times and he declined, then fine - Sweeney did what he had to do.
If Sweeney has another move in place (it’s been rumored that the Bruins have been active on the D trade market), then cool!
But the idea that the Bruins had to cut bait with Chara because he wouldn’t accept a lesser role seems insane to me - he’s been a model citizen for a decade and a half, and knows he’s running out of chances for another Cup.
The idea that you can’t have your captain playing on the third pairing is similarly laughable. You look to your captain for leadership, not headlines. There are few better examples of sports leadership than accepting a lesser role for the good of the team.
In the end, however, it is what it is. The Bruins have decided to pin their hopes on a left side of their defense anchored by John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk, or they have a trade coming. I suppose we just have to wait and see.
The Bruins, as currently constructed, are not better without Zdeno Chara than they were with him. And for a team in “win now” mode to go that route willingly is pretty puzzling.
Chara will likely be a shell of what we remember him as in Washington, but they know what they’re getting: an experienced defenseman who can contribute in a reduced role on a team with a closing window.
It’s a shame that the Bruins didn’t see it the same way.