By: Jack Gotsell | Follow me on twitter @jackgotsell
Zdeno Chara is in his 14th season with and as captain of the Boston Bruins. Although we have come to love “Big Z’s” presence on the ice, Chara’s play has declined and a few hard to ask questions have arised. Is it time to sit Zdeno Chara? What is Chara’s future with the black and gold?
In normal times, when you walk down Causeway Street getting ready to watch the Bruins go to battle, you would be sure to see thousands of cherished Bruins jerseys with 33 on the back and the captains patch sewn onto the top left corner of the sweater. Chara is beloved in Boston and that love is both earned and well deserved for his character on and off the ice.
Chara has been the embodiment of what it means to be a Bruin since he first came to Boston in 2006. He is a player that both leads by example and in the locker room. It would be foolish to downplay what his leadership means to the Bruins. He will drop the gloves at any moment if he feels someone has taken liberties with one of his own and his work ethic is unmatched and contagious throughout the roster. Chara’s admiration stretches beyond our city limits and his character and stature are respected across the NHL.
Father time however is undefeated even against 6’9” 249 lb monsters. Chara has slowed down significantly in these playoffs and it has shown on both the scoreboard and to the Bruins faithful watching at home. Even with the adjustment he made to his Gap control, he is no longer able to get back quickly on defense. If opposing teams are able to get up ice quickly they know they can take Chara out of the equation. He is beginning to turn the puck over in his own zone and that miscue led to a goal on Thursday night for the Carolina Hurricanes.
Chara was minus (-2) VS the Hurricanes in game 2 and it seemed like it could have been worse. The game is faster than it’s ever been and one mistake can cost you a game. Chara has been notorious for not making these mistakes but through the round-robin and the beginning of this series the opposite holds true. Chara had a CF% of 37.93 and 45% is considered below average. Chara should sit; maybe not for the rest of the playoffs but just to rest him to see if he can get his game back on track at 43 years of age and not skating regularly for the last 4 1/2 months.
What do the Bruins look like if Chara sits? Currently Bruins defenceman Jeremy Lauzon is playing his offside on defense and young hungry defenseman Connor Clifton is awaiting his opportunity to bring Cliffy hockey back to the playoffs. My suggestion would be to put Lauzon up on the top pair with Charlie McAvoy.
Lauzon has a lot of trust from Bruce Cassidy and his stay-at-home style of play would complement McAvoy nicely on the top pair. He seems more comfortable on the left side, especially in the transition game from the defensive zone. As for Clifton, he would pencil in next to Grzelcyk, with John Moore and Chara looking over his shoulder if it doesn’t work out. Both would be eager to get back into the lineup.
Either way I believe Chara’s days on the top pair are over, whether it’s inserting Clifton into the line up or moving Chara down to that third D pair. I also feel this should be the Bruins legends last year as a player for the Boston Bruins. I would love him to come back in a role as a strength and conditioning coach for the black and gold but, I’ll take any kind of coaching role for him. He is a leader that you want around your team. Chara’s number should hang from the rafters as a reminder and an example of what it means to be a Boston Bruin.
The Bruins have a bottleneck of young prospects down in Providence that Chara’s retirement could clear room for. All waiting to make an NHL impact next season and in the years to come.
Lauzon and Clifton are ones I mentioned above that are already up here with the big club but Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen also need to get their shot some time soon. Vaakanainen(18th overall) and Zboril(13th overall) were both first round selections by Boston in the NHL draft. They both have all the tools to be full time NHL players but there are currently 8 Bruins players ahead of them on the depth chart.
Other notable Bruins prospects that could be making an impact down the road include Jack Achan and Victor Berglund. Jack Achan has similar size and playing style to current Boston D-man Torey Krug. Victor Berglund has played 4 games for the Providence Bruins and recorded a goal and an assist in those games. The Bruins have to clear some room on their organizational rosters to develop all of these young talents.
Chara will be in the lineup Saturday barring anything out of Cassidy’s control. As in his opinion Chara “progressively gotten better each game.” I disagree and the stats disagree as well as he had a CF% of 53.66 in game 1 and CF% of 37.93 in game 2 and looked noticeably slower with more more mistakes in his own end. He is a combined -3 for the two games.
Thank you, Zdeno Chara for showing Boston what it means to be a leader over the past 14 years with your heart, determination and never quit attitude that will be memorialized when they call your name to the Hall of Fame. It’s time to look towards the future and the Bruins are stock piled with young defenders ready to play now. It is with a heavy heart that I write this article. What hockey fan wouldn’t want the guy that opts to have his jaw wired shut so he could stand with his teammates? That is playoff hockey. That was Zedeno Chara.
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