Bean: Did B’s make right call letting Chara walk? It’s complicated originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
If Zdeno Chara were on a struggling team, he’d be a perfect trade target for the Boston Bruins: left shot, highly experienced, playoff proven and dirt cheap.
The irony, of course, is that the only thing keeping Chara from already being on the Bruins is that they bid him adieu. Now, Chara comes back to Boston a Capital, playing for a team that’s essentially been the Bruins’ peer this season.
Yet it isn’t as simple as saying, “They could use Chara now, so they blew it.” I thought it was foolish for the Bruins to not take Chara back for one year and $795,000, but there’s been merit to Don Sweeney’s decision.
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Chara leaving meant the Bruins were content with a left side of Jeremy Lauzon, Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril. That sounded underwhelming, but it wasn’t. The Bruins have defended really well when their defense has been healthy; availability has been the only issue. Grzelcyk’s been in and out and has played just six of Boston’s 19 games. Zboril missed two games last month. Lauzon is in the early days of a projected month-long absence due to a broken hand.
The Bruins have learned with Lauzon and Zboril that their two youngsters indeed are NHL players, something they’d have had a harder time learning if Chara were still taking up a spot. The issue with them is what happens if they get hurt and what happens when they reach the playoffs.
Chara, who’s been a solid third-pairing defenseman for Washington, is better than John Moore, Boston’s insurance policy on the left side. Urho Vaakanainen, Boston’s 2017 first-rounder, appears to need more seasoning before he’s ready for something like a Cup run. The B’s recently claimed Jarred Tinordi on waivers and will see if he can bring stability to Boston’s back end, but Chara would be better than all of the aforementioned options.
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Uncertainty on the left side could still come into play down the stretch. The Bruins’ biggest need obviously is more 5-on-5 scoring, but if the team really fancied itself a Cup contender, it would go out and add a capable, proven piece to supplement Boston’s young, occasionally injured defenders.
So as we look back on the Bruins’ decision to part with their captain of 14 years, it’s complicated. We can say they could use him now (which they definitely could), but would it have really worked to have sat Chara in X amount of games to see what they had in Zboril? Fans would be confused and frustrated. We’d be asking what exactly the team’s plan was.
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Sweeney’s plan was to see if the Bruins’ young defenders could play. They can. The Bruins will need more sure things if they’re going to chase a Cup, but their goal to develop Lauzon and Zboril has been proven logical. The decision just happens to come with seeing Chara succeed elsewhere, and occasionally being a 6-foot-9 veteran away from being in an ideal spot on defense.