In the final blow of this horrible year, the Bruins have lost their captain to the Washington Capitals. In a statement, Zdeno Chara said that the Bruins intended to move to their young, talented players, implying that the Bruins believe that the likes of Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril will give them more than the aging Chara would. Despite his obvious regression, Chara still offered the Bruins intangibles like veteran leadership on the defensive side, in an incredibly young and raw defensive corps. He would provide an insurance policy in case one of the multiple middling prospects on the blue line does not pan out.
The Bruins will seemingly be trotting out the worst lineup in 5 years come January, because of the recoveries of Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, and a once-formidable unit on the defensive side is teetering on the brink of collapse. Draft bust Jakub Zboril, middling prospect Urho Vaakanainen, the brutish Jeremy Lauzon, and the failed free agent signing John Moore, will be battling out for 2 defensive spots ceded by the departures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara.
In the penultimate day of the year, the Bruins have lost Zdeno Chara. 2020 has seen the departure the following athletes from the Boston Sports community. 2020 wanted to rear its head for one more attack on Boston sports fans before it fades into the past.
The Red Sox lost: Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr.?, Brock Holt, Mitch Moreland, David Price, Brandon Workman, 2/3 of their games.
The Patriots lost: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, like 18 guys on defense, 10 games for the first time in my lifetime
The Celtics lost: Gordon Hayward, Tommy Heinsohn, KC Jones
The Bruins lost: Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, handily to the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Bruins gained: Nick Ritchie
The Patriots gained: Terrible weapons and skill players
The Red Sox gained: horrendous pitchers
The only benefit out of this year is the rehiring of Alex Cora and the further development of the Celtics.
Thank GOD this abysmal year will be over in a little over 24 hours.
What does this mean for the Bruins?
I think it’s fair to assume that many Bruins fans believed that Chara would ultimately be back. However, it appears the Bruins did not make Zdeno Chara an offer, considering the minimal amount he accepted from the Washington Capitals and the all-but certainty that Chara wanted to remain in Boston. Superficially, the blue line probably remains unchanged, considering the direction in which the Bruins appear to be moving.
However, in the wake of Chara’s departure, it is damaging to the prestige of the Bruins organization in multiple ways. The defense corps would obviously benefit from the mentoring and coaching of the wily veteran. The fact that the Bruins intend to push younger signals to prospective free agents that Boston may not be ideal as they enter their final years in the NHL. It also demonstrates, as we have seen for a few months, that a rebuild is imminent on Causeway Street. Bad drafting will likely continue to plague the Bruins as their veterans age out of the NHL as it has ruined the Patriots. Their veteran core has a only a few more years together, and some may be on their way out as it is. This upcoming season is the most unpredictable the Bruins roster has been in a while, especially down Marchand and Pastrnak.
The Bruins have reportedly been interested in a few left shot defenders over this offseason, but may have to trade some pieces to acquire it. They have maintained steady interest in former Capital and Canadien Karl Alzner, Flames defender Noah Hanifin, and Coyotes veteran Oliver Ekman-Larsson. However, I do not expect the Bruins to make any major acquisitions unless they deem it necessary, meaning at the trade deadline. I believe they may bring in Alzner on a professional tryout, but that may not lead to a spot, as we saw just last year with Alex Petrovic.
Alzner is a dependable veteran blueliner who is past his prime, but may contribute on a defensive level. But the offensive aspect of his game is too far gone. Still relatively young at 32, Alzner is looking for a career resurgence and Boston is the perfect place to do it (see Kevin Shattenkirk and Tampa). He is consistent on defense and, playing alongside one of the Bruins’ blue liners may lead to a renaissance for Alzner.
Hanifin, meanwhile, has disappointed in his NHL career to date. He and Elias Lindholm were traded for Dougie Hamilton back in 2018 and he has not lived up to expectations in Calgary. The Boston College product may be available at a discounted price relative to his cost two years ago, especially since the Flames appear to be rebuilding. The young blueliner would likely cost a young forward and or/prospect, plus a mid-round pick.
Other options may include Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers, Andy Greene (formerly of Devils, Islanders), and Ron Hainsey (formerly of Senators, Leafs). I do believe the Bruins will have to upgrade at the position, and they may have to overpay out of desperation. Hopefully, one of their young defensemen can break out, but I, along with many others, are not optimistic. The Bruins have set themselves up for failure, and, to start, they look to be the 4th best team in their division. The Flyers, Capitals, Rangers, and Islanders are all better. This is not looking good for the Boston Bruins.
Ultimately, this saga is an indictment of the Bruins organization, considering the fact that Chara only signed for 795,000 dollars. This looks worse because they gave 1.25 million to Kevan Miller, who has not played a game in nearly 2 years. Bruins fans should be sincerely questioning the acumen of Don Sweeney, if not the organization itself. If it could not afford to give its 14-year tenured captain less than a million dollars, that is sincerely disappointing. As a lifelong Bruins fan, it is criminal that Zdeno Chara will be playing his final games in a jersey not tinted in black and gold. As an analyst, this does not bode well for the 2021 Boston Bruins.
Photo Credits: Bruce Babineau, Getty Images