We all knew that Patrice Bergeron was eventually going to become captain of the Boston Bruins.
For a guy that was drafted and developed by the Black and Gold, the homegrown talent has won over the hearts of every B’s fan in the city. There is no doubt that he will wear the “C” on his sweater with honor and class.
That sight was inevitable. However, it is still a tough pill to swallow considering the massive shoes—or skates, to use a hockey reference—he will have to fill. After 14 seasons with Boston, Zdeno Chara has moved on from the Bruins. Similarly, the Bruins have moved on from Chara.
The feeling was mutual, but how did both sides get here?
When Chara signed with Boston as a free agent during the 2006-07 offseason, he was immediately named as the official leader. That signing completely turned around a struggling franchise that was looking for a new identity. The pinnacle was reached in 2011 when Chara captained the Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship. The 6’9” defenseman has also been nominated as a Norris Trophy finalist five times during his tenure with Boston, winning the award in 2008-09.
The Trencin, Czechoslovakia native has posted 205 goals and 656 total points during his regular-season career, while adding another 18 goals and 70 points throughout his career in the playoffs.
Most importantly, Chara is a sure thing when it comes to the Hall of Fame, and he will certainly go down as one of the best stay-at-home defensemen in the history of the National Hockey League.
With all of that being said, we are talking about him as if he has already retired. That is not the case at all. In fact, that is where the main point of contention arose between Chara and the Bruins when it came to negotiations.
The Bruins were interested in bringing back Big Zee, but it would have been in a reduced capacity in which he would not be in the lineup to begin the season, not playing some games, and sitting out back-to-backs. Essentially, he would become a reserve player.
To his credit, Chara stuck to his instincts and held strong on the notion that he can still play while competing at a high level. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $795,000. If he says that he can still play up to his abilities and he does not want to retire, then no one should judge him.
However, the Bruins should not get hammered for their reluctance to re-sign him. Chara played in 68 regular-season games last year and 13 additional games in the playoffs. During the tail end of that stretch, it seemed that Chara was just a step slower and not as physical. Also, Chara admitted himself that he was unsure if he would return for the 2020-21 season until he started skating/training again back in September.
It sounded like a one-year, reduced-capacity deal was not that outrageous. Chara just turned 43 this past spring and despite his rigorous conditioning, Father Time catches up to everyone.
Pride is also something that catches up to everyone, and both sides wanted to keep as much of that attribute as possible. The Bruins want to get younger on the blue line and Chara wanted to keep playing. There is nothing wrong with that. Both sides were right on their convictions.
It is worth noting that the Bruins and Capitals will play each other eight times this upcoming season due to the NHL’s COVID-19-influenced division realignment. Very interesting. There is no reason to believe that nothing but respect will be shown to a Boston legend.