The Boston Bruins had a lot of tough questions to answer at their presser for Media Exit Day.
For the first time since 2007, the Boston Bruins failed to secure a post-season berth — and although there were plenty of reasons behind the middling season results, having an injured captain was probably a front-runner.
After missing nineteen games for both a knee injury in the fall and an undisclosed lower body injury (which many believed to be the result of a blocked shot to the foot) by captain Zdeno Chara, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli admitted that ‘Big Z’ has been playing a bulk of the season with a permanently torn PCL.
Chara, who just recently turned 38, confirmed that his knee has stabilized and that he won’t need surgery on it. He expects to be back to peak shape by next season, although that begs the question whether his play will regress any just based on his age and the beating he takes every season. Since joining the Boston roster in 2006, he’s averaged nearly 25 minutes of ice time every season but this one; this is also the first year since his first season with the franchise that the team has failed to see post-season action under his leadership.
Although the Bruins are making a number of off-season changes, though, the biggest question is likely one that won’t be addressed until the end of the upcoming season — and that’s whether Chara will fit in with the team’s long-term plan moving forward. Although his cap hit will remain at just under $7 million AAV until the end of the 2017-2018 season (Chara will be 41 when the contract expires), his role as the team’s uncontested top-pairing defenseman may start to dwindle as the seasons progress and his contract nears expiry. This will bring into question whether Dougie Hamilton can lead the team’s defensive corps moving forward, and — most importantly — whether the team will have the young players to replace Chara and current alternate captain Patrice Bergeron in the lineup as they each age out of the roster.