On the first of July, 2006, Zdeno Chara became a Boston Bruin. And with that, he became the 19th player to earn the title of captain of the team. In under five years of leading the team, Chara was the first to lift the Stanley Cup in 2011.
However, Chara’s time is coming to a close in the league and the Bruins will likely have to choose a new captain very soon – maybe even next off-season.
Zdeno Chara and the Next Boston Bruins Captain
Chara’s Early Years in the NHL
Zdeno Chara was not initially a member of the Boston Bruins. The tallest player in NHL history slipped to the third round of the 1996 NHL Draft, where he was taken 56th overall by the New York Islanders. He became known around the league as a player no one wanted to face. His frame made it hard to push him around or gain any ground. But when the Islanders had their eyes set on speed and offensive talent, they dealt Chara to the Ottawa Senators.
Once in Ottawa, he recorded his best statistical season with 16 goals and 25 assists and was even given the “A” on his jersey. But once again, a decision was made that prioritized another player over him and he was left to free agency. It was on the first of July in 2006 that the Bruins scooped him up and handed him the “C”.
Chara in Boston
During his time in Boston, Chara has become one of the most notable players of the lengthy Bruins history and will likely go down as one of the few elite Bruins that has been a part of the 93-year franchise.
But the overall acceptance of Chara was not always at an all-time high. After missing the playoffs for two consecutive years, fans were looking for Chara to either step up or step down. Even inside the locker room, there was some confusion that many may not have caught.
In an episode of “Behind the B”, the documentary that follows the Bruins on and off the ice, Brad Marchand sat at a dinner table with a few teammates and introduced linemate Patrice Bergeron as the team’s captain. Bergeron quickly corrected Marchand and the conversation continued.
The slip-up may not have entirely been a jab at Chara, but instead may have shown how some players look to Bergeron to lead them.
The Case for Bergeron
Bergeron likely has the greatest shot to wear the “C” next for Boston. He was a Bruins draft pick from 2003, so his ties to Boston are loyal. He is a four-time Frank J. Selke Trophy winner as the player who shows a defensive component to their offensive position, which is something Bruins fans take pride in every time the NHL Awards come around.
Bergeron has also given back to the city of Boston off the ice. As the leader of “Patrice’s Pals”, Bergeron brings in patients from local hospitals to watch a game at TD Garden. Additionally, he meets each guest personally following the game. Bergeron brings a lot of pride to the city of Boston because he plays the game with integrity that loyal fans of the sport enjoy.
This is not to say that Chara doesn’t pull his weight to help Bruins fans or win their hearts. For one example, in 2015, he partnered with a UK charity to bring an English child to Boston for a game. But Bergeron’s presence in the city is surely more noticed.
Only a few current Bruins would really qualify to be the team’s next captain. It would be hard to imagine Brad Marchand in this role, as he is known to cause some problems with opponents with his actions. He’s a proven goal scorer but might not fit the role above an alternate captain.
David Pastrnak could also be considered for the role, but the Bruins aren’t really a team that promotes their flashiest or even best player to captain.
The real contenders would be David Backes, who was the captain of the St. Louis Blues before coming to Boston and David Krejci, who has worn an “A” and is entering his 13th season in the league – all for the Bruins.
What This Means for the Future
After being back in the playoffs for two seasons, the idea of Chara losing the grip of his team has practically vanished. And his ability to keep the team a contender with a young group of defenders has solidified his spot as the captain. However, Chara is now 41 years old and is entering the one-year deal he signed with the Bruins in March.
This means that it is entirely likely that this will be the Slovakian defenseman’s last year in the league. And while there is an entire year still to be played before giving this tough thought, this is the opportunity Bergeron has waited for. The Canadian center is 32 and not showing signs of slowing down, which makes him the obvious choice to be the 20th captain of the team. Only three active players on the roster are older, one being Chara and two being rather recent acquisitions in Backes and Rick Nash.
His ability to work with and assist younger players with adapting to the Bruins system makes him a respectable player and person. The team will surely miss Chara, but losing his presence won’t leave the team wondering who will step up, as they have more than a few who have the capability to do so. The only question is about who will have the honour of wearing the “C” on their chest.
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