The end of the 2020 season for the Boston Bruins was in a word; frustrating. Penalties. Lack of scoring. Rask leaving. Halak letting in too many soft goals. Ineffective clears. It was a storm of agony. And of course, it was a tough pill to swallow that the President Trophy winners entered the playoffs as a fourth seed with no home games insight.
It felt like it could be the end of an era after Victor Hedman finished the Bruins' season about a month earlier than Boston wanted. After the handshakes concluded, the Bruins front office needed to shift gears to a crucial off-season. First things first, they need to know if Boston's captain will return.
Has Zdeno Chara played his final game wearing the Spoked B? After his final talk with the media for the 2020 season, it does not appear to be so.
"I'm positive and I believe that I can still play this game and contribute to the team," Chara said. "I want to stay in Boston. I want to be a Boston Bruin, and I want to continue to lead by example and share my experiences and my game skills with the younger players and my teammates."
While those comments would point to a Chara return, the fact is he will be 44 when the puck drops for the 2021 playoffs. The Bruins will have to manage his minutes like never before. Chara still has incredible value on the penalty kill and in defensive situations. But the days of 33 skating 20-25 minutes a night are behind him.
If Chara is back, the Bruins should place him in a smaller role to maximize what he has left in the tank. Maybe having Chara skate with Jeremy Lauzon or Connor Clifton the majority of the time would be the best for Chara, the young defensemen, and the Bruins.
Yes, his performance in Toronto left a lot to be desired. That was painfully true during the Tampa series. Chara's play was constantly reminding fans he is in fact 43.
However, it is not fair to judge Chara entirely on his bubble performance. The truth is, very few Bruins consistently played well in Toronto. He still brings a lot of winning components to the Bruins on the ice and in the locker room.
The Bruins should offer Chara another 1-year deal, with a fine salary and a few incentives in his contract. Chara understands every nickel in cap space will help the Bruins this fall. (More on that to come.)
Big Z has earned the right to retire on his terms. He has given too much to the organization and the city to be pressured out to pasture. If he believes he has something left to give the organization, we should trust his judgment.
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones