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Is Zdeno Chara Becoming a Problem For the Islanders?

Is Zdeno Chara Becoming a Problem For the Islanders?

There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Islanders signing of Zdeno Chara late in the offseason. It was a great story for Chara to return to the team that drafted him and elevate their game. The problem is, Chara has not elevated the Islanders team game in any sense. While only seven games in, the Chara signing has not boded well for the New York Islanders. 

Not The Player He Used To Be

It has become increasingly apparent that age has caught up to the 44-year-old Chara. He’s dreadfully slow and he’s behind on nearly every play. On top of that, he isn’t making very smart decisions with the puck and is often on the wrong side of a turnover. The only part of his game that is still consistent is his role as an aggressor. But even that is leading to penalties that put the Islanders on the shorthand.

Chara’s game against the Nashville Predators had to be one of his worst so far. He took two penalties and lost his stick just before the Predators got the game-tying goal by him in an overtime loss. Chara is becoming a very big liability to the team early on and has forced line changes. The Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock first pairing had to be separated so that Chara could play with Pulock instead to mask his struggles. Chara can’t consistently be in the lineup if this is the kind of performance he’s going to have.

Not a Puck Moving Defenseman

Defense is not the only area where Chara is hurting the Islanders. The Islanders had been accustomed to having a puck-moving defenseman on their top four to generate offense. As early as two years ago, the Islanders had two of these players in Nick Leddy and Devon Toews. When Toews was traded for cap purposes, Leddy’s offensive presence was still enough to where it didn’t make a major difference who replaced Toews. When Leddy was traded, the Islanders didn’t have an experienced, puck-moving defenseman to replace him with.

Replacing Leddy with a defense-first defenseman in Chara has partially stinted the team’s offensive flow. They’ve become reliant on having someone like Leddy accumulate a high amount of points from the defenseman spot. Chara isn’t that player nor is he expected to be. But it’s become apparent that replacing a puck-moving defenseman with a big slow pylon like Chara is not doing the offensive attack any favors.

What’s The Solution?

The Islanders are currently between a rock and a hard place with Chara’s position on the team. Keeping him may prove to be a liability if he isn’t able to improve his game. And it’s not likely that an old player like Chara is going to suddenly resurface into an everyday, reliable defenseman. But if they choose to bench Chara, the in-house options available aren’t that big of an improvement. Sebastian Aho has some experience and works more as a puck-moving defenseman. The issue here is he hasn’t shown any substantial ability on either side. The Islanders could also call upon Robin Salo or Samuel Bolduc, however, that presents the issue of putting inexperienced players at a vital position for the team.

The best long-term solution is for the Islanders to acquire outside help via trade. This is more of an uncertain answer as there is no real idea of who could be available on the market. But it’s clear that none of the in-house solutions seem to be a good fit for one reason or the other. As for right now, the Islanders need to have a short leash with Chara. Trotz can’t afford to keep him playing if he can’t improve his game. Some internal options will need to be considered now and some external options will need to be considered as they become available.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images

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