Declaring your team's most important player is not a simple thing. It's not always the most valuable guy or the highest points producer. It is the player who makes your team go; the one you can't afford to lose, even if all he contributes can't be measured by fancy stats.
Most Important Player: Zdeno Chara, defenseman
With the Boston Bruins beginning a new chapter in their storied history with a new general manager in Don Sweeney, and a revamped roster that includes plenty of new players, many think the of newcomers like Matt Beleskey or Jimmy Hayes would need to make a serious impact in order for the Bruins to be successful.
That statement is 100 percent true, but the success of the Bruins in 2015-2016 needs to begin with captain Zdeno Chara.
The 6-foot-9, 255-pound veteran defenseman had one of the worst seasons in his 17-year career during 2014-2015. Not only did he miss 19 games due to a torn ligament in his left knee, the 38-year-old never regained his form when he returned to action in mid-December.
Chara was slow, not the dominant defender the league has known, and yet was still forced to play an average of nearly 25 minutes per game. After the Bruins failed to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, Boston’s captain admitted he was never fully healed from his knee injury.
Due to his subpar performance last season (and a career-low 20 points) many wondered if Chara’s career was suddenly coming to an end. He has different thoughts.
Chara is an extremely proud player. He is motivated to return to form, and maybe missing the playoffs will be a blessing in disguise. Having so much time off the ice will give him the proper rest and recovery time to return completely healthy.
If there’s any player in the NHL that can turn it around it’s Chara.
There will be some challenges, however, especially since the Bruins’ defensive core lost 22-year-old Dougie Hamilton, who was traded to the Calgary Flames. Bruins coach Claude Julien needs to figure out a way to manage Chara’s minutes so he can be effective for the entire season and for a possible playoff run.
Boston is a team that is at its best when its defensive game is solid, and that will lead to a strong offensive attack. If the Bruins can figure out a way to become a Stanley Cup contender once again, it will have to start with Chara and his leadership on and off the ice.