What Will Bruins Defense Look Like Without Zdeno Chara? Assessing Boston’s Options

Should the Bruins lean on veterans or go with a full-fledged youth movement?


December 31, 2020

Barring an external move, the Boston Bruins now know what they’re working with on defense.

With Wednesday’s departure of 14-year captain Zdeno Chara, coupled with Torey Krug leaving in October for the St. Louis Blues, the Bruins appear to be looking at their young, internal options to fill a pair of roles on the left side of the defense.

For years, the left side of the defense was among the most gifted areas in the organization, actually creating a logjam for near-NHL-ready prospects. That issue, if you can call it one, is gone. Jakub Zboril, Urho Vaakanainen and Jeremy Lauzon all will get a chance to stake their claim for a regular roster spot. John Moore, entering Year 3 of a five-year deal, will get a chance to carve out a regular role for himself.

So, let’s dive into some of the options the Bruins have.

Option 1
Matt Grzelcyk–Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril–Brandon Carlo
John Moore–Jeremy Lauzon

The only consistency you’ll see throughout this is a Grzelcyk-McAvoy top pairing and Carlo on the second pairing.

In this instance, Carlo gets a puck-mover in Zboril, while Lauzon plays his off side with Moore on the left. This basically means Kevan Miller is slow to get back into action and Clifton doesn’t show out in camp enough, while Urho Vaakanainen doesn’t look ready to become an everyday player in the NHL.

Option 2
Matt Grzelcyk–Charlie McAvoy
Jeremy Lauzon–Brandon Carlo
John Moore–Kevan Miller

Here, Lauzon joins Carlo to form a shutdown pairing, albeit an offensively-limited one, while a veteran combo of Moore and Miller links up on the third pairing. If it’s the Miller of old, then there’s probably some stability on that third duo, though upside would be minimal. This probably isn’t the ideal circumstance since the offense in the bottom four would be incredibly limited.

Option 3
Matt Grzelcyk–Charlie McAvoy
Urho Vaakanainen–Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril–Jeremy Lauzon

The youth movement! This situation has all the youngsters looking good in camp and forcing Moore, Clifton and Miller out of the lineup.

Carlo links up with Boston’s most highly-touted defensive prospect in Vaakanainen, who is just 21 and projects to be a solid, two-way defensemen in the NHL. Then, Zboril and an off-handed Lauzon join forces for an admittedly risky, boom or bust, bottom pair.

Option 4
Matt Grzelcyk–Charlie McAvoy
Jakub Zboril/Urho Vaakanainen–Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon–Connor Clifton

Lauzon proves he’s a stable enough bottom pairing defenseman and that he deserves to be a mainstay in the lineup. He gets put with Clifton, allowing Clifton to push forward more often with his aggressive style of play, while Lauzon hangs back to put out fires.

Then, Carlo gets one of the puck-moving prospects to his left.

Option 5
Matt Grzelcyk–Charlie McAvoy
John Moore–Brandon Carlo
Jeremy Lauzon–Connor Clifton

The Bruins keep their chances to a minimum here. Moore and Carlo play together for a capped but not necessarily defensively or offensively liable unit, while Lauzon and Clifton pair together — providing the benefit mentioned in option four.

This combo flies in the face of the full-fledged youth movement, but it honestly might be the steadiest combination of them all.

Whatever the case ends up being, there’s going to be a lot of trial and error here, and whatever we see on Jan. 14 against the New Jersey Devils probably will change rather quickly. After all, Bruce Cassidy does have a propensity for firing up the blender.

Plus, there’s just 10 days of training camp for the Bruins to figure out what they’re working with.

Thumbnail photo via John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports Images
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