The Zdeno Chara era — the second coming of it — is set to begin Thursday when the Islanders open training camp for the 2021-22 season.
It’s an exciting time for the 44-year-old, as he’s joining an Isles’ squad that has hopes of lifting the Stanley Cup this year after coming close the last two years. And there’s been a lot of chatter about how Chara will be used in the defensive rotation by head coach Barry Trotz.
Will he be playing top-four minutes alongside Scott Mayfield? Will he be paired with Noah Dobson, who’s 23 years younger his senior? Will him and Andy Greene making up the oldest defensive pairing in league history? (just joking with that one, or maybe not?)
Those questions should be answered over the coming weeks. But, there’s another part of Chara’s repertoire that the Islanders could benefit from — his ability to play special teams.
Yes, Chara has not been a true power play threat for close to five seasons now, having succeeded those duties to younger blueliners, but there’s no denying his shot is still one of the most dangerous in the league. The image of he and Ryan Pulock — who has a lethal shot of his own — on the same man-advantage should have Islander fans salivating. Chara would also probably allow Pulock more ample opportunities because the opposition’s focus would be directed toward him. with The lefty-righty dynamic of those two could become a big advantage too.
The Islanders power play absolutely needs to be better than it’s been the last few seasons. They have captain Anders Lee returning, a stud playmaker in Mathew Barzal, two sharpshooters in Oliver Wahlstrom and Kyle Palmieri, and added Zach Parise, who in a two-year span — 2018-20 — recorded 22 power play goals. Chara’s presence though, is another reason to believe he is what could take it over the top.
One of the most frustrating things about the inefficiency of the Isles’ power play units over the years has been its refusal to shoot. Well now there are no excuses with a prime shooter, facilitatorlike Chara helping man the point, whether on power play one or the quarterback on the second unit.
At the other end, Chara’s possible use on the penalty kill could be interesting. The team’s PK already has two extremely effective players in Adam Pelech and Scott Mayfield. The age he’s at, it’s hard to see the coaching staff utilizing Chara at anything other than the power play or even strength. But the future Hall of Famer showed last year he can still kill penalties. He was a part of Capitals’ PK that was top-five in the league last year.
With Chara’s length and reach, he could become a stalwart on the second unit and make things more difficult for the opposition. Something the Islanders have become good at as a whole and would only provide another advantage.
However Trotz and the coaching staff see Chara fitting, there’s no questioning how his ability can have a huge effect on the present club. Special teams maybe more than any other.
It’s a nice add on to have, and the Islanders might be very fortunate because of it in the long run.