It takes a while to get used to the New York Islanders system. Everyone goes through it. Specifically defensemen. They just seem to need longer to get used to how things work and where they need to be on the ice.
It's true, the Islanders don't have a "plug-and-play" system. New acquisitions take a while to get up to speed with where everyone else is. Jean-Gabriel Pageau went through it. Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac did as well. So did Andy Greene when the Islanders brought him in. The same goes for rookies like Noah Dobson, Robin Salo, Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows.
So it wasn't a surprise when Zdeno Chara faced the same struggles as his teammates did.
New York Islanders Zdeno Chara: From liability to asset
Even the future Hall of Famer struggled to figure out how he could fit into the Islanders system. The big man and mega-veteran was, unfortunately, a liability on the ice for the start of the year. But over the last month or so that's started to change.
It's hard to quantify this change, but I feel like Game Score captures the change in Zdeno Chara's game and with it, the change in his impact on the team, from a negative one to a positive one.
When you look at Chara's five-game Game Score rolling average you can see from November 21 through to December 19 he's firmly and consistently in the negative. His scores get as low as -0.93 (basically costing his team a goal every night), to a high of -0.23.
But by December 30th, that starts to change. Here are his rolling 5-game average Game Score from December 30:
Dec. 30: -0.31
Jan. 01: -0.09
Jan. 13: +0.36
Jan. 15: +0.19
Jan. 17: +0.60
Jan. 18: +0.09
Jan. 21: +0.33
Jan . 22: +0.22
Jan. 25: +0.93
Jan. 27: +0.80
Jan. 30: +0.95
He's gone from costing his team a goal a game to (basically) generating a goal game with his on-ice contributions. Chara has gone from a defensive liability to an asset.
Now, that doesn't mean he's elite again. He won't ever be the player he was at his peak. And that's to be expected. The Islanders knew that when they signed him. What they hoped for was a solid bottom-four defender that can mentor Noah Dobson. A role he's finally fitting for the Islanders.