BOSTON (CBS) – At first, the knee injury to Zdeno Chara on October 23 against the Islanders seemed like a death knell.

No one would argue the Bruins are better off without him, but since Big Z went down the team is 4-1, and his absence — as well as the absence of Torey Krug to injury — has given the team an invaluable, albeit unexpected opportunity to evaluate what they have in their young defensemen.

NESN’s Billy Jaffe weighed in on this topic Wednesday morning on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.

“Between [Providence call-ups] Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky, I’ve liked them all. I’ve really liked the way the Bruins coaching staff has managed everybody’s minutes without Chara. Morrow has really stood out because in two of his three games with how confident he’s been with aggressively pinching when appropriate. He’s not getting caught out of position and he’s not being overly aggressive. In two of his three games he’s had four shots on goal each.

“Trotman has looked steady; at times he’s struggling with the breakout pass. Warsofsky, aside from that ill-advised pinch a couple games ago that led to a goal against Buffalo, I think he’s been good too. They’re all playing good minutes too. They’re all playing between an average of 14 and 18 minutes per night.”

This is his third year in Boston, so he’s certainly not inexperienced by any means, but Jaffe has really liked the play of Dougie Hamilton too.

“How about Dougie Hamilton since Zdeno Chara’s been out? Now we already knew him, but he’s had 12 shots on goal, he’s a plus-4, and he has a goal and four assists. Everyone’s been saying it’s time for him to pick up his game, and you know what? He’s picked up his game! He’s done it,” said Jaffe.

Chara was very cryptic on Tuesday when speaking to the media, indicating he has no timetable for his return and the possibility of surgery hasn’t been ruled out yet.

Jaffe “would not be surprised” if Chara ends up going under the knife, but he also adds he’s not a doctor and hasn’t seen the MRIs.

There’s no reason the Bruins can’t tread water and stay above .500 without Chara, and while his absence certainly hurts the Bruins in the short term, Fred Toucher believes it could end up helping them in the long run.

Listen below for the full discussion!

MORE FROM TOUCHER AND RICH

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