When the Boston Bruins lost Torey Krug in free agency, there was a significant hole being left on their roster. While the loss of Zdeno Chara also created a hole as far as shutdown defense goes, Krug’s loss created questions in regards to offensive production – the team’s biggest issue in recent years.
During his entire tenure with the Bruins, Krug was designated as the quarterback of the power play and seemed irreplaceable given his production. One of the best offensive producers from the backend throughout his time in Boston, Krug seemed like an incredibly big loss in free agency, especially with the team failing to replace his production on defense.
While the Bruins didn’t make a signing or a trade to replace Krug’s production, they definitely had an internal option in Matt Grzelcyk who seemed capable of easing the loss. Admittedly, Grzelcyk doesn’t necessarily play the same role as Krug at five-on-five for the Bruins. Still, there’s no denying the fact that he’s seamlessly stepped into Krug’s power-play role.
In 32 games this season, Torey Krug has scored one goal and 16 points. It’s not quite the same point production that he’s been known for in recent years, but he’s still been playing well in St. Louis with a whole new team and system around him. Grzelcyk, stepping into a bigger role with the Bruins, has also been excellent despite ongoing bouts with injury.
Through 15 games, Grzelcyk has scored one goal and nine points and is averaging 19:03 per game. Offensively, he’s improved tremendously and is finally getting a chance to produce the way he did at the collegiate level.
To contextualize those numbers, Grzelcyk would have five goals and 49 points in a full 82-game season.
Beyond just the offensive production, though, Grzelcyk remains an excellent defender in all three zones. Capable of moving the puck through his skates or his passing, his vision is always on display and his positioning helps make up for his smaller stature.
He’s always been good as a puck-moving defender and his ability to play without the puck on his stick on offense and on defense should have never been in question. His ability to affect the scoresheet, however. something that was never a certainty at the NHL level. Now that he’s been given the chance, Grzelcyk has not only proven he can produce offensively, but he can do so while continuing to be such an integral piece defensively.
His size certainly hurts him at times, specifically with how easy he is to move off of the puck compared to some of his peers. Despite this, though, his ability to impact a game seemingly can’t be deterred. He’s long-been the Bruins biggest X-factor and when presented with a bigger role, he hasn’t crumbled under the pressure.
He’s been a big part of keeping the Bruins in contention this season despite some major departures.
Bruins Desire for a Top-Four Defender Isn’t Baseless
Do the Bruins have all of the pieces that they need for a deep playoff run? Not in the slightest. Whether it’s a top-six scoring forward, another puck-moving defender or a combination of the two, the Bruins will have to make some moves at the trade deadline. Scoring at five-on-five and the ability to produce at even strength continue to plague the Bruins. This is why acquiring a top-six forward makes sense. Defensively, though, the Bruins are in good shape but could still use some extra help all the same.
In a perfect world, Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy make up the team’s top-pairing while the Bruins fill out the second-pairing alongside Brandon Carlo with a player like Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril or even Urho Vaakanainen depending on the health of the team as a whole. If the Bruins don’t feel like this would solidify their defense enough for a postseason push, they could always make a move to acquire a more bonafide top-four player.
This is even more important when considering the health of the team has been a question mark for years now. Though Grzelcyk has been good, his health has been concerning this season. The Bruins cannot afford to lose him in the playoffs as they’d then be forced to rely on other defenders who simply don’t have the experience under their belt to be trusted in such a crucial spot.
Could they play themselves into that opportunity one day? Grzelcyk certainly did. For now, though, the Bruins will need players they can rely on, especially with the threat of injury always looming.
Mortgaging some of the future to capitalize on the current Championship window makes sense. The core for this Bruins team isn’t getting any younger and capitalizing on their remaining years is imperative
With that said, the Bruins are incredibly fortunate to have Grzelcyk in the fold given how well he’s helped ease the transition for the Bruins’ life after Chara and Krug. Though they have holes to fill, he’s done his best to mitigate the damage and force the need for even more help than they’re currently seeking out.