The Boston Bruins underwent some major changes this past offseason, but none more major than the departure of their star center David Krejci. Krejci, who’s been with the team for over a decade, elected to return back to his home country and play on a one-year deal, leaving a massive hole in Boston’s top six. More often than not, free agency and some prospect growth can supplement these departures rather easily. But David Krejci is simply a different type of player. He’ll be next to impossible to replace, and the Bruins will have to find a rather quick solution to patch the massive hole sitting in the middle of the second line.
Why the Departure of David Krejci Will be Glaring This Season
Krejci was one of the better playmakers in the NHL.
Pass-First, Shoot Later
Nowadays, true playmaking forwards is relatively hard to come by. One of the few left in the league was Krejci, who positioned his game solely on making his linemates better. It’s not an easily replaceable type of player, and it’s one of the big reasons why Krejci’s value in the league stood so high for so many years.
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As recently as 2019, Krejci eclipsed the 50-assist mark, something he has now done three times in his 15-year career. His elite vision and poise have really morphed some top wingers in this league, including Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic, who helped form one of the more deadly lines in recent Bruins history.
If there is one thing Krejci does better than any center in the league, it’s looking for the best opportunity, not just the best shot off his stick. It’s something the Bruins will struggle to replace.
Taylor Hall’s Partner in Crime
With Taylor Hall now signed long term, wing production on that second line will be even more important. We heard a lot about how Krejci “woke up” Hall after the Bruins acquired him during last season’s trade deadline. Well, Hall has woken up, but will he be able to stay awake without the presence of his pass-first center? I’m not so sure.
Hall scored 10 goals with the Bruins last season. Krejci assisted on all but two of those goals. Could it be that they simply saw nearly all of their ice time together? Sure. But there’s no denying that the flip that Hall witnessed from Buffalo to Boston was not simply a change in heart, it was a change in personnel.
To be clear, Krejci is a fantastic player by himself. However, what makes him so tough to replace is his ability to make everyone around him better, not just with his leadership but with his style of play. A player that benefited so greatly from this was Hall, and I worry he may fizzle out with the departure of the Czech centerman.
Who Steps Up?
Now that we’ve dug into why Krejci will be so sorely missed, let’s look into who may be replacing him this next season.
There’s an obvious front-runner for the second-line center position, and that’s Charlie Coyle. He has been with the Bruins for two full seasons and has certainly established himself as a trusted and productive player on Boston’s roster.
His production has remained rather stagnant, but increased ice time could change that. Nonetheless, he’s by far the most experienced and well-rounded centerman the Bruins have behind Patrice Bergeron, and it’s safe to say it’ll be his job to lose. When in doubt, start with the veteran, and if Coyle loses the job, so be it. But until then, the established leadership of Coyle’s game could treat the Bruins well and help lessen the blow of the departure of David Krejci.
No matter who replaces Krejci, the overall production at that position is destined to decline. However, if the team is looking for a veteran presence with a number of NHL seasons under his belt, Coyle is the guy.
Ask any Bruins fan on Causeway Street who they want to center the second line, you’ll almost certainly get a number of them screaming “Studnicka!” in your face.
Drafted in 2017, the Ontario-born centerman has yet to make a true impact on Boston’s NHL roster, but has been a force in the American Hockey League (AHL) when given the ice time. In 2020, he finished the season with 49 points in 60 games, dominating the Providence Bruins and building a name for himself rather quickly.
One of the big traits Studnicka possesses is his ability to move the puck efficiently. Scouting reports around the league touted his ability to skate well and make smart decisions. He’s certainly proven his ability to do that in the minors, but the big leagues have still stunned him thus far.
Still, if the Bruins are looking for a Krejci 2.0 in the making, look no further than Mr. Studnicka. The only worry may be his readiness for the big leagues, but there certainly will never be a larger opportunity to prove his worth than right now. If Don Sweeney decides Studnicka is the man, I don’t think anyone can fault him for it.
Bruins’ Formula Altered
There are solutions to the departure of David Krejci. It’s not an unsolvable problem. But the Bruins have lost their veteran and offensive-minded second-line center just months after losing their captain as well.
It’s not the same Bruins team we’ve been used to seeing for the past 10 years. The departure of Krejci has ended yet another era in Boston’s storied history. And while I’d like to think the Bruins have the talent to overcome such a big loss, the loss will loom in the minds of Bruins fans for years to come.
Originally from a small town in southern New Hampshire, I took the leap and attended Emmanuel College in Boston. A large adjustment, but one that came with a lot of opportunities. After editing for Last Word on Sports for three years, I joined The Hockey Writers in October 2021 to cover the Bruins exclusively. At 21 years old, I have much to learn and a lot of room to grow. I can only dream of the day I get to cover a Stanley Cup season for the team I was raised to love.