The Boston Bruins defense suffered because Zdeno Chara missed 19 games last season. That’s the story, right?
Aside from trading Johnny Boychuk and putting in a dent in the traditionally-deep Boston blue line, Chara’s absence played a big role in the downward spiral that was the Bruins’ 2014-15 season.
The offense suffered last season, too. Not necessarily because they were missing Chara’s body in front of the net on the power play–that’s not it. The Bruins’ offensive output dipped because they were missing their best playmaker.
David Krejci was as much of an absence to the Bruins’ forwards as Chara was for the defense–if not more. Getting a fully-healthy Krejci back into the lineup for the 2015-16 NHL season will be the best acquisition the Bruins didn’t even have to make this offseason.
In case you forgot, Krejci’s 2014-15 campaign was abysmal due to injuries. Though, even after missing 35 games last season, Krejci still finished in the top-10 among Bruins scorers. That kind of year, but to no fault of playmaking center.
After missing the first three games of the year, Krejci became a point-per-game player in nine games in October. Then, things became erratic. He only played two games in November before coming back for a stretch of time in late December. He missed more time during the latter part of the season, an absence that gave Ryan Spooner his chance to crack the lineup, and returned for the end of the year.
This was obviously not a season Krejci would like to remember.
But things change. Slates get cleaned, pages get turned, and whatever happened last season will stay right there. If healthy, Krejci will be the biggest addition to a Bruins offense in need of a jolt this season. Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes will help, a full season of David Pastrnak will help, but nothing more than having Krejci anchoring one of the two top scoring lines.
Who are Krejci’s linemates?
This is the biggest question going into the season, but not one that needs to be answered immediately. While Patrice Bergeron is likely the best center on the team, Krejci has the better offensive upside of the two. In theory, Pastrnak will be paired with Krejci. However unlike in seasons past, the Bruins can experiment with linemates on both sides of Krejci to see what works. Forget about having Milan Lucic as Krejci’s permanent left winger.
The acquisitions of Beleskey and Hayes help. Both wingers who have natural shots could be put on the Krejci line to produce, though likely not together. Or, by putting Loui Eriksson on the left side and Pastrnak on the right, the Bruins could have a legitimate scoring line that can play in both ends of the ice. Then, there’s Brett Connolly whose potential remains untapped.
With the exception of Brad Marchand, who is likely forever attached to Bergeron’s left side, there will certainly be an open tryout to play on Krejci’s wings.
The scenarios will be trial and error. There are going to be some combinations that work and others that fall flat. But having a fully-healthy Krejci in the lineup will boost offensive production on the Bruins more than any other acquisition could have.
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Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.