When one door closes, another one opens. The trade of Dougie Hamilton left a gaping hole on the Boston Bruins blue line.
Is Torey Krug the guy that will (try to) fill the void? He sure thinks so.
In his recent interview with The Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin, the 24-year-old defenseman wants a chance to prove he is ready to contend for a top-four place.
“For me personally, I feel like I’m ready for that challenge. It’s up to the coaching staff as well, but right now I’m eyeing [a top four] spot, and until somebody tells me otherwise, I’m going to go take it in camp.”
Krug exudes confidence, and for good reason. He was a stud offensively for Boston scoring 12 goals and 39 points even though the team was a dud. The Michigan native averaged 19:36 of ice time per game, taking on increased minutes with the early season injury to captain Zdeno Chara. Krug saw over 20 minutes of ice time in 35 of his 78 games played last season.
With the available pool of free agent defensemen dwindling, the Bruins may be looking in-house for Hamilton’s replacement. Can Krug be that guy for the Bruins?
More Than Just a One-Trick Pony
The undrafted free agent out of Michigan State has primarily played on Boston’s third pairing alongside either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller the last two seasons. However, Krug makes his living setting up shop on the power play with slick puck handling and a howitzer of a slapshot.
Just ask the New York Rangers.
The power play has been Krug’s bread and butter in his young career. Over half of the 81 point he’s scored in his career have come on the man advantage (44). The left-shot defenseman has led the Bruins defense corps in average power play time-on-ice per game each of the last two seasons (2:37 in 2014-15; 2:30 in 13-14) and has taken advantage of the opportunities.
However, a top-four blue liner has to be capable of playing in all situations. Krug has not seen much action on the penalty kill averaging just 15 seconds of shorthanded time in 13-14 and 11 seconds last season. The wild card to his success will lie in how he reacts to and performs in shorthanded situations.
Krug has been sheltered on the third-pairing for much of his career. His career Corsi-For numbers (54.8 percent at even strength) and plus-minus (+29) are pretty good so far but will be tested in an expanded role.
Speed To Burn
One of the major assets Krug would bring to the Bruins top-four is his speed. The 5’9 blue liner is lightning fast on his skates and just as quick in transition with the puck.
One could argue (and I will) that Boston needs a quicker skater to play more minutes. Chara and Seidenberg are a) getting older, b) have had significant knee injuries the past two seasons and c) not the fastest of skaters.
Adding Krug to the mix will give coach Claude Julien someone who matches up better against faster opponents, most notably the Montreal Canadiens. The lack of speed on the blue line is a serious concern for Boston and will have to be addressed as the game trends away from a physical style to more of a finesse game.
This season, Krug will have the motivation to prove his worth to the Bruins.
The Michigan native signed a one-year contract extension during last season for $3.4 million, in part because former general manager Peter Chiarelli wanted to see if Krug could evolve into more than just a one-trick pony.
Chiarelli’s firing means that evaluation lies in the hands of Don Sweeney, a former defenseman in his own right.
Krug has all the qualities that the GM wants out of his team if you believed his introductory press conference back in May. Sweeney wants an aggressive Bruins team that’s good in transition and plays the puck well. Krug does all of those things.
The motivation of cashing in on a long-term extension is also prevalent for Krug. He will be a restricted free agent next summer and, if he blossoms in an expanded role, will look for the contract that is deserving of his performance.
The 2015-16 campaign is a big one for Torey Krug. The door is open for him to seize the spot formerly held by Hamilton on a team with lessened expectations.
His bid for a top-four place in the defensive rotation will begin when training camp opens up next month.
Do you think Krug is worthy of being a top-four defenseman for the Bruins? Leave your thoughts in the comments or reach out to me on Twitter!