A year ago Torey Krug was still in the throes of a rehabilitation program following shoulder surgery and readying for a training camp already feeling behind everybody else. Those circumstances led to a bit of an understandably slow start for the 26-year-old defenseman, but Krug finished with his best all-around NHL season as he hits his playing prime.
The puck-moving power play maestro was also missed badly in the playoffs when he succumbed to a knee injury in the final few games of the regular season. Krug crossed the 50-point plateau for the first time in his career, topped 20 minutes of ice time per game while playing as a top-4 D-man all season and generally proved wrong any naysayers that felt a 5-foot-9 defenseman simply couldn’t survive in that kind of role.
So now that Krug has set that bar with last year’s performance, he’s not looking to take any steps back this season. That means the puck-moving D-man is again aiming his sights on playing top-4 minutes for the Black and Gold, and that could mean partnering up with 20-year-old Charlie McAvoy as he skates through his first full NHL season.
“That’s the kind of stuff guys like that to talk about headed into the season…who they’re going to play with and what they’re responsibilities are going to be,” said Krug. “From an individual standpoint it’s always about trying to take another step. I thought last year I gained more trust from the coaching staff and I’m not going to take a step back this year.
“It’s going to be a very similar role for myself and getting some help moving some pucks on the back end. That will always help me out. I’m looking forward to it. I just finished my first week of consecutive days on the ice this summer, and it’s definitely the best I’ve felt in a couple of years.”
There certainly could be a couple of different looks in NHL training camp as the Bruins decide how best to utilize a top-end, inexperienced talent like McAvoy while grooming him as a future No. 1 defenseman. The B’s could shift hard-nosed Kevan Miller over to his left side to give McAvoy a bit more of a rugged, experienced defensive presence to match his offensive abilities, or they could opt for Krug in the kind of puck-moving pairing that could give other team’s mismatch problems. It remains to be seen if Krug and McAvoy could survive together as a pairing in the D-zone, but the school of thought would be that they’ll rarely be in that position if they’re doing their job skating, moving pucks and keeping possession firmly on their sticks.
Regardless of whether Krug ends up with McAvoy or in a more traditional pairing with Adam McQuaid as more of a third pair offering, he feels the time has come to for him to be one of the older guys acting as a bridge between grizzled veterans and the talented bunch of newcomers.
“I’ve been involved in certain meetings, and that says a lot along with talking to a lot of veteran guys through the summer while staying involved in the Boston community. I’m in the training program throughout the summer and you feel like you’re a part of everything. I’ve definitely had that feeling [of being a core player] from Sweens as well as from Bruce [Cassidy],” said Krug. “I’m serving as part of bridging that gap between the younger guys and the older guys.
“Going into my sixth year and having been a part of the team that got to the Stanley Cup Final, it’s not only about on the ice but it’s about socially as well. I try to bring those young guys in and help them feel comfortable talking to the older guys. That’s the kind of role I’m really taken on.”
Given Krug’s unending quest to improve himself in any way possible and his unwillingness to take a step back from last season, even more should be expected from a player that’s healthy, confident and ready to again produce the best season of his NHL career.