When Marcus Kruger debuted for the Blackhawks at the end of the 2010-11 season, he joined a team that was coming off a Stanley Cup victory/post-Cup purge and was trying to recapture a winning formula. During that time, he gained a wealth of experience and was a valuable part of the Blackhawks’ 2013 and 2015 Cups.
Now he’s the latest former Blackhawks player headed to the Carolina Hurricanes, who hope to turn his and others’ winning pedigrees into success there.
The 27-year-old Kruger joked that, “I’m probably one of the older guys now,” with Carolina. The Hurricanes do have their share of youth but thanks to their offseason moves they also have a strong crop of experience – and Blackhawks. Kruger joins Trevor van Riemsdyk, Scott Darling, Teuvo Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom, the latter four all part of the 2015 Cup team. They also added Justin Williams, who’s won three Cups (his first came with the Hurricanes in 2006).
“We’re a very young team trying to find its way, and we think the guys we picked up aren’t only just very good players, but also good guys and winners,” Carolina general manager Ron Francis said “That’s invaluable in a locker room.”
Francis and Kruger have talked about the upcoming season but admits Kruger’s role on this team is, “wide open.” Kruger was never a big goal scorer with the Blackhawks but he was a key part of the penalty kill and improved on faceoffs. He was also someone coach Joel Quenneville could count on at critical times. He lined up with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik during the 2013 run and was part of the play that led to Bolland’s Cup-winning goal in Game 6. He was also on a dependable line with Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins during the 2015 run.
“He’s had a lot of tough assignments and handled those extremely well. It shows his maturity, ability to play in different ways and styles,” Francis said. “It’s the leadership, the on-ice ability to show guys what it takes to be a part of the team and that team is first and foremost important. When you buy into that, there’s more chance of winning. We liked [Kruger] as a player and person and what he brings as a leader as well.”
In reshaping their roster, the Hurricanes wanted more experience and proven winners. Kruger is the latest to bring that.
“You always want to do as much as you can to help the team out. You certainly want to take a step and get better and better,” Kruger said. “I’ll go there, do my best and take the opportunity that’s given. We’ll see how it pays out but I’ll do my best.”