From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2015-16 Bruins. Today: David Krejci.
Many Bruins players pointed to the assortment of David Krejci injuries as the reason why the Bruins struggled so much last season, and ultimately saw them as the biggest factor behind narrowly missing the playoffs. Certainly it had a lot to do with Milan Lucic’s struggles and an offense that wasn’t balanced in any way, shape or form. The playmaking center missed half of last season with an array of lower body injuries that ranged from hip and groin to knee problems and it was easy to see he wasn’t 100 percent even when he returned. The Bruins need a healthy, effective Krejci manning the top line and spearheading Boston’s puck possession if they hope to regain their playoff groove this year.
What Happened Last Year: The 29-year-old Krejci played the fewest games (47) in any full season of his Bruins career and was dogged all year by a lower body issue that cropped up at the end of preseason. Krejci was rushed back too early a couple of times in the first few months of the season, and never truly looked himself at any point. The Czech center finally went down with a knee injury in February and that absence created a chance for Ryan Spooner to spark the offense after his call-up to Boston. It was a bit ironic in that it was a Marc Savard injury -- a broken bone in his back thanks to a Steve Begin cross-check -- that gave Krejci his big chance at the NHL level way back in 2007-08. Just call it the hockey circle of life. Krejci finished with seven goals and 31 points in 47 games last season, and the Bruins sorely missed his playmaking, his offensive creativity on the PP and his sheer puck possession ability.
Questions To Be Answered This Season: Krejci had only missed a total of 15 games in his previous six seasons with the Bruins but was knocked out for nearly half the season last year with those lower body maladies. So it would be pretty unfair to label Krejci injury-prone or question his toughness at this point. The bottom line is the Bruins need the 29-year-old to start the season healthy, remain that way through the campaign and be at his best should they be good enough to qualify for the playoffs. There was certainly some friction between Krejci and members of the organization when the center felt like he was initially rushed back into the lineup too early, so a season free of any health issues would be the best thing for everybody involved. Krejci always enjoyed great chemistry with Milan Lucic as well so he’ll have to use training camp and the early season to develop good vibes with new linemates, whether they be Matt Beleskey, David Pastrnak or any number of other wingers.
In Their Words: “Every time I felt like my game was coming around, I got hurt. That happened three times this year. It was really frustrating, but I started feeling pretty good at the end of the season. [But] I wasn’t able to help the team get into the playoffs. So it’s a disappointing year for myself, and for the team. We have a long summer.” –Krejci, at Bruins breakup day after easily the most frustrating season of his NHL career.
Overall Outlook: Krejci should be in the prime of his career and is at the point where his elite offensive skills, his hockey IQ and his physical strength should really allow him to dominate games when he’s healthy. He can control the flow of the game with the puck on his stick and create multiple scoring chances for the players around him. There was little offense and even less quality puck possession when Krejci was out of the lineup, and his underrated presence was also missed defensively, and in the face-off circle, against other team’s best forward lines. A healthy, very productive season for Krejci in 2015-16 is one of the things that absolutely has to go right for the Bruins to return the playoffs this coming season. It will be easier said than done, but the Bruins are in a situation this season where there is very little margin for error on their hockey club.