By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
David Krejci has the Bruins in a very difficult position. The overpaid second line center is currently dealing with a back ailment, that seemingly was the result of a cross-check delivered by a Vancouver Canuck in Patrice Bergeron’s return to the lineup on October 19th at the TD Garden. In the six games he has played so far this season, he has recorded six points – a goal and five assists – although three of the helpers came on opening night, in a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators.
And for as maddening as he can be to watch at times – he has been known to go missing for games at a time, in his 11 years in Boston – this rebuilding Bruins team is not the same without him. In Monday night’s 4-3 shootout loss in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, head coach Bruce Cassidy had to once again scramble his lines as if they were a dozen eggs, when a flat-footed Black and Gold bunch forgot to show up for the first period.
“For our team to be successful, that’s what we’ve determined — that we need to spread out the offense. We’ll always move back to it if need be. Tonight, I thought it was need be, and it worked out,” said Cassidy, commenting after the game on moving David Pastrnak up to the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“You may click better with Bergy and Marsh. We know that, but he’s been asked to play on a different line and produce. He’s going into a leadership kind of category now. He’s not [Anders} Bjork and [Jake] DeBrusk. He’s going to have to put some of that on himself if he’s not with those guys,” the Bruins bench boss said regarding Pastrnak’s temporary promotion.
In the four games that Krejci has been sidelined, the newly minted millionaire winger has failed to find a spark with the veteran center-turned winger-turned center David Backes, but that is nothing new. Backes has been a square peg that’s being pounded into a round hole since he came to the Bruins a little over a year ago, and he might just be the worst signing of third-year general manager Don Sweeney’s short career as an NHL executive.
The trouble is, the B’s most certainly miss Krejci, even though they would be better off without him.
In many ways, the Bruins are a franchise at a crossroads. By all accounts, the Cam Neely led front office – with Sweeney’s team picking personnel – has done a good job refilling the pipeline of prospects that former GM Peter Chiarelli left barren.
With a group of talented centers knocking at the door – Danton Heinen and Sean Kuraly are already in Boston, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson breaking in as a pro in Providence representing the closest to making an impact on the varsity squad – ideally the Bruins would be best served for the long-term to somehow find a way to wiggle free from the aging Krejci and his cumbersome contract (four years at $7.5 per remaining).
And while this would no doubt put the playoffs in peril – something owner Jeremy Jacobs would have a Montgomery Burns reaction to, for sure – it might be the best thing for the club going forward, when it comes to player development and determining which young players are part of the future, and which are not.
However, it is unlikely that there will be many takers for a player in his 30’s with the injury history that Krejci has, even if the Bruins were willing to swallow a good deal of his salary. And yes, like almost every NHL player who has signed a contract in the last 10 years, the once celebrated center has a no movement clause through 2019.
So, for now, the B’s will remain between a rock and a hard place, depending on a player who is likely past his prime and not earning his keep. Meanwhile, as he struggles to remain healthy while eating up a considerable amount of the salary cap, his potential replacements have yet to prove that they have earned his position on the roster.
Rebuilding a once proud contender is never easy. It’s even harder when you have aging veterans with contracts like Krejci’s, in a hard salary cap league.
There’s just no getting around it, for Sweeney and the Bruins’ brass, the sometimes crafty Czech is a classic case of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.