By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
(Welcome to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Weekend Wraparound — or just The Wraparound, WW, Wrap, or whatever you care to call it. I’m not big on names. But here’s what you should know about it: It’s a weekly column that will run every Saturday in addition to our complete coverage of the Boston Bruins, with or without ice available.)
I must admit that I find it just plain bizarre when fans and pundits rush to say that the Boston Bruins must trade Torey Krug.
Did everybody just black out and miss the six years or so of Bruins Hockey before Krug arrived on the scene? I’m guilty of trying to black out the entire 2015 year, and Max Talbot never actually played here. Were hopeless free agent endeavors for alleged puck-moving defenders of the past like Derek Morris and Joe Corvo just horrible fever dreams? As an enemy of questionable facial hair choices and stupid tribal tattoos, I wish that were the case, but they were indeed very real. Was Tomas Kaberle not the worst grand finale to a decade-long search for a defenseman that can quarterback a power play? It’s kind of incredible that a deadline addition that ended with a Stanley Cup victory for the Bruins can be considered a bust, but there we were.
This is not to suggest that Krug has been this revolutionary piece of the Boston puzzle. As a 5-foot-9 defenseman asked to play in a top-four role, Krug will have and has obviously had his struggles. But trying to downplay the impact he’s made on the Bruins since he and his slapshot wowed Henrik Lundqvist and Boston alike in the second round in 2013 is downright stupid.
And by now, you should know how this would go: As soon as the Bruins moved on from Krug, they’d be looking for a player that could deliver what he did. It may not happen overnight, but it will certainly happen. It happened with Boston problem child Tyler Seguin, and to a significantly lesser degree, I think you can make the case that it happened with Reilly Smith.
In other words, the Bruins should think long and hard before they ship No. 47 out of town.
As alluded to earlier, the Bruins have almost constantly been on the search for more offense from their defense.
Hell, even with Krug in the picture, the Bruins were once considered hot for then-Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
They were a pair of first-round picks and David Pastrnak away from acquiring Shattenkirk back in 2016. That non-trade has turned out to be Sweeney’s best move to date, as the Bruins used one of those picks to draft Charlie McAvoy (ironically enough, St. Louis native Trent Frederic was drafted with the second first-round pick). But the overall point remains the same: The Bruins, like every team in this league, are infatuated with having offense come from their point.
This is especially true since Bruce Cassidy took over for Claude Julien, as Cassidy’s system has encouraged defensemen to activate and take offensive chances when they’re there. The Bruins have not had to remind Krug about that, either.
In fact, since Cassidy took over behind the bench, Krug has recorded 17 goals and 77 points in just 102 games. Those 17 goals rank as the 18th-most among NHL defensemen over that span, while his 60 assists and 77 points stand as the ninth-most. Among the eight more productive than Krug over this span are four Norris Trophy winners (P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Victor Hedman) and a Stanley Cup winner (John Carlson). When you’re among that group, you’re damn good.
There’s also this nonsensical idea that Krug is only this successful because of his power-play acumen. Of course, Krug is dynamic on the power play. But he’s not a one-trick pony, and the idea that he is? It’s just completely made up.
Over the last two seasons, Krug has recorded 49 even-strength points. Boil it down even further and you’ll see that 33 of those points have been first points (meaning either a goal or primary assist dished out by the Michigan-born defender). That ranks as the 17th-most among NHL d-men over the last two seasons, tying him with Subban and the Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien among others). It also gives Krug more even-strength contributions over that span than the likes of ‘premier’ offensive defensemen such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Duncan Keith, Keith Yandle, Drew Doughty, and Shattenkirk.
When you look at what those players’ teams are paying them compared to what Krug makes with the Bruins, the script flips. It instead tells you that this is a player that the Bruins should hang on to for dear life given the astronomical price they would be paying an outside talent — be it as a free agent or through a trade — with the hopes that they could replicate this production.
The common argument you’ll see, though, is that the Bruins have Matt Grzelcyk, and that he can be your Krug replacement.
Well, says who? It’s easy to enjoy Grzelcyk’s game, and you can see that he definitely has the skillset to be an effective NHL defenseman in today’s game. But he does not have the offensive instincts and skills of Krug — or has not shown them here, at the very least. Their only similarities come in their handedness and size. That’s it. You’ve also seen just 63 NHL games of Grzelcyk — and I don’t think it would be unfair to say that he faded towards the end and as more teams got the book on him — so it’s tough to sell me on him being as good as a player that’s posted at least 39 points in five straight seasons. That’s reality.
The other idea is that you can simply have Charlie McAvoy slide over to the top power-play unit. Well, now you’re talking about a right-handed quarterback opposite David Pastrnak, which creates a new issue. That alignment also didn’t come with the best results during last year’s smaller sample, as the Bruins two goals in 20 power-play minutes with McAvoy out there with Pastrnak compared to 42 goals in 223 power-play minutes with Pastrnak out there without McAvoy at the point.
Also: Consider that McAvoy is also your No. 2 — and may push No. 1 status in his second full season of NHL play — so having him log first-pairing minutes, top unit power-play minutes, and potential penalty-kill time could very well be too much for him.
Why is Krug considered to be on the trade block in the first place? Because the Bruins swung and missed on Ilya Kovalchuk, failed to woo Pajama John to Boston, and now are left with Plan C?
Well, Plan C — buying high on a second-tier trade target (likely with an expiring contract) — is Plan C for a reason.
One that should never involve a player of Krug’s caliber and/or production.
Loose pucks: The logo for the 2019 Winter Classic at Notre Dame was released earlier this week. Here’s to hoping that the Bruins can come out with some classic-looking jerseys for this one. Still waiting for the team to go with the Milt Schmidt era oversized ‘B’ on their sweater. Some gold helmets could be a nice touch, too… Patrick Maroon is off to the Blues on a one-year deal worth under $2 million. This was a player that I thought the Bruins would have significant interest in if Rick Nash indeed retired. But now it’s looking like it’s a Nash return or it’s nothing this summer… The Bruins have signed Colby Cave to a two-year, two-way contract worth just under $700,000 at the NHL level. I think Cave is a top candidate for the P-Bruins’ captaincy.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.