David Krejci had some interesting things to say during his media availability following the news of his contract extension with the Bruins. From these comments, I got to speculating on how they might shed some light on the plan around his line this upcoming season.
It started with being asked if Loui Eriksson will be his new winger:
On finding a new winger to play with and if he thinks it will be Loui Eriksson...
He's a great player, he can pass the puck, and I feel if I play with him, I'll have even more goals because he's a great passer.
The topic proceeded further, with a question on having the left shotted Eriksson on the right wing...
He's going to be getting passes on his back hand, but at this level it shouldn't really matter if it's forehand or back hand. But, maybe for me personally, I think it means that I'll be getting more passes than Horty [Nathan Horton] or Iggy [Jarome Iginla] they were getting down the right and they just shot it. This time it's going to be a little bit harder for Loui [Eriksson] or whatever lefty is there. Maybe I'll get more pucks, more passes to have better scoring chances. So, like I said I feel if I play with him I'll have more goals and more scoring chances, and it could be good for me.
Hmm. That's twice he's mentioned wanting to score more goals. What's behind this?
I feel like, don't get me wrong, Milan [Lucic] and Iggy [Jarome Iginla], even Nathan [Horton] before, they were great passers, especially Milan [Lucic]. He can see the ice well and he's a little, people underestimate his... did I say that right in English? His passing. So, but I feel like with Loui [Eriksson] he's a little bit more of a playmaker than power forward.
If you take anything from David Krejci's response it looks like he could be shooting a lot more this season and switching up his game. Since Marc Savard's injury, Krejci has received the most ice time of any Bruins center. During that time, he's primarily had five wingers. Let's take a look at who was taking the shots on those iterations of the Krejci line:
|'09-'10||David Krejci||6.26||0.564||1.748||Blake Wheeler||7.258||0.861||1.661||Michael Ryder||8.42||0.643||1.345|
|'10-'11||David Krejci||5.915||0.62||2.535||Milan Lucic||7.123||1.122||2.3||Nathan Horton||8.004||1.119||2.351|
|'11-'12||David Krejci||5.63||0.947||2.368||Milan Lucic||6.003||0.992||2.558||Nathan Horton||6.886||1.114||2.43|
|'12-'13||David Krejci||6.713||0.85||2.039||Milan Lucic||6.232||0.542||2.077||Nathan Horton||10.02||1.091||1.885|
|'13-'14||David Krejci||6.545||0.645||2.182||Milan Lucic||6.253||0.938||2.032||Jarome Iginla||7.892||1.052||1.947|
all stats via stats.hockeyanalysis.com
In each of the past five seasons, the right winger has been the most prolific shooter according to rate statistics and it's not really close. On the left side, it's a little less straightforward. Lucic, who has posted two 30 goal seasons on Krejci's wing, has been outpaced by his centerman looking at the past two years.
But with Eriksson the most likely candidate to succeed Iglinla, it would seem the reliance on that scoring right winger will be diminished, at least according to Krejci. Instead he will be used to set up his linemates, and if the recent trend is to continue, Krejci will be the trigger man with Lucic in tow. I tend to think that with such complementary words for Eriksson's passing, he would be the quintessential pass first guy on this line.
Admittedly, I'm a little puzzled. Eriksson and Krejci are roughly similar in even strength goals over the past seven years, though Eriksson did once score 36 (albeit in a year in which he shot 6.2% above his career average). The kicker, though, is Krejci's vision, by far his best asset. Since 2007, he's tied for the 12th most primary assists at 5v5.
And yet, it would seem the Bruins wish to get away from that. You have to wonder if Eriksson's poor shooting season last year (only topped among regular Bruins forwards by Shawn Thornton) is a factor. Eriksson left Dallas a career 14.2% shooter but last year he only managed 8.7%.
Moving Eriksson up to Krejci's line was never Plan A, so it's possible the Bruins might be somewhat cautious in setting expectations for scoring. It would seem dumb for them to take that approach to a veteran with a track record such as Eriksson, but it wouldn't be the first time a team has reacted to an abnormal shooting percentage.
A less cynical theory is that the shifted focus comes as the result of personnel. Would anyone disagree that the past three right wingers weren't the first-choice shooter of their respective lines (remembering that Wheeler was still emerging in 2010 and Ryder had a track record)? It's very possible that the Bruins don't see Eriksson as a goal scorer and thus that responsibility now falls to Krejci.
At the end of the day, though, it doesn't really matter if it's Krejci or Eriksson or Lucic or even a defenseman who scores, as long as someone's scoring. Regardless of the rationale, Krejci's comments have left me curious as to the game plan for that line and I'm looking forward to how they pan out. Assuming they truly are going to play together...should probably solidify that first.