It’s a common take for large segments of the Bruins fanbase, one frequently trotted out in Facebook comments, on Twitter and in the comment sections of whatever publication you happen to be reading:
“David Krejci is made of glass! He’s soft! Trade him!”
Much like the Tuukka Rask takes that get trotted out whenever he has a bad game, the “Krejci is injury-prone” narrative is lazy and largely bogus, a myth that gets perpetuated by fans who fancy themselves Big Tough Guys who long for a return to the days of 80s hockey that they probably don’t even remember.
To start, yes, David Krejci gets injured. Yes, he misses games. Yes, he is missing more games right now, and is hurting the team by being out.
All of those things can be true without the conclusion being “David Krejci is soft.”
It’s hard to pinpoint where the “Krejci is injury-prone” narrative began. He’s dealt with injuries since his NHL career began, through no fault of his own: he was concussed on a dirty hit by garbage player Adam Mair two minutes into his first game.
He tore his MCL in 2015 and missed more than 30 games, which is probably where the narrative began. It’s odd, though, that Krejci tearing his MCL leads to him being injury-prone, while Zdeno Chara tearing his PCL led to no such narratives.
In all likelihood, Krejci’s reputation for being injury-prone likely comes from the little dings and dents that have kept him out for a game or two here and there each season, which is largely unfair due to the fact that most (not all) guys miss a game or two over the course of a season.
Since he became a regular NHLer in 2008-2009, Krejci has missed 51 games, an average of 5.6 games per season. If you take out his “outlier” season, the knee injury year in which he missed 35 games, his per-season injury rate drops down to 3.25 games per season.
Three games a season, meaning he averages playing in 96% of his team’s games in a given season.
Very injury prone and soft!
Patrice Bergeron has missed 128 regular season games over his 13-year career, an average of 9.8 games per season. If you take out the year he missed 72 games after being concussed by Randy Jones, his per-season injury rate drops to 4.6 games per season, also known as a game more than Krejci.
Weird how you rarely hear about Patrice Bergeron being soft and injury prone…
Zdeno Chara has missed 48 regular season games over his 11-year Bruins career, an average of 4.3 games per season. If you take out his “outlier” season in which he missed 19 games, his per-season injury rate drops to 2.9 games per season, also known as a quarter of a game less than Krejci.
Hell, Brad Marchand has averaged 3.7 games missed per season (and 3.5 games per season with his outlier removed); those were mostly due to suspensions, but it means it could be argued that Marchand has missed as much time away from the rink due to dumb plays as Krejci has due to injuries.
Obviously it’s easy to fudge numbers, and removing outliers may seem cheap; however, it’s fair to give a hockey player a handful of missed games due to injury at some point in his career, solely based on the physical nature of the sport.
So, if David Krejci is as “injury-prone” as Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, and Bergeron and Chara aren’t considered injury prone, why does Krejci get that label?
For the most part, it’s because many Bruins fans simply don’t like him. The frequent accusations of being “soft” border on being xenophobic, Don Cherry-esque dislike of talented European players who would rather score a goal than punch a face.
The same thing happened to Loui Eriksson. He had his struggles while he was here, sure, but for the most part, he was a solid player. Fans cheered when he left town, and cheered louder when David Backes, a worse player, was brought in for more money because...grit, you know?
It’s even being applied to David Pastrnak at times. There’s a small segment of people on the Chowder Facebook page who seize every opportunity to harp on Pastrnak for being “soft.” Why? Because he doesn’t play like Shawn Thornton, I guess.
Krejci is an easy target because of his contract, which many fans consider an albatross (I don’t, but that’s a different post). Criticizing a player for not earning his salary is fair; spinning that criticism into a weird denouncement of his toughness and character isn’t.
Bergeron is considered a Tough Hockey Guy because of his willingness to play through injury in 2013; Bruins fans, for whatever reason, assume that because they haven’t heard similar stories about Krejci, he’s a baby who won’t play hurt.
The “soft Krejci” takes will only ratchet up in intensity over the next week or two as he’s dealing with some kind of back injury, when the truth is that he’s had one season with a major injury and has been just about as injured as the average player in the meantime.
If Krejci had the same list of injuries/missed games but was from Moose Jaw and threw 15 hits a night, would Bruins fans call him soft and injury prone? Not a chance.
It boils down to many fans simply not liking his style of play, which emphasizes talent and playmaking over physicality, and looking for any excuse to throw criticism his way.