Torey Krug - LHD
Now, let’s get something out of the way: Torey Krug’s defense took a bit of a backseat this year and that created some real frustration, but we’ll expound on that in a minute.
For now, let’s just start with a not very bold but very firm take about why that almost didn’t matter.
Torey Krug is a STEAL for the kind of production you’re getting out of him. His compatriots in production are making anywhere from $5.5 to almost $11 million a year and he was in the top 10 of defensemen points while only being paid $5.25m AAV. An absolute coup for a 5’9 speedy skating undrafted blueliner whose ability to open up a volley of cannonfire with his stick is...actually not his most important element.
See, Krug made much of his bread this year as an assist garner, which is coincidentally how a lot of two-way/offense-first defenders do it these days. Krug’s smooth skating, and ability to stretch out the ice in front of opposing defenses by being a step or two ahead of the entire play made him a valuable asset at 5v5, and a nightmare for the opponent on the power play, where his expanded role after Ryan Spooner’s trade served him pretty darn well, allowing his passes to carve up opposing penalty kills with ease.
Of course, if given the opportunity, his blast of a shot could absolutely come in handy. A fun thing to do is to go back through the last year of his goals and see which ones almost seemed destined for the back of the net; Krug’s ability to position himself in just the right place to hammer home an uncontested shot from the point is a really powerful thing; especially when dealing with the less good or struggling defenses of the NHL.
But of course...we do have to address that thing we said we would at the beginning...and so here it is.
Torey Krug’s backcheck kinda suffered this year. Quite a bit, if we’re being honest.
One big aspect of it is that shots from the point, across the board, got blocked a lot more than they usually did this year, and so Krug’s normal shooting strategy got some pretty nasty dings to it. On it’s best, it would hit the goaltender or the twine. In a normal run of play, there was a good chance it hit the goalie, or it hit the backboards. At worst, his strategy of blast it as deep as you can and on net if at all possible found him often trying to catch up with a forward who blocked the oncoming blast and started skating back with it. This often caught him off-guard and...well...high-danger chances happened on a team that wasn’t always prepared for it. It wasn’t a routine, but it was a distressingly common sight on his worst nights. Further, being 5’9 didn’t exactly help him win many of his board battles if he wasn’t the first man to the puck, even if he did have some of the capacity needed to push guys around. On an average night, you could almost forgive it but still be disappointed. On his worst nights, you wanted to toss him through a window in frustration.
The counterpoint to all this of course, is that there are seven other players in the NHL better than him at what he does, and nearly every team who has those guys paid a considerable premium to keep them. Not just because they’re good, that’s pretty obvious, but because they genuinely help bolster the players around them, and that’s a powerful thing.
And for the Bruins, Krug made good on this by being one of the few players on the Boston defense who didn’t fall off a possession cliff during the playoffs, and having as many goals as 2/3rds of the 2nd line, and being 4th on the team in points.
His struggles are real and palpable, but his contributions? Those are powerful indeed.
Aggregate Grade: B+
His backcheck does need some work, there’s no doubt about that. And he needs to learn to pick his spots when he shoots, which will likely help mitigate any concerns about suddenly having to backcheck, but what Krug as he is brings to the team is undeniable and very valuable. And having him as the highest paid defender on the team right now, in his prime, and playing with strong, promising RHD talent is honestly the best thing for him. With the talent in front of him and coming into the system, I think Krug can reach even greater heights.
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