WILMINGTON, Mass. David Krejci is trying to keep his mind in exactly the right framework this year.The 25-year-old center has been through offensive struggles before and has always been a streaky performer. Krejci will go through stretches where points and production arrive in bunches like whenhe scored a team-leading12 goalsduring last years playoffs, and hell recede to the level of a background artist on ice for weeks at a time.The playmaking pivot has always pulled out of those scoring droughts in the past, and theres no reason to think he wont do that again. But the cold, hard hockey fact is that Krejci has two points and is minus-2 in his last eight games, and is pacing to put up 13 goals and 43 points along with a minus-14 this season.The center knows to ignore the numbers when things are going badly, but its sometimes difficult when one of his main jobs as a top line center is creating offense for a team expected to be among the NHLs best. It makes things easier when the team has won 10 of their 11 games and is ranked second in the NHL in goals per game, but hes self-aware enough to know hes not playing his best."Weve been there before. We know its a long season, and it been up and down for my line," said Krejci. "I feel like were going up now, and hopefully we can get there soon and stay for as long as we can. Im feeling pretty good and Im getting new skates today . . . so thats a good sign."Once youve had them for too long they get too soft, and you cant take turns as sharply. It takes me two practices to break new skates in, so it should work out perfectly for Wednesday against Toronto."So aside from a new pair of his customary skates, what makes things different for the Czech Republic center this season?Well, Krejcis contract is up at the end of the season as a restricted free agent and there hasnt been a great deal of movement toward a new deal. Its expected the center will be seeking a payday in the Patrice Bergeron neighborhood of 5 million per season, and that becomes a problem of simple roster math.The Bruins have three potential top line centers well under the age of 30 in Krejci, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, and none of them would really fit in a third line center role. Temporarily Seguin is playing the wing and everything is good. But eventually those three centers will need to be pared town to a pair when it comes to salary cap considerations and simple roster composition. Thats thereality of the situation.So Krejcis name has been whispered in trade possibilities without any actual deals coming to the forefront. It would clearly have to be a major score for the Bruins to move their young playoff hero, but its also more of a possibility this season than its ever been before given the surplus down the middle.Krejci is a smart guy, and he knows the score. Hes heard all of the above as he attempts to simply play things out through the regular season and playoffs. Hes off to the worst start in his five-year NHL career and one has to wonder if the contract, trade rumors or any other issues are causing him to exert a little too much pressure on himself."I hope its not. I know its my contract year and there are lots of things I want to prove to people that I can do," said Krejci. "Im putting big expectations on myself for this season. Now the season has started, and even when Im playing good Im not putting the points on the sheet. People judge me by points and I dont like it. That gets me thinking a lot at night and stuff."I feel like Im getting better and were winning so its been fun with all of the guys and stuff. So Im not worried too much about it. Ive got 60 games left. Id have some bad stretches and Ive had some great stretches. I feel like I got ready for the season well enough and Im going to get back up there again."Everybody knows that players need to produce points and goals if theyre looking for the big bucks, and neither one has come all that easily for Krejci this season. Most everyone thinks the center will once again emerge from his offensive struggles provided hes putting in his current level of effort and commitment, and continuing to skate with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Krejcis coach would like his centers game to become more consistent on a nightly basis, and he hopes Krejci quits worrying about the stuff that he cant control."Weve seen him catch fire all of a sudden and he keeps producing and producing. The one thing David would like to get better at and wed like to see him improve at is his consistency," Julien said. "Streaky can be good when youre on a good stretch, but consistency can be even better. I know hed like to be better and its something hed like to keep working on."Bergeron earned his contract extension last autumn in part because everyone knows what they can expect from him 82 games a season in Black and Gold, and he rarely disappoints. Hes also proven capable of scoring 30 goals in a season and topping the 70-point mark when put in more of an offensive position as he is now paired with Seguin.Krejci will be in that class salary and reputation-wise only when he can bring the same playmaking and creativity every single game while combining it with two-way effort and responsibility.Hes not there yet, but his coach knows Krejci is still working at it diligently."Hes probably not getting the points on the board the way wed like it to be, and when I saw we Im including ourselves," Julien said. "That line is capable of scoring and putting points on the board, but that hasnt been happening much lately. In the course of the season you have those highs and lows, and you have to be patient. If Krejcis line were playing in their own end all of the time or playing lazy, then it would be a different situation."Whether its snake-bitten or a lack of confidence, I like their work ethic and with time Im sure its going to come around."If past performance is any indicator of the future, it wont be longbefore Krejci has his game together. When he does, he'll holda fewanswersto the questions he had for himself entering a this pivotal season.
The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season.
Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate.
Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode.
Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break.
"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."
Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."
Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while really enjoying what the CW does season in and season out with the Flash.
*The talk is turning to the next captain of the Buffalo Sabres, and what they can do to help open up communication up and down the roster.
*A guy that wore a Habs toque on his twitter avatar writes a glowing, praise-filled article about the performance of PK Subban during these Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s undoubtedly been good, but he just might have been wearing his Montreal Canadiens footie pajamas when he wrote this one, and rattling his fist at Habs management all the while.
*Interesting piece by Jason Gregor about the “window to win” for the Edmonton Oilers, and an odd notion that the window will close when Connor McDavid has moved out of his entry level contract. I’d say that’s kind of ludicrous.
*The Colorado Avalanche coaching staff has been let go after last year’s dreadful season, and that’s too bad for a really good guy in former Providence College head coach Tim Army. I’m sure he won’t be out of work long.
*Colin White made his Stanley Cup playoff and NHL debut for the Ottawa Senators in Game 6, and helped push Ottawa to a Game 7. It will be interesting to watch the Massachusetts native and former Boston College standout develop with the Senators as White was one of the players that the Bruins skipped over to instead draft Jake DeBrusk and Zach Senyshyn in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft. The others, Mathew Barzal, Travis Konecny and Kyle Connor, are all either in the NHL or knocking on the door as well, and it’s going to be a challenging road for both of Boston’s forward prospects to live up the justification of the B’s drafting them first. Granted DeBrusk and Senyshyn are also both doing their thing for the P-Bruins as they push into the conference finals of the Calder Cup playoffs, and they’re both bright prospects in their own right. It’s going to take years to determine the rights and wrongs of that first round, but White getting into the lineup for the Senators is proof of just how high that organization is on him.
*Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan says that Sidney Crosby handled the targeted abuse well from the Senators in a Game 6 loss that will push to a Game 7 between the Penguins and the Senators.
*For something completely different: A great message from Brookline homey and former Sox GM wonder boy Theo Epstein in his commencement address to Yale University.