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 Bruins made it official on Monday -- mere minutes after the news had broken -- as they clearly couldn’t wait to announce an eight year, $49 million contract extension for Brad Marchand. who is finishing up his Team Canada gig at the World Cup of Hockey.
The deal averages $6.125 million per season, broken up between actual salary and signing bonus money. The Bruins were most definitely given a hometown discount by an elite player who snapped home a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, the most goals scored by a Bruins player since Glenn Murray in 2002-03. And everybody knows goal scorers get paid in the NHL, even if Marchand won’t be expected to score quite that many every year.
Marchand, 28, has also been the second-leading scorer in the entire World Cup of Hockey tournament, behind only Sidney Crosby, and continues to raise his profile in the NHL world beyond his customary agitator role. The “Nose Face Killah” could have waited for until free agency if he'd wanted to pick up every last nickel on the table, but it’s very clear he’s invested in the team that drafted and developed him, and with which he won a Cup five years ago.
"This is an extremely exciting day for me and my family," said Marchand, who now has a full no-move clause for the first five years of his next contract. "I would like to thank the Jacobs family, [president] Cam Neely, [general manager] Don Sweeney, [coach] Claude Julien, the coaching staff, my teammates and our fans for their continued support and belief in me. I have been a Bruin since the start of my pro career and there is no place I would rather play. I look forward to doing everything I can to help our team achieve success and bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston."
Marchand has been among the team’s leading scorers since joining the league in 2010-11, has been the NHL’s most dangerous penalty killer over the last five years, and pairs with Patrice Bergeron to anchor the top line. He’s also become much more of a leader in the last few seasons as other character veterans have been peeled away from the core group, and a hometown discount proves it one of the most meaningful ways possible.
It was clear Marchand was invested in the Bruins when he helped recruit free agent David Backes with phone calls this summer, and he was also present for the recruiting pitch to Jimmy Vesey at Warrior Ice Arena last month.
The Bruins players at training camp were happy to hear No. 63 was going to be in Boston for the long haul.
“Marchy is Marchy. I think everybody kind of knows what that means,” said Kevan Miller. “He’s been great for our organization and great for the fans and for this city. He’s been all in since Day One, and he’s been a guy that I looked up to.”
While the Bruins have confirmed the contract, Sweeney won't weigh in until later today. But one would expect there will be an appreciation for the skill of the player, and Marchand’s commitment to the organization after accepting less than he could have gotten on the open market.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while finding it hard to believe that it’s game day for the Boston Bruins. Summer is officially O-V-A.
-- The Montreal media is starting to get on board with this tougher, grittier version of the Habs, along with a healthy Carey Price.
-- Pierre McGuire sits in with Ottawa’s TSN sports radio station and talks Team Europe in the World Cup, as well as a number of other things.
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger is already openly wondering what would happen in Canada if they lose to Team Europe in the best-of-three final to the World Cup.
-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski asks Brad Marchand if a part of him has thought about playing with Sidney Crosby on the Penguins if he hits free agency. Bells, alarms and whistles should be going off on Causeway Street to give No. 63 whatever he wants at this point. In case you missed it, I talked about the danger of Crosby trying to woo his Nova Scotian buddy to Pittsburgh last week.
-- PHT writer James O’Brien says it sounds like the St. Louis Blues are going to play a more aggressive brand of hockey this season.
-- For something completely different: Forbes Magazine says Pete Carroll, not Bill Belichick, should be considered the NFL’s foremost cheater.