Making sense of David Krejci’s struggles

It’s not often that David Krejci’s game is accompanied by a giant zero on the scoresheet.

BOSTON, MA — MARCH 07: Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) during a game between the Boston Bruins and the New Jersey Devils on March 7, 2021, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

However, for 19 games this season, that’s all the 34-year-old has shown for goal-scoring; one big, giant goose-egg.

The Czech native is far from the tier of an Alex Ovechkin, an Auston Matthews or even a David Pastrnak. However, it’s relatively uncommon to see Krejci be as inept at finding the back of the net as he’s been in 2021.

As mentioned before, the centerman has yet to score this season –– but has added 11 assists to his credit. However, only four of his 11 assists have come 5-on-5.

From a points-per-game standpoint, he’s averaging 0.58 points a night, compared to 0.7 last season and 0.9 the year before. A lack of goal-scoring will create point production issues, but his decline has been noteworthy for a few seasons now.

But how has it come to this? Sounding the alarm this early in the season would be ridiculous, but this is the second-longest goal-scoring drought to start a season of his career; the only one longer was a 36-gamer back in 2007–08.

Jake DeBrusk’s regression

The last season David Krejci was bordering on a point-per-game player was Year 2 of Jake DeBrusk’s NHL career. The then 22-year-old netted a career-high 27 goals, which ranked fourth on the Bruins. However, since then, the winger has scored just 20 goals –– including only one this season.

For Krejci, it’s going to be hard to find ways to insert yourself as a goal-scorer –– something he’s never been elite at –– if your linemates aren’t holding up their end of the bargain. DeBrusk, who factored into 24.7 percent of Krejci’s point total between 2017 and 2018 (six Krejci goals, 18 assists), is a significant reason.

He’s had to rely on DeBrusk to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden, and it’s grown increasingly evident that the 24-year-old can’t assume that burden. Nick Ritchie has picked much of the necessary slack, but only three of his even-strength goals have come from Krejci.

The lack of production from DeBrusk has reflected much on Krejci’s results, as he’s recorded just 54 points in his past 80 games.

A lack of continuity

Through Krejci’s first 19 games, only one player has played more than 100 full-strength minutes on his wing (Ritchie, 197:28 time-on-ice with Krejci). The next closest forward is Craig Smith, with just 83:42.

However, those two haven’t been the only wingers the 34-year-old has been centering: Jack Studnicka, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak and Anders Bjork have all seen at least 20 minutes on Krejci’s wing. Not to mention that projected linemate Ondrej Kase, who was on his right for the playoffs last season, has been sidelined since Jan. 16.

TORONTO, ONTARIO — AUGUST 15: Ondrej Kase #28 of the Boston Bruins is pursued by Sebastian Aho #20 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on August 15, 2020 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

This continuity issue when 5-on-5 isn’t stricken to just 2020–21; Krejci has played at least 200 minutes with eight different forwards since 2018–19. For reference, the only other forward to play more than 200 full-strength minutes with Patrice Bergeron is Danton Heinen –– and a large portion of those minutes came by way of injuries.

It’s hard to be consistently productive when you’re, for one, not a great goal-scorer to begin with, or two, regularly seeing new guys on your wings. It was only a matter of time before it caught up to Krejci; it appears that time is now.

Sloppy puck control

His teammates haven’t entirely induced Krejci’s inadequate offensive production; many of his problems have been self-inflicted. Through 19 games, the centerman has nine giveaways –– just at 5-on-5 –– compared to only four takeaways.

Overall, those numbers are 11 and 5, respectively. Giving away more chances than you’re taking away is not a recipe for success, and Krejci has been one of the worst Bruins in that regard.

Could that be a sign of pressing? Absolutely. However, you’d expect more from someone who is in his 15th season.

The 11 points might disguise some of Krejci's struggles overall, as 0.58 points-per-game is far from dreadful. However, it has seemed as though the 34-year-old Czech is almost invisible on a lot of nights. He’s still one of the best players on the Bruins in terms of passing and puck control, but this season has been extra hard for Krejci.

A couple of ways the Bruins can try to jumpstart №46 could be a demotion to third-line center. At 34, it’s not totally out of the realm of thought that he could assume less time-on-ice. He’s still incredibly productive on the Power Play, where he is tied for fourth on the team in points with five. However, 5-on-5, he’s struggled mightily –– as has most of the roster.

The Bruins also need to learn soon what kind of player Charlie Coyle truly is. Making $5.25 million a year for five more years, Coyle needs to prove that he can be a top-six center for the Bruins moving forward.

A second way the Bruins could try to jumpstart Krejci is to make a significant trade. For years, the constant theme has been that the Bruins need to acquire a top-six forward for Krejci’s right-wing. And, for years, the Bruins have generally acquired older, bottom-six players or tweener top-six.

The Stanley Cup window is far from cracked; it’s pretty open and will be for a while. However, they’ve been so close in the not-so-distant past, and the lack of a six true top-six forwards cost them big time. Even if it shortens their window by a year or two, taking a risk could pay immediate dividends.

Whether it be a player with the notoriety of Taylor Hall or someone like Rickard Rakell, Boston needs to acquire talent to elevate the rest of the roster's play. The Bruins have played like a top-three, bottom-nine team and not a top-six, bottom-six team. That needs to change, or the Bruins will still be jockeying to get over the hump.

Baseball writer, sometimes dip into other sports. Major advanced stats nerd. ASU Cronkite ‘23

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