Boston Bruins center David Krejci entered the 2013 season hounded by trade rumors. Fighting for his future in Beantown, the gifted playmaker has responded in a spectacular way, and although the Bruins are likely pursuing offensive help before the trade deadline, it now seems unlikely that they will deal their leading scorer.
Krejci came under fire after a disappointing season in 2011-12. After raising expectations for himself with a league-high 23 postseason points en route to the 2011 Stanley Cup, Krejci looked bound for superstardom. However, he suffered a nasty Stanley Cup hangover, failing to improve upon his point total from the previous year.
Krejci did score a career-high 23 goals last season, but he saw his assist total drop by 10 despite playing four more games. He finished the season with 62 points for the second straight year, failing to show the improvement expected of a player entering his prime.
Far more troubling than his offensive plateau was the precipitous fall of his plus/minus rating, revealing severe defensive lapses. Just one season after ranking 22nd in the league with a plus-23 rating, Krejci allowed his rating to plummet all the way to minus-five.
While Krejci faltered, Boston's No. 2 center Patrice Bergeron and center-turned-winger Tyler Seguin finished first and second atop the league with plus/minus ratings in the mid-30s. At the same time, the young Seguin replaced Krejci as the Bruins' leading scorer.
Loaded with depth at center, the Bruins found themselves connected to the names of high-scoring wingers Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Rick Nash, Ray Whitney and Jarome Iginla throughout the lockout. Despite the three years remaining on his contract with the Bruins, Krejci looked destined for a new home.
However, he remained focused, preparing for the season with an impressive stint in his native Czech Republic. He put up 27 points in 24 games with HC Pardubice, and his 16 goals beat out Edmonton Oilers star Ales Hemsky for the team lead.
Back in Boston, he reunited with a healthy Nathan Horton and a rejuvenated Milan Lucic, and he immediately set about silencing the swirling trade rumors. He registered points in six of the Bruins' first seven games, and he currently leads the club with 12 points in 13 contests.
With his nifty playmaking skills accounting for a team-leading eight assists so far in the young season, Krejci has re-established himself as Boston's top offensive pivot man in terms of producing points. He also ranks second on the club with four goals, behind only Brad Marchand.
Logging 19 minutes and 48 seconds of ice time per game, Krejci is seeing more action than any other Boston forward at the moment, implying that he has proven his value to both Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli. Julien had the following to say about Krejci's excellent play this season (per James Murphy of ESPNBoston.com):
He’s been, not a good, but a great player for us. I think he’s a great player; he’s got good speed, good hands...There’s not a part of David Krejci’s game right now that he’s not doing well, and as long as you’ve got David in that frame of mind, you’ve got a really good player.
At the moment, the flourishing Krejci looks better than many of the trade targets he was once linked with. Let's take a look at the numbers:
Though the Bruins power play continues to be a nightly embarrassment, moving David Krejci no longer looks to be a reasonable decision. Boston could certainly use a depth scorer, but as they sit near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, trading their most productive offensive player would be a mistake.
Is David Krejci an untouchable asset?
When considering David Krejci's value, it must be remembered that he is a proven playoff performer, and Boston will have every opportunity to make a deep postseason run this season. Therefore, the smart choice likely entails shipping off prospects and draft picks for a gifted goal scorer to spark the power play and provide a third-line upgrade.
Krejci's renaissance has quenched Boston's thirst for a top-six star to get it over the hump. Scoring nearly a point per game, a full 82-game schedule would have him on pace to surpass his 73-point career-high from 2009. The 26-year-old star has seemingly matured into the elite No. 1 center that his talent always promised, and he now seems certain to stick around until his contract expires in 2015 if not longer.