Never mind that David Krejci is not the member of the Boston Bruins' top line with prior experience wearing a letter of leadership in the NHL. His tenure with the team and position on the line make him a worthy supplement to the alternate captaincy.
When free-agent defenseman Andrew Ference left for Edmonton in July after six-plus seasons in Boston, the Bruins had a vacancy for their split second “A.” While Patrice Bergeron assumes one of those roles full time, Chris Kelly takes on the other for half of the game schedule.
Now Krejci wears the other “A” for the other half of the itinerary. This means that at any given time, the Bruins have two of their top three centers functioning as formal leaders.
In addition, for at least 41 contests, the three captains will be three of the five holdovers from head coach Claude Julien’s first season.
Bergeron has sported the Spoked-B emblem longer than any current player, dating back to his rookie campaign in 2003-04. Zdeno Chara, meanwhile, has worn the “B” and the “C” since coming to the team in 2006-07, one year before Julien stepped behind the Boston bench.
In turn, at the start of this season, the first forward line features two holdovers from Julien’s arrival and a former Calgary Flames captain in Jarome Iginla.
With Iginla coming through free agency while Ference went in the other direction, the easy choice would have been to confer the leadership vacancy on the 36-year-old veteran. As it happens, Iginla virtually ties Chara and Thornton as the eldest Boston player, as all three of them were born in 1977.
There is no question that Iginla’s presence and determination as an accomplished veteran ought to bolster the Bruins. Because hockey is the quintessential team game, anyone can lend his leadership qualities even without a visible designation on his jersey.
That notwithstanding, Krejci’s familiarity with the franchise and environment, along with his positional responsibilities, make him worthier of the letter. In addition, making the top three centers either full-time or part-time alternate captains is a wise move.
It goes without saying that centers tend to bear the greatest responsibilities among skaters. They take the bulk of the faceoffs, lead many of the plays on offense, and join the defensemen in the depths of their own zone when trying to fend off an opposing onslaught.
Those responsibilities should impel a center to lead by example all the more. That is the rationale behind Bergeron and Kelly’s assignments as alternate captains.
In addition to his unsurpassed tenure, it makes sense for Bergeron to be the full-timer because he not only assumes all of those responsibilities at even strength, but he plays regular shorthanded and power-play minutes.
For that matter, the same goes for Chara, an all-around defenseman who captains the whole team and is the clear-cut pilot of the blue-line brigade.
Meanwhile, the checking-liner Kelly does not see much action on the power play, but he is a regular on the penalty kill. Look up the team’s time-on-ice numbers from any recent year and you will find that Krejci is the opposite in that regard.
Because Boston is bent on revamping its man-advantage proficiency with heavy involvement from the first line, that line’s center and playmaker should have a leader’s frame of mind.
Whether he is on official alternate captain’s duty or not on a given night, Krejci will consistently maintain that mentality if all goes according to plan. The result will not only be unremitting incentive to perform, but also better communication with Iginla and Lucic.
Those rooting for Iginla to function as a motivator can rest assured he will have his say. But with his centering linemate sporting a symbol of extra responsibilities, the push that comes with Iginla’s presence will have backup in case it grows stale.
The Bruins have ticked two games off their schedule with 80 still to come, followed by the postseason, assuming they get there. An extra source of impetus in addition to Iginla cannot hurt a leaned-on line with an unsavory recent history of inconsistency.
As that line and the power play go, so might go the Bruins, whose ultimate objective is two more postseason wins than in 2013. Stamping the “A” over the heart of the first-line faceoff man, a vital power-play playmaker, is the right way to make that plain.