Bruins: No need to trade for a center at this moment

Jan 21, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Jack Studnicka (23) celebrates with center David Krejci (46) after scoring against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Jack Studnicka (23) celebrates with center David Krejci (46) after scoring against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s confirmed. The Boston Bruins will be without veteran center David Krejci in 2021-22 as he will be returning to his native Czech Republic to continue his professional hockey career. The departure of Krejci seemingly leaves a massive hole in the B’s lineup as they don’t apparently have anyone up to the task of filling in Krejci skates at the second-line center position.

However, I’m here to say that B’s fans need to relax and at least give some guys a chance to prove they can or cannot handle the 2C role. After all, the Black and Gold signed three forwards on the first day of free agency that can all play center, have an overpaid third-line center, and have a top prospect that is a center. At least one of these five guys should be able to step up and fill in for Krejci, right?

I just don’t see a need to go out and give up prospects and draft capital to upgrade a position that you aren’t exactly sure needs to be upgraded. And honestly, it seemed like general manager Don Sweeney was content in going with the “center by committee” idea when asked about Krejci at his Entry Draft media availability.

Instead, these pieces should be used to upgrade the defense. Someone like left wing Jake DeBrusk (young with potential) and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk should be packaged together to get a legitimate top defenseman to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Grzelcyk’s game. However, he just doesn’t fair well in the physical style that is playoff hockey.

Not to mention, with Taylor Hall on the team, Boston has more to work with in their top-six. There’s no reason to keep Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak together. You can now switch Pasta and Craig Smith with each other depending on who is at 2C and what’s working for that game. If Hall can continue his strong play from last season’s short stint, the B’s won’t need a center that produced and drove the play as much as Krejci did.

The Bruins’ second-line center committee will have several options.

Charlie Coyle

Charlie Coyle will most likely have the first crack at 2C. Although he had a rather poor 2020-21 season, he’s still a veteran and has served his time and produced at 3C. Not to mention he has a rather large contact that suggests he’s been playing in Boston’s top-six with an average annual value of $5.25 million.

The 29-year-old isn’t the flashiest player, but he’s a big body and knows how to use his large frame to protect the puck and get to the net. He has chemistry with Craig Smith and his power forward style could work well with the all-round style of Hall and sniper mentality of Smith.

Erik Haula

One of the three forwards signed on the first day of free agency, I think Erik Haula has the greatest chance out of the veterans to solidify the 2C spot. He has a career faceoff percentage (FO%) of nearly 52 and can both score and create opportunities for his linemates.

The 30-year-old is now three seasons removed from his career-best season where he scored 29 goals and 55 points in 76 games. However, he hasn’t come close to hitting that mark since but his playing time has also decreased and he’s struggled to remain healthy. Put in a trio with Hall and Smith, Haula could once again find the success he had in 2017-18 if he can stay healthy.

Nick Foligno

If I’m being honest, the B’s should stay away from Foligno at center. Yeah, I guess he can play the position, but he isn’t very good at faceoffs and doesn’t really have the speed to play the position anymore. At 33 years old, Foligno should stick to wing.

Jack Studnicka

This past season, Jack Studnicka showed some flashes of what he could be. After looking lethargic at right wing, he got an opportunity to play his natural position of center due to injuries. This is when Studnicka played the best hockey of his NHL career.

Now, with the rumors of Studnicka adding a serious amount of muscle this offseason and completely overhauling his training program to get ready for the bigger and tougher NHL competition, I think you have to give him a look at 2C with Hall and Smith at some point this season — during preseason or early in the regular season. The 22-year-old very well could be your current answer for 2C as well as your future answer for 1C when Bergeron retires.

Tomas Nosek

I don’t think Nosek is going to get much time at 2C as he was definitely signed to play in a bottom-six role. However, there is always the chance he does get a look at 2C if he’s playing well or because of injuries.

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Overall, Bruins fans need to calm down. Let’s see how these guys can handle to increased responsibility and play time before calling for a trade.