When you sit down and really think about it, being a sports fan is funny. We put our faith, hope, and happiness into a player or team we don’t know. Our hearts and souls rise and crumble with the successes and failings of these athletes, and we form a bond with these people despite never actually interacting with them.
And yet, even with those personal barriers in place, we still think of these players as part of the family or a member of the gang. That connection, the one that indirectly connects us to our favorite athletes, makes saying goodbye to them such a bittersweet and enigmatic experience.
David Krejci has been my favorite Boston Bruin since he came into the league during the 2006-07 season. I’ve never met him, but for the last 16 years, he’s been a living room, barstool, and family event staple in my life and the lives of Bruins fans everywhere. The Sternbeck, Czech Republic native officially announced his retirement from the NHL. on Monday, August 14.
Krejci ends his career as one of the greatest Bruins to brandish the spoked-B. His 1,032 games played rank 5th all-time in franchise history, as do his 555 assists. His 786 points are 9th in Bruins history and 5th all-time among Czech-born players.
His regular season numbers paint a picture of a highly effective playmaker who fulfilled the second-line center role with aplomb. But, we Bruins fans know that regular season stats don’t tell the whole story. We know that Krejci did his best work when the lights were brightest.
The lifelong Bruins suited up for 160 career playoff games, registering 43 goals (6th in franchise history), 85 assists (2nd), and 128 points (tied 2nd). He led the Stanley Cup Playoffs in scoring on two separate occasions. His first and most memorable playoff run came when he posted 12 goals, 11 assists, and 23 points during the 2011 season, leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 30 years. The second time he led the league in scoring came during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when he registered nine goals, 17 assists, and 26 points in the 2012-13 campaign.
There’s something to be said about a player that looms largest when the lights are at their brightest. And while his baseline statistics are enough to paint a picture of how impactful a playoff performer Krejci was, they don’t paint the complete picture. Krejci ranks 7th in the NHL with 128 playoff points since the 2007-08 season. When you break those stats down further, Krejci’s playoff resume becomes more impressive. Krejci took part in 12 Game 7s and ranks 3rd all-time in Game 7 points (13) and 1st all-time in Game 7 assists (12).
Not only was he a point-per-game player in Game 7, but he was also a force in close-out games. I looked through every (and I mean every) potential close-out game Krejci took part in while playing in the NHL. He ranks 15th all-time in potential clinching game points with 31 (nine goals and 22 assists) during those games. In addition to his work in close-out games, I also researched Krejci’s numbers when his back against the wall.
The lifelong Bruin played in 25 elimination games, posting a record of 15-10 and contributing five goals, 24 assists, and 29 points. He ranks 9th all-time in points when facing elimination and fourth all-time in assists when facing elimination.
Krejci’s stats are undoubtedly impressive, but numbers alone aren’t always, and frankly can’t, be what dictates a legacy. The ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and trials and tribulations they’re what genuinely define someone’s legacy. The now-veteran center had anchored one of the best lines in the NHL for 3 straight years, skating between sniper Nathan Horton and bruiser Milan Lucic. But that all changed after the 2013 Stanley Cup Final Loss.
Nathan Horton was let go after 2013, and Jarome Iginla was brought in for one year as his replacement on Krejci’s wing. Across the next nine years, Krejci would skate with an almost incalculable number of wingers as Bruins management attempted to piece together a competitive top-six forward group.
It’s impossible to tell the story of David Krejci without highlighting the failure of Bruins management to find two competent wingers to skate beside him. Fans and Krejci were subjected to the likes of David Backes, Matt Beleskey, Karson Kuhlman, Loui Eriksson, Seth Griffith, and countless others.
The Czech playmaker made the best of his situation every season but could only do so much with so little help. Conor Ryan of Boston.com illustrated this point best when he wrote, “During the 2018-19 season, Krejci tied a career-high with 73 points — despite logging at least 15 minutes of ice time with 14 different line combinations.”
But the merry-go-round of wingers and lack of top-six talent don’t absolve Krejci and Co. of their playoff failings. They succumbed to a far inferior Montreal team after winning the President’s Trophy in 2014, missed the playoffs two years in a row, were beaten by Tampa two separate times, were upset by Florida in the first round of this year’s playoffs, and lost game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals to the St. Louis Blues. It’s fair to wonder and lament that this Bruins core most likely left (at least) one championship on the table.
All that being said, I believe that when one takes a look at the whole of David Krejci’s career, one concludes that he was, simply stated, an incredible Bruin. He was a maestro with the puck on his stick, exuding poise and patience as he set up countless goals over his career.
His silky hands and smooth skating allowed him to create time and space for himself and his teammates, generating offense up and down the ice. His one-timer was criminally underrated and his ability to distribute made even the most creative skaters envious. He was, without hyperbole, a top-10 passer of his generation and one of the best playmakers to ever don the spoked-B.
The best thing I can say about David Krejci is that he was always there. Through the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, Krejci was a Boston Bruin through and through. He never shined brightly in the limelight, didn’t have the flashiest skillset, and didn’t garner the attention he probably deserved. But despite that, Krejci persisted. A robust and silent figure anchoring his franchise and doing whatever it took to succeed without fanfare and accolades. That enduring presence, coupled with the unheralded heroics, defines Krejci’s legacy.
For the last 16 years, I’ve been cheering for, arguing on behalf of, criticizing, and celebrating my favorite Bruin. And now, as the sun sets on my childhood iteration of the Boston Bruins, I’m able to look back on his career with nothing but fondness. I’ve always enjoyed the Dr. Seuss quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” I’m grateful for all of the memories, both good and bad, that Krejci and these Bruins have given their fans, and I can’t wait to see his jersey raised to the rafters.
So despite never meeting you and never actually speaking to you, thank you, David Krejci, for being a part of my life, and the lives of Bruins fans everywhere.