It’s only taken me all offseason, but don’t trade Torey Krug.*
*At least in a one-for-one with the Edmonton Oilers, anyway.
There’s been plenty of talk on hockey Twitter among experts, recreational bloggers and fans alike surrounding Boston Bruins top-four defender, Torey Krug, and whether or not the 27-year-old blueliner should be considered an expendable asset for the right return.
At some point this offseason, rumors swirled that Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney had been in contact with Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli with both GMs expressing desire for a defender.
For starters, Sweeney and Chiarelli are friends.
Sweeney worked under Chiarelli during Chiarelli’s tenure with Boston and, while it’s likely they talked at some point this offseason– as all friends do– to what extent they delved into their roster concerns, well, that’s not for me to say.
But with rumors comes speculation on Twitter.
Polls were created, people became enraged because people tweeted their two cents and… people tweeted. Never tweet.
In the aftermath of the Krug Twitter War, let’s take one more sensible look at if Boston and Edmonton had worked out a deal this offseason– salary cap be damned.
Krug notched a career-high 59 points in 76 games for the Bruins in 2017-18. He had eight more points last season than he did in 2016-17 (51 points in 81 games played) and improved his plus/minus from a minus-10 in 2016-17 to an even rating last season.
There’s a couple of things to takeaway from that.
First, Krug had 59 points (a career high) last season, which was only three fewer points in five more games played than one of the league’s best blueliners– Erik Karlsson— had in a down season.
Yes, you read that right, Karlsson had 9-53–62 totals in 71 games for the Ottawa Senators in 2017-18, while Krug had 14-45–59 totals (76 GP) for Boston. Anytime a defender scores more than 10 goals, that’s something to celebrate– let alone when that player reaches a new career-high in scoring.
And second, Krug’s mistakes are still noticeable.
When a defenseman makes a mistake it’s usually easier to spot, because it leads directly to a goal against. Krug’s positioning hasn’t always been spot on, but he spent all of last season working with Brandon Carlo on Boston’s second defensive pairing– a season that Carlo is looking to learn from and move on from after failing to score a goal in his sophomore slump.
Krug’s best career plus/minus (plus-18) came in 79 GP in the President’s Trophy winning 2013-14 season for the Bruins. Since then he’s slipped to plus-13 in 2014-15, plus-9 in 2015-16 and a minus-10 in 2016-17, before rebounding to breaking even in 2017-18.
Now, I’ll fully acknowledge plus/minus does not tell the full story. Plus/minus alone does not take into account situations like being on the power play, penalty kill or even strength (Krug had 24 power play points last season– only one shy of his career-high 25 points on the power play in 2016-17). That’s where the argument for Corsi Relative, Corsi Close, Corsi Even and all that jazz comes in as another way to measure situational play, but I digress.
Back to the Oilers for a moment.
If Krug were to have been swapped in a one-for-one with an Edmonton defender, the Bruins would’ve taken a major step back.
Boston doesn’t need a young defenseman approaching his prime– they’ve got Charlie McAvoy, Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk already in those roles with Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon (just to name a few) coming down the pipeline in the system.
In other words, a hypothetical Krug for current-RFA, Darnell Nurse, deal wouldn’t look good. Especially when you look at the stats.
In just 2017-18 alone, Krug’s 14-45–59 totals in 76 games decimate Nurse’s 6-20–26 totals in 82 games with the Oilers. While shutdown defenders are favorable for their defensive purposes, giving up 33 points from the backend for one player alone isn’t sound. Especially with Krug as Boston’s offensive defenseman centerpiece over the two-way skills of McAvoy.
Sure, Nurse is only 23, but he needs a new contract as things stand right now with Boston looking at pay raises for both McAvoy (likely a hefty one) and Carlo in the summer of 2019. Then there’s that whole “already in his prime” thing going on with Krug. It’s perfectly fine to hold onto a defender in their prime into their early/mid-30s.
What about Oscar Klefbom? Could the Bruins improve in a one-for-one involving Krug for him?
Again, the answer is no.
Klefbom, 25, is two-years younger than Krug (so that whole “already in his prime thing”, yeah, that’s not favoring Klefbom in this hypothetical) and had 5-16–21 totals in 66 games for the Oilers last season. He was also a minus-12, which was surprisingly worse than everyone’s favorite Chiarelli overvalued blueliner in Edmonton– Kris Russell.
Russell was a minus-seven in 78 games and had, yep, 4-17–21 totals at 31-years-old.
Sure, adding Klefbom (6’3″) in place of Krug (5’9″) adds height, but it hinders skill.
There’s always that change of scenery argument, but there shouldn’t be anything attractive in Edmonton. Hard pass on any and all one-for-ones unless Connor McDavid is involved for some insane reason.
And for the record, Chiarelli’s prized possession in his biggest one-for-one trade in Edmonton (Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for Adam Larsson) had 4-9–13 totals in 63 games last season. Larsson’s only reached the 20-point plateau once in his career (24 points in 64 games for New Jersey in 2014-15). Ouch.
If you’re thinking of trading Krug for any reason, don’t let it be in a one-for-one with the Oilers.