During the All-Star break, a photo went viral on social media that warmed the hearts of Bruins fans and impartial observers of the 2011 team alike.
Horton, 34, of course, has been retired since the 2013-14 season because of back troubles. Milan Lucic is still trucking at 31 years old for Calgary, his third team since he was traded from the Bruins, but has become much less effective in the speedier NHL.
But Krejci, well he’s still the Krejci that was putting up nearly a point per game in his 20s and led the NHL in postseason scoring twice (in 2011 and 2013).
After he had 73 points in 81 games last season (he rested for Game 82), he’s on pace to again contribute at least 70 points despite not being afforded the same luxury Patrice Bergeron gets of having regular, high-end linemates. He has 39 points (13 goals, 26 assists) in 48 games.
“Well he’ll always play his game. I think it starts with being a good player, he takes a lot of pride in what he does. I’m sure he’d be the first to tell you he’d rather have chemistry with the same guys every night. I’ve talked to him a number of times about how we’re going to try to do that. It doesn’t always work out. So I think he’s a good pro in that regard. He just comes to play,” coach Bruce Cassidy said.
For all the false narratives of Krejci being fragile, the 33-year-old is scheduled to play his 900th NHL game Saturday against Detroit. He’ll become the seventh player in franchise history to reach that plateau.
Of course two teammates, Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, have surpassed 1,000 games in a Bruins sweater the past couple seasons. Although he’s put up numbers (he’s eighth all-time in Bruins scoring) and been a leader, wearing an alternate captain’s A since 2013, Krejci has often operated in the shadow of Bergeron and Chara. It’s a little harder to pin down just what he stands for, what his mood’s like and what he thinks of his more than a decade in black and gold.
When asked what he wants the fans of Boston to think of him, Krejci, a player that always thinks pass before shoot, unsurprisingly wanted team success to come above the individual.
“I want my name to be associated with a winner,” he said. “You know obviously I’ve done it once, but I know we can still do it here. I think we have a really, really good group of guys, good team, so I don’t need any individual recognition or anything. I just want to be included in that winning circle.”
To be fair, if Krejci retired today he’d be in that circle. He was the leading scorer on the Bruins’ only Cup-winning team in the past 47 years. He was crucial for two other Boston teams to return to the Cup Final, something that doesn’t happen as often in the 31-team league as it did back in the Original Six or Expansion 12 days.
With the last year of his contract coming up next season, Krejci might be a candidate for a trade as general manager Don Sweeney sorts out his salary-cap situation and starts paying the Bruins’ young up-and-comers what they’re worth. Any departure of Krejci will make the Bruins a less talented team, but might be necessary for business reasons.
If he’s still around, Krejci could join Bergeron and Chara in the Bruins 1,000-game club in the closing weeks of 2020-21. Wherever he is, health permitting he’ll hit that magic number. There’s no reason to stop, and Krejci doesn’t intend to come up short. He’s heeding the advice of players that’ve come before him and probably learning a lesson from Horton and even Lucic.
“Obviously when you get older people talk. But so many of the older people, they tell you ‘keep playing as long as you can.’ So I’m just enjoying every day,” he said. “I’m happy to be here and having fun. It always helps when the team’s doing good. So I’m happy where I am, just enjoying each day.”
Bruins fans should enjoy that they still get to watch Krejci perform on a nightly basis.