Kruger is only one season removed from being the firefighter you remember here, and we know that Q knows exactly what he is. Let’s say he’s an improvement on David Kampf. And he only has one year on his deal, so if he’s another charred remains of a beloved warrior of victories past, well whatever. . . . At this point in his career if Kruger matters too much you’re fucking sunk. –Sam Fels, July 12, 2018.
48 GP – 1 G, 5 A
54.0 CF%, 44.8 oZS%
Avg. TOI 10:50
A Brief History: Last year was brutal for The Plan All Along, and it wasn’t really his fault. Having watched Kruger for six full years, everyone in Chicago knows what he gives you. He’s not going to score a whole bunch, but he will be the most defensively responsible forward not named Marian Hossa (SKY POINT AND SEPPUKU). But for all the plaudits Bill Peters gets for having a defensively sound game plan, he looked this gift horse in the mouth.
Prior to last year, Kruger never played in the offensive zone more than 44.4% of the time, and that was during his rookie year. Last year’s 44.8% split was the highest he’d ever experienced. He still did yeoman’s work with dungeon starts, posting a 54 CF% (0.4 CF% Rel) and winning a career high 57.85% of his faceoffs. But when he didn’t score, which is something he’s never done, he got sent down to the AHL, then punted to Arizona.
Guys like Kruger will always get the blunt end of the pipe because their value goes beyond the scoresheet. And really, there aren’t many other guys out there like Kruger, so it’s easy to mistake his value. But at the end of the day, guys like Kruger seem to be more a luxury than a necessity. Unless you’re this year’s Hawks, that is.
It Was the Best of Times: We gripe about how Quenneville needs his blankey ad nauseum here. But of all the blankies Q has ever had, Kruger makes the most sense. There won’t be much thought that has to go into Kruger, because best-case scenario, he settles right back in on the fourth line, spending more than 70% of his time in the defensive zone and still posting a 52+ CF%. That’s always been what he does, and the Hawks are going to need that more than ever with Corey Crawford still navigating the relentless haze of post-concussion syndrome. If we’re lucky, he’ll also pot 15 points playing next to Chris Kunitz and either John Hayden or David Kampf.
It Was the BLURST of Times: Kruger has built-in dummy proofing because Quenneville knows exactly what he is and has shown, time and again, that he knows how to use him. Other than injury, the worst that can happen is that last year’s demotion and abandonment crushes Kruger’s confidence and he’s not even a fraction of the defensive pillar he has been. If that happens, you just move Kampf to the middle on the fourth line and bid adieu to yet another Hawks retread that didn’t pan out. I’d be shocked if that’s the case though, since Kruger is only 28 and it seemed that he was a victim of Peters not knowing how to use him.
Prediction: Coming back to Chicago should be the cure for whatever ails Kruger. He knows his role and does it well. He’ll slot right back in on the fourth line and meticulously flip the ice over and over again. It’ll be like he never left.
With Connor Murphy (SKY POINT) out
eight weeks forever, the defense projects to be even more defensively irresponsible than last year. Unless Crow has a miraculous turnaround with his concussion symptoms, Cam Ward and Anton Forsberg are going to be your goaltenders, which translates to a Milton Berle-sized gloryhole in front of the net. This’ll mean that Kruger will need to be even better than he has been in the past for the Hawks. And even if he exceeds all expectations, Kruger never has averaged more than 15:24 in ice time during any season (and never should).
It’s always good to have a defensively responsible forward on the ice, especially when he’s as good as Kruger has been at being a dungeon master. But he’s a fourth liner at best, and if we’re looking at him to somehow magick the Hawks into defensive competence, well, we’re fucking sunk.
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