Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

Bruce Cassidy outlines replacement options for injured Torey Krug

Ty Anderson
September 21, 2017 - 2:39 pm

Barring a medical breakthrough that heals the non-displaced fracture in his jaw before Oct. 5, the Bruins will indeed begin their 2017-18 regular season without Torey Krug -- the club’s top puck-mover and top power-play unit wizard -- in their lineup.

And replacing Krug, one of two left-shot defensemen on the roster (Zdeno Chara is the other) and one of just nine NHL defensemen to record at least 50 points a year ago, for the time being, is no easy feat. So is it as simple as best player available for the Bruins?

Or perhaps best player available… but also a best player that plays a little bit like Krug?

“Well right now, that’s what we’ll do,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said.

“Obviously Donnie [Sweeney] will make the decision he feels he’ll need to make at the end of camp. But right now we have a good competition from within, so we have depth,” Cassidy added. “If you’re looking for just a clone of Torey —  an offensive guy — obviously [Matt Grzelcyk], [Jakub] Zboril have some of those qualities, so it’s an opportunity for them. Robbie O’Gara started for us last year, Tommy Cross played in the playoffs. [Paul] Postma is a right-shot, but has played left in the past, so internally we have options. But if [Sweeney] looks externally, I’m sure he’ll always look to make our team better, but right now, it’s not a long-term injury, so that’s the good news.”

Off the bat, the most natural fit would appear to be the 5-foot-10 Grzelcyk.

A puck-mover by nature, with six goals and 32 points in 70 games with the P-Bruins last season, the 23-year-old also appeared in two games for the Big B’s last season, with four shots on goal in his brief cameo. The Charlestown native is also a left shot, and would certainly fit Cassidy’s desired system predicated on an up-tempo game that begins in the d-zone and moves up ice before the opposition has a chance to react.

“[Grzelcyk] has some puck moving ability, good first pass,” Cassidy noted. “We’re asking him to continue to work on using his quickness and stick to kill rushes instead of trying to confront people physically; Confront them with foot-speed and acumen. Whether Torey got injured or not, that was part of his growth as a player.”

But Grzelcyk is far from a lock (just because it looks and plays like a Krug doesn’t make it a Krug), and will have direct, veteran competition in the 28-year-old Postma.

An offseason signing, Postma has 191 games of NHL experience to his name, and comes to Boston after a career-high 13 assists, 14 points, and 65 games for the Jets last season. Postma, a right shot, also spent his summer practicing on the left side.

“You notice [Postma] as a good puck-moving, get-up the ice [defenseman],” Cassidy said. “So what we’re trying to see how right is how he fits in defensively.

“The difficulty we’re having with that is a lot of our kids who we want to see play — Zboril, [Jeremy] Lauzon, Emil [Johansson] hasn’t been able to go, O’Gara — they are all left sticks that are more comfortable on the left side,” Cassidy continued. “At some point, we have to determine what’s best for us as opposed to where these kids can help us now or later. So we’re getting to that point here fairly quickly, and especially with Torey’s injury, that we may have to move Paul over there and figure it out from there.”

So that’s two.

It’s three when you include the 6-foot-4 O’Gara, who had three hits and seven blocked shots in three games for the Big B’s last season before recording four goals and 13 points in 59 games for the P-Bruins, in the group. Four if you include Cross, too.

And the group gets even bigger with the possibility of true first-year pros Lauzon and Zboril making the jump right to the NHL a la O’Gara and Brandon Carlo last year.

“That’s what we’re here to evaluate. Do I feel they could? Yes. Do I feel they will? I don’t know, I really don’t. We’re just getting started,” Cassidy said of their chances of doing just that. “I thought Jeremy was very physical in Quebec, played his game, confronted people. For him, he’s got to get comfortable with the pressure of the forecheck moving pucks. I thought Jakub made some good plays in open ice the other night. He has to get comfortable with the pressure of a forecheck down below the goal line, and be able to finish and close plays, and that’s just part of where they are in their careers.”

But the Bruins would not want to bring either of those players right to the NHL if it meant that they would be the club’s seventh defenseman and simply rot in the press box.

“That’s tough. It is tough. You always balance that for a young guy,” Cassidy admitted of their need for playing time out of the gate. “We generally do not want a young kid to come in and not play. By young, I mean a Jeremy, or Emil or Zboril. We could do it with O’Gara who's got a year under his belt for the short term if he’s the answer, but the other guys you’d want them in the lineup or playing, generally that’s our philosophy.”

So like so many positions on their Opening Night roster, Krug’s injury opens up another organization-wide tryout with a winner needing to emerge over the course of the club’s five remaining preseason tilts, beginning tonight against an NHLer-heavy Flyers group.

“We’re not ruling anybody out,” Cassidy, exactly two weeks away from their first game of the season, concluded. “We’ll take the six or seven best available to start the year.”

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