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BOSTON (CBS) – The days of David Krejci whispering in English so broken it couldn’t be fixed by all the king’s horse and all the king’s men are long over.
It took him a while, even after he began to speak more eloquently, for Krejci to break his whispering habit. Sometimes you could stand with your ear three inches from his mouth and not hear what he was saying. And that was a shame, because almost every answer from the Bruins center was, and still is, a beauty.
There are few players with a better sense of humor or a quicker wit.
And now there’s truly no turning back for Krejci. In the past couple seasons his English has become clean, his volume has become detectable by the average human ear. And now if he wants to pretend he doesn’t speak the language or whisper into a paper bag, he can’t. Krejci now has responsibilities. He has an alternate captain’s letter ‘A’ that he will split with fellow center Chris Kelly. Krejci will have not to only speak to his teammates and officials, but also answer for the team’s play on the ice more often when the media is unleashed on Boston’s dressing room after games and practices.
That doesn’t mean Krejci has to morph into a modern-day Knute Rockne. The ‘A’ was a reward for the type of player, person and leader Krejci has become now that he’s 27 and a NHL veteran dating back to his first full season at the sport’s highest level in 2007-08.
He’s going to try not to change his ways because he’s obviously been doing something right. He has 49 points in 47 playoff games from Boston’s two runs to the Stanley Cup finals and has exceeded 62 points in every full NHL season since 2008-09.
“It’s an honor,” Krejci said about the new letter on his sweater. “At first when I heard about it, it was kind of mixed feelings of pressure, pride, responsibility and kind of a little bit of everything. But you know I realize that he didn’t put a letter on my jersey just because he wants to be more vocal in the room or play differently on the ice. I’m sure he wants me to … there’s a reason that he gave it to me and I’m sure he doesn’t expect me to change at all. I’m just going to be myself and do what I did before.”
The self Krejci has become is a far cry from the shy kid that first tasted the NHL in 2006, when he attended the Bruins’ first development camp. Then he skated in six NHL games during the Bruins’ forgettable season that year. You could see the talent was there (and he totaled 74 points as an AHL rookie with Providence that year) but you also knew that some guys would be eaten up by the transition to the NHL, the change in country and the pressure to live up to the expectations of a hockey-mad city. That initial stint in the NHL was shortened by a blind-side hit and a concussion. Once Krejci was billed as part of a group of ‘K’ players that also included Phil Kessel, Petr Kalus and Martins Karsums. Only Krejci remains with Boston. Only Krejci and Kessel remain in the NHL.
Krejci made it. He made fast friends with other players and brushed up his English watching television like so many European players before him. He worked his way up from third-line center to the first line. He caught the eye of the Czech Republic national team and worked his way up from World Championship tournaments to the Olympics. He’ll definitely be in Sochi, Russia this winter for a second pursuit of Olympic gold.
Maybe there is one ulterior motive in giving Krejci a letter the Bruins would never admit. Krejci’s burnished a reputation as a player that doesn’t “flip the switch” until the playoffs. Coach Claude Julien actually admitted that much last spring while Krejci was lighting up the postseason. Now with a letter, with even more focus from outside observers and colleagues, there might be more incentive to press on the gas sooner, to lead by example and completely fulfill his potential for six months rather than two.
If getting a letter on his sweater caused Krejci to produce even more this season, it’ll prove to be an ingenious decision by the Bruins. But even if all the letter does is reward a player who’s developed just the way the club wanted to and has helped the Bruins become of the most dangerous teams in the NHL, then it’s still a great move.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.