Before the Phil Kessel trade, there was the David Krejci contract. A furor rolled across message boards for weeks. He should get paid more than whatever Kessel got, he should get more than Bergeron or even Savard were the top ends of hubris. Krejci should get get less than any of them. He’s lazy, he’s slow. He’s the best passer, he’s a great shooter. He’s the second coming of Lafontaine, he’s the second coming of Bochenski. It was a great deal of noise was even louder than it was disjointed.

Then he got a modest contract. And earned it. At three million and change he was well worth it as a second or third type center. In that role he was solid. Then Bergeron hit his stride offensively. Then Savard went down. But, Krejci was between new comer and 30 goal scorer Nathan Horton and the resurgent Milan Lucic. At times they were the best line in hockey last season. At times they were the best paid line per point in Boston. Lucic battled through a breathing problem, and the lines play was generally solid but even in the playoffs where Krejci eeked out the most points on the team, no one called him the most impactful forward game in game out.

Way back in October when everyone got a hall pass on the opening weeks of the season as part of the Stanley Cup hangover. Then Krejci was given a day or two off for a nagging injury. He was eventually called out along with Nathan Horton for lax play by Julien. He had a solid six week run mysteriously just after he signed a contract that will pay him more than any other Bruins forward. Since then he’s reverted to the hangover form. Against the Capitals, he was shuffled to playing with Benoit Pouliot the twice discarded, and Jordan Caron¬† who has bounced between the Boston ice, the AHL and the pressbox.

Claude Julien says there’s no message:

“I don’t think there’s really any message other than we expect our players to come out and be the best they can every night,” Julien said. “That’s something that I think they owe it to the organization especially based on their contracts. That’s what we expect from them no matter where they are. The message should be the same whether he plays with certain players, his normal linemates or other players.”

But does anyone believe that? Claude Julien is the last coach to throw a guy to the media lions, but he will do it. As we saw with other players of variable effort level, it is a tactic he clearly dislikes and uses only as a must. We saw it with Wideman, we saw it with Ryder. We’ve certainly seen him do it with Seguin, Kessel and even Marchand, but he’s not going to do it until he feels he’s got no choice.

What do: David Krejci and Matt Bartkowski have in common? They are the only two players to lace up the skates for the Bruins this season and not manage at least an even +/-. Bartkowski was universally deemed not yet NHL ready. Which makes Krejci’s performance on the NHL’s goal differential leader more telling. A guy who led the NHL in scoring in the playoffs, but can’t manage positive contribution in the regular season isn’t lacking in skill. There is the possibility that another nagging injury like the hip he had off season surgery for exists.¬† If that is the case it does him a lot of credit to still be on the ice. Injury as the cause also would make the locker room, and staff pretty tight lipped as I’ve not heard a whisper of it.

In the last ten games, he’s been held to 1 or 0 shots on goal seven times. This is from a guy who’s getting as many as 18 minutes a night. By comparison, Rich Peverley has only been held to 1 or 0 three times. In that same ten games, Peverley has twenty shots on goal, Krejci just ten. The revealing thing about the shot disparity is that Peverley plays a lot more time short handed, and is pushed out to the point in their nearly identical powerplay time. A more one to one comparison to another center is that Bergeron has 18 shots on goal in the last ten games.

So the question becomes:

Message and malingering?

No message and it’s not Krejci?

Injury being disguised?

About Puck Sage is a hockey site focusing on the NHL, the playing style of teams and players with analysis and the occasional predictions. If it doesn't involve what happens on ice, I won't be writing about it. About Me: Writer! Here. write hockey. I can be found on Twitter @PuckSage on Google+ and my Facebook Page is handily listed on the main page here. Radio Personality: Guest Hockey expert on WATD 95.9FM Hockey lover, cognac drinker, lover of good steak, good music, and things that make me laugh. I hate cats, cat people, sloppy hockey and vegans.

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