Perhaps no one exemplifies the mystifying ways of Hawks management this year than Marcus Kruger. Because what is there to say about him? Not much as a player. But in the way he was handled, packaged, and sold? Oh, well, that's a thing right there.
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Contract Status: Signed for two more years at 900K cap hit.
Positives: Hmmm. Hang on, I'll get this. There had to be one, right? He could stand on skates, some people find that pretty hard, y'know? Good looking kid, too. Probably will do well as Stalberg's wingman in training camp (if Stals is here). Set up for a pretty good nickname in "Dream Warrior". Other than that...
In all honesty, during the playoffs Kruger did show some poise with the puck, waiting that extra second to make the right pass, which is encouraging. He was also better defensively then, and appears to have a decent hockey IQ. But there's such a small sample size here...
Negatives: Well, for the player himself there isn't much. Expectations, despite what they told us (more on this in a minute) just were not that high. And Kruger, most of the time, looked like a kid who wasn't accustomed to the North American game and will need time to adjust, which he didn't get. He was overpowered physically at times, caught flat-footed at others. But all of this is part and parcel of a non-immensely talented player trying to blend into the end of an NHL season during a frantic playoff chase. It's too big of an ask.
And that's the major issue here. We joked and referred to Kruger as "The Plan All Along", because that's what Stan Bowman told us bringing him over to finish the season was. He told us it had nothing to do with Bolland's and Sharp's injury. And it was utter bullshit. What if #36 and #10 were healthy? Did Stan really think that Kruger was an uprgrade over Sharp-Bolland as your 2 and 3? There's no way that could be, and if it is than Stan's been dipping in the bath salts (topical!). Eventually Q figured this out in the playoffs, moving Sharp back to center and when Bolland returned Kruger was either in the pressbox or a fourth line winger.
Defining Moment: Not so much the rookie mistake, but the covering that was attempted from a Blackhawks employee not to besmirch the reputation of a player that their GM had sold so hard.
Outlook: Hard to say. Kruger probably has an NHL future. But it's not in the immediate, unless he starts punching throats and kicking shins in training camp. The Hawks need an upgrade down the middle, depending on what they decide Dave Bolland is. But Kruger is not ready to be a #2 center, he's probably not cut out to be a checking center to move Bolls to the second scoring line, and he's not a fourth line guy either. At least not right now. What he does need is to start out in Rockford and skate #1 or #2 minutes there as he gets accustomed to the game over here (depends on where Pirri fits in down there). But that's the thing. What if Kruger doesn't want to go to Rockford for an extended period of time and fucks off back to Sweden? We don't know that won't happen. But right now, Kruger just doesn't appear to have a spot on the team, and he won't until he can proves he can improve upon Sharp-Bolland behind Toews (and that's assuming a center or two isn't brought in).
Grade: Incomplete. Too few games, not well prepared, not well handled. We should all reserve judgment on Krugs until he's been on this continent for 40 games or more, either in the A or not.
And now DaleHalas with some sabermetric numbers that prove without a shadow of a doubt that Kruger is in fact the second coming of Borje Salming...