Craig Smith doesn’t expect much to change without David Krejci
Craig Smith saw 695:49 of five-on-five ice time last season.
352:19 of it came with David Krejci as his center. With Krejci now centering a new set of wingers in the Czech Republic, Smith potentially will have to learn to get comfortable with a new center as he enters his second season with the Bruins.
Or, more likely, re-comfort himself with a former linemate.
Center Charlie Coyle will likely be given the first crack at centering the Bruins second line, a line that is also expected to include Taylor Hall.
Coyle and Smith spent 223:39 of five-on-five ice time together last season.
While Krejci brings a whole different style of play to the table than Coyle does, Smith doesn’t expect his game will change much, if at all.
“I wouldn't say that my game is going to change,” Smith said Monday as over 30 Bruins hit the ice for captains practice at Warrior Ice Arena. “But I will say this, every year is a little different with players and you got to kind of recreate yourself a little bit.”
The trade for Hall made an immediate impact on the Bruins second line, and sparked the Hall, Krejci and Smith trio to the tune of 13 five-on-five goals, a 66.15% shot share and a scoring chance for percentage of 68.13%.
As his primary center for the start of his tenure as a Bruin, Smith got plenty of looks to the right of Coyle. But inconsistency on the left side of the line, combined with a down year for Coyle who battled through an injury really hampered production for the third line.
“Every year, the game changes slightly, and then you got to change with it to make adjustments accordingly,” said Smith. “So playing with different players and the feel and the way things are going, you make small adjustments on what you're going to do and those adjustments are according to what's best for the team too, sometimes.”
Hall, Coyle and Smith only saw 2:34 of five-on-five ice time together a year ago. The looming training camp and ensuing preseason will be important for the three to hopefully build the same chemistry that Hall and Smith had with Coyle last season.
“Depending on how we're feeling going into season and depending on how things shake out, or who you’re going to be playing with or who's going to be playing with is, it'll be determined in camp,” said Smith. “But the plan is to keep doing the same thing I've been doing and just having fun playing hockey.”
While nothing in sports is guaranteed, it’s hard to see anyone but Smith landing second on the right wing depth chart behind David Pastrnak.
Sure, the potential of a Pastrnak and Smith top-six swap is always an option, but Smith should be the second line right wing when the Bruins begin their season on October 16.
As confident as we are in Smith’s position, he knows roles are earned, not given.
"I'd be extremely grateful to play [on that line] again. Taylor Hall is a special player. You guys saw it at the end of last year, what he can do, the magic that he can make on the ice,” said Smith.
“I think he's an excellent player. Playing against him for a number of years, he was always a guy that I watched when I was sitting on the bench. To get to play with him was awesome."
There’s certainly a sense of unfinished business already surrounding the Bruins after another disappointing early playoff exit last season. With an aging Bruins core, each year that passes is another wasted opportunity, more wasteful than the one prior.
Smith is hungry for more.
"We're excited to do something special. I think if I was sitting here telling you we weren't gonna do something special, there'd be something wrong. I'm extremely excited with this group. Coming off of last year, there's definitely something to prove. It's just Day 1 here,” said Smith.
"It's exciting. You can feel the energy in the room, everyone is extremely motivated to prove something this year."