September is upon us and the Chicago Blackhawks will begin their third title defense of the decade in just a couple of weeks. The team kicked off preseason Sept. 22, putting us a step closer to the end of a whirlwind offseason. Over the next couple of weeks, Blackhawk Up will project the stats of each player on the roster, using their career averages and numbers from a year ago to analyze whether that player’s stats will be over or under the projected total.
Marcus Kruger continues our Over/Under series. The Blackhawks strung along the restricted free agent for the entire offseason while General Manager Stan Bowman tried to shed enough cap space to sign Kruger to a long-term deal. The Blackhawks shed some salary, but also had to replenish the roster, leaving Kruger with another one-year bridge contract.
Kruger has played an instrumental role for the ’Hawks the past four seasons. He serves primarily as the fourth-line center and often matches up against the best competition from opponents. Kruger is also essential on the penalty kill and is arguably Chicago’s best defensive forward.
2014-15 Projected Over/Under: 11 goals, 23 assists
2014-15 Actual Stats: seven goals, 10 assists
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Kruger’s actual production was exactly half of what we had projected for last season. Kruger simply isn’t a point producer and he doesn’t have to be in Chicago. Kruger’s job is to prevent opponents from scoring and that’s what makes him such a valuable member of the team.
2015-16 Projected Over/Under: six goals, 14 assists
I think Kruger barely misses this projection. Kruger’s stats next season will depend on who Kruger spends his time with on the fourth line. Kruger spent a lot of time alongside Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins on the fourth line during the playoffs. That line was extremely effective as a checking line and occasionally got into the scoring mix.
Kruger could also line up with Ryan Garbutt or Jeremy Morin on the fourth line. There are a slew of combinations Joel Quenneville can play with, but it’s important to note that Kruger isn’t expected to score goals regularly. Any goal Kruger scores is a bonus, as he and his fourth line will be relied upon to shut down opponents.
With the disaster Chicago’s defense could be this season, Quenneville will surely throw Kruger on the ice in plenty of own-zone draws. That limits his offensive upside, and that’s not a bad thing.
Kruger will barely miss this projection because he will have an increased role defensively.
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