The Boston Bruins received some unfortunate news Monday – key veteran David Krejci will miss the next 4-to-6 weeks with a knee injury – and it could be the small catastrophe that triggers major change within the organization.
Krejci suffered a partially-torn medial collateral ligament Feb. 20 against the St. Louis Blues that could keep the 28-year-old sidelined until April – and by that point, the inconsistent Bruins could have been overtaken by one or both of the Florida Panthers or Philadelphia Flyers for the final wild card berth in the Eastern Conference. If the Bruins fail to make the playoffs one year after finishing with the NHL's best regular-season record, there will be significant alterations to the roster and management team of GM Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli.
Even a meek first-round exit would likely spell changes. Boston's offense, currently ranked in the bottom third of the league, will be addressed, and so will their blueline.
But the focus goes beyond just this season. There is a crossroads approaching for their approach to 37-year-old Zdeno Chara and a defense corps battered by the salary cap and Father Time. Their core of young players (including Krejci and Milan Lucic) suddenly isn't so young, and they're certainly not delivering in accordance with the expectations of the salary cap room they occupy.
So there's pressure for Boston to make the playoffs this season, and the awareness that larger changes loom on the horizon regardless of what happens. If Krejci were still healthy, maybe he gets hot in the nick of time and helps spur his teammates to discover the consistency they had in their 2011 Stanley Cup championship run, and maybe Chiarelli & Co. find a way to hang on to their jobs and return more or less the same group of players to town for the 2015-16 campaign. But without Krejci around for this key stretch in the season, the Bruins are either going to have to make a short-term move before the March 2 trade deadline that helps them stay in the post-season race until he can return, or they're going to look long and hard at making bigger moves that were almost assuredly coming anyway this summer or relatively soon thereafter.
There aren't too many players believed to be available at the trade deadline who can bring to the table what Krejci does – unless Chiarelli is interested in a blockbuster for, say, Colorado's Ryan O'Reilly – but this isn't just about Krejci. This is about a team whose past glories no longer can hide its current woes.
Sometimes you need a little push from fate to make you begin changes you probably should've started making a while ago. That appears to be the case with Krejci's injured knee, and the Bruins' cloudy future.