Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Bergeron deserves better
By Matt Kalman ESPNBoston.com
I'm pretty sure Patrice Bergeron is a citizen of Canada.
It even says right in the Bruins' 2009-10 media guide that Bergeron skated for Team Canada at the 2004 and 2006 World Championship and the '05 World Junior Championship.
But I have yet to find one projection of Hockey Canada's entry for the 2010 Winter Olympics -- some which have been quiet expansive and inclusive -- mention the Bruins' star center as a candidate to head to Vancouver in February. And that's a Canadian shame.
Joe McDonald and James Murphy have the Bruins covered in the ESPN Boston's Bruins blog.
Now if you're a loyal Bruins backer, you probably want Bergeron to continue to float under Hockey Canada's radar. With Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Marco Sturm, and Tim Thomas pretty much guaranteed to have to work rather than take a two-week break during the Games, the Bruins' stretch run figures to be compromised enough without Bergeron also competing on the international stage. If you're looking at the situation from a Hockey Canada perspective, however, I don't know how you can overlook the 24-year-old.
It should be noted that Hockey Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, while understandably playing his cards close to the vest when it comes to specific players, has often stated that he's keeping every Canadian-born player in consideration for his squad's roster. That would put Bergeron in the running, even though he wasn't part of the Hockey Canada summer orientation camp. And the nonexistent national media attention toward the Boston mainstay would indicate that Randy Jones' hit in the fall of '07 not only cost Bergeron a season of his career but also knocked him a rung or two down the Team Canada pecking order.
Patrice Bergeron is a big reason for the Bruins' early-season turnaround.
Ottawa's Mike Fisher, Detroit's Dan Cleary, and Buffalo's Derek Roy are all fixtures in stories listing "others under consideration" for a final roster spot or two on the stacked Canadian roster. Even ESPN colleague John Buccigross listed second-year Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos and Dallas sophomore James Neal without giving Bergeron a sniff.
So where's Bergeron? I'll tell you where he is. He's right in the thick of the Bruins' early- season turnaround and back at the precipice of superstardom as Boston's best two-way player, right where he was before that ill-fated shot from behind against Philadelphia.
Other players have sexier numbers, but no one produces offensively and does all the things that don't show up on the score sheet the way Bergeron has. Every game, he gets better. Team Canada is sure to be a star-studded crew led by Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, and Dany Heatley. To win gold though, it takes a mix of studs and role players. Bergeron would be the perfect blend of someone who could hold his own on the attack while locking up snipers from the other loaded lineups.
Bergeron is eighth in the league in faceoff percentage and only Crosby has won more draws to this point. He's only a minus-two on the season, but you have to take into account the Bruins' slow start (especially defensively) and the added ice time and opponents' attention he took on while Marc Savard was out with a broken foot.
Adding to his Olympic-worth resume, Bergeron can play the wing for a team that has way too many centers. And he showed in international competition -- back when Hockey Canada was showing him the love -- that he can forge chemistry with Crosby. Heck, in a Boston uniform Bergeron has managed to make music in the offensive zone with any number of teammates, including Sturm, Chuck Kobasew, and now Milan Lucic.
There's obviously a laundry list of All-Stars who will make Team Canada's roster, and few, if any, spots are still available with a little more than a month remaining before the announcement of players. Bergeron might not be able to crack that group of players, but his performance so far this season should at least have him in contention.
Matt Kalman is the Bruins blogger for ESPNBoston.com and runs TheBruinsBlog.net.