• Marc-Andre Bergeron is who we thought he was. A scapegoat.

    by  • February 19, 2007 • Uncategorized • 15 Comments

    Like most of the non-star Oilers who pile up significant tenure in Edmonton, there are a couple of Marc-Andre Bergeron moments that stand out more than anything else he did here. First, you’ve got the famous hit that he threw on Brenden Morrow in the 2002-03 playoffs, which was probably the best hit he threw in his time in Edmonton. Second, there’s the Roloson injury from G1 of last year’s Finals. Third, there’s the Hemsky goal from this season after Patrik Stefan missed the empty net after Bergeron gave the puck away to him. It seems somehow fitting that Bergeron takes a ton of undeserved blame for the Roloson injury when he made what was the best play available to him while the screwup on the Stefan empty net started a chain of events that saw the Oilers tie the game.

    I’ve mentioned that the guy was driving me insane the past while and it hasn’t been a great 29 for him – since the Oilers 31st game of the season, he’s EV+ 14 EV- 21, but he had a pretty respectable career as an Oiler, all things considered. For his career with the Oilers, he ends up at EV+ 121 EV-98, which is obviously decent, even if he spent the whole time playing against recent AHL callups. He scored 1.02 ESP/60, which is a fine number for a defenceman. His PP work wasn’t as impressive, at 3.14 ESP/60 but he was having a solid year this year at 4.32 PPP/60. So why ditch him?

    Well, as alluded to above, he was going through an awful stretch. In his first 31 games, he was EV+ 18 EV-10. He’s scoring 1.03 ESP/60. He’s much closer to his usual PP production at 3.56 PPP/60. Pretty much everything is fine with MAB. From that point on, he’s EV+ 14 EV- 21. He’s scoring just 0.5 ESP/60. Oddly, the PP production spiked to 4.95 PPP/60 over that time period but by the end, he was losing PP time to Toby “Career AHLer” Peterson. I’d be interested to hear the justification for that – the one time in his career where he produced results for an extended period of looking like a legitimate PP guy and all of the sudden he can’t get ice time on the PP because Toby Peterson has to get his minutes? Bizarre. I have a very hard time understanding that and I can usually see the reasoning behind MacTavish’ decisions.

    I’ve written before that one of the reasons I tend to think Craig MacTavish has done a good job as coach of the Oilers is that you don’t see guys leave town and have better years elsewhere. The coaches seem to manage to get a lot out of people, which suggests to me that they do a good job of identifying how they can be successful. I think that this is probably going to be a rare case where they give up on a guy who goes on to have a good run somewhere else. As bad as his 28 games leading up to the trade were at ES, there are 161 games before that where he achieved solid results for a guy in his role.

    For whatever reason, it’s always seemed like Bergeron was on a shorter leash with MacTavish than a lot of other guys. I can’t believe that Bergeron was bringing less to the team than guys like Smid or Greene but he got a lot harsher treatment than they did. There was an incident earlier this year where MacTavish went bananas in practice on Bergeron and, reading between the lines on an online posting from one of Bergeron’s friends on Hockey’s Future, I kind of got the impression that Bergeron might have felt like MacT was a bit unfair to him at times. It’s hard to blame MacTavish in a lot of ways – when a guy like Bergeron is struggling, he really looks terrible. That said, it’s hard to argue with results and he certainly put them up for his first 160 games in Edmonton. It’s rare that I hope a guy does poorly after leaving Edmonton and Bergeron won’t be one of the guys falling into that group. Bergeron is, to a large extent, something of a victim of circumstance in that Lowe is willing to make moves for the future given the ugliness of the present. He’s also something of a scapegoat, as the Oilers might be feeling a bit of pressure to crucify someone for the season and if there’s one thing that’s true about the Edmonton Oilers, it’s that a player is more likely to be blamed than a coach or general manager for the failings of a plan.

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    15 Responses to Marc-Andre Bergeron is who we thought he was. A scapegoat.

    1. Showerhead
      February 19, 2007 at

      TSN lists Daniel Tjarnqvist’s GP as 36. As I believe he tried to come back for a few games after his initial injury, this would seem to indicate he was first out of Edmonton’s lineup at roughly the 30 game mark. I’m sure I could just check those pretty graphs you showed recently but I’m already typing :)

      I think it’s obvious what I’m getting at but IIRC MacT started the year largely with Smith-Shaggy followed by Staios/Smid and then by Bergeron/Greene. I’m pretty sure that when Hejda came in he went straight to playing with Smith but there has to be a point in the ~30-50 game period where injuries necessitated Bergeron playing a more difficult role…?

      Basically I have taken the numbers you’ve given and made up a reason why they could have happened. Forgive me if my memory is off and I’ve skewed things but it’s just one theory.

    2. sketchy
      February 19, 2007 at

      Smith-Tjarnqvist
      Staios-Smid
      Hejda-Greene

      Is this it?

      I bet a CIS team could ice a better crew than this.

      MAB got the poopy end of this one. Smith, Staios, and Greene have all pulled boners this year too. I watched Greene miss two pinches in a row and Staios should have about a dozen assists against his own team this year. Why not unload an older, more expensive dman right now? You might actually get a worthwhile return for Smith from a contender.

    3. lowetide
      February 19, 2007 at

      I didn’t like him when he came in, because chaos defensemen are just never going to help unless they’re J.C. Tremblay-good. But the little fireplug WAS good, good enough to play several seasons for a button down coach on a (for the most part) middling team.

      I have no issue with them trading Bergeron, but the smart man makes a move only when there’s a better option. We all await this gentleman’s arrival.

    4. February 19, 2007 at

      Fully agree, while I don’t think Bergeron will do better elsewhere (particularly not on the Island), I do think he’s taking one in the neck for the team. Grebeshkov has a good pedigree, but the RSL just isn’t the NHL – Alexei Mikhnov could speak to that. I don’t know if this is scapegoating so much as ridding the team of somebody considered to be an extra part at this point. Clearing the decks for Gibert or Syvret, I suppose.

      While it’s fair to compare mistakes Smid and Greene have made to MAB’s, one should also compare ages and experience. Smid’s 20 in his first NHL season, Greene’s what, 23? in his first full NHL season (albeit with a trial by fire in the playoffs last season), so one can reasonably expect MAB to not make the same mistakes they do.

    5. Pat
      February 19, 2007 at

      I’m on board with MikeP – I think Bergeron is what he is – a bottom pairing guy. We know that for the most part his reputation has belied his numbers, mostly because when he makes a mistake its not a subtle one – its a doozy. But for a bottom pair guy he is alright.

      But, he is 26. I think its safe to say that he’s not top four material. And his spot would be better taken by Smid, Gilbert, Syvret – take your pick. These guys have to get minutes and as we have seen with the Smid Experiment, having your rookies play top four minutes – not a great idea.

      and at 26 he’s still making those same mistakes – playing with Greene sure didn’t help either – but I would say it didn’t look like he was getting any better.

      So he’s expendable and actually the fact that they got a decent prospect for him is pretty good in my books.

    6. February 19, 2007 at

      Grebeshkov’s AHL numbers are way better than than Russian-league numbers anyway.

      …and if there’s one thing that’s true about the Edmonton Oilers any professional sports team, it’s that a player is more likely to be blamed than a coach or general manager for the failings of a plan.

    7. gary b
      February 19, 2007 at

      i agree with Pat 100%.

      Bergie had peaked – his physical limitations would likely cap his ability to improve overall. And if it comes right down to it – we’d all rather see a younger Tom Gilbert cut his teeth on the back end, without any of Bergie’s… shortcomings (you’ll pardon the pun).

      I still wish #47 well on the island, but good gawd, Ted Nolan’s gonna work himself into a real lather trying to scheme ways to keep Bergeron away from the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, Heatley, etc. during those away games.

    8. February 19, 2007 at

      Grebeshkov has a good pedigree, but the RSL just isn’t the NHL – Alexei Mikhnov could speak to that.

      Even supposing you subscribe to the theory that Mikhnov got his fair shot in North America (and I don’t for a second), Grebeshkov’s RSL numbers are appreciably better than Mikhnov’s. This year, Grebeshkov’s chucked up 6+8=14 in 40 games, while Mikhnov’s career high is 14+8=22 in 40 games, and he’s only broken ten points in a season three times. Given that Grebeshkov is a defenseman with solid AHL pedigree, I’m not too worired about that.

    9. Oiler_Kiwi
      February 19, 2007 at

      Bergeron on his debut with the Islanders 2 assists. I noticed he was on the ice with 1:57 left in the 3rd and his D partner Tom Poti in a tie game at 5-5

    10. February 19, 2007 at

      I just want to say there are a number of smaller players that have been successful.

      Visnovsky 5’10″
      Timonen 5’10″
      Rafalski 5’10″
      Liles 5’10″

      I’m not saying Bergeron is that good, but being big isn’t everything.

    11. February 19, 2007 at

      Bob, so the question then is, if Grebeshkov is The Full Meal Deal, what’s he doing on his third team by the age of 22, and why isn’t he in the NHL? I can accept “because Mike Milbury is a flaming idiot” (since it would have been him still in charge for both the initial acquisition and letting him go) but is that the whole story?

      Not saying Mikhnov sucked out (whatever the reason) so Grebeshkov will, but I do wonder about the quality of competition relative to the NHL.

      I trust Lowe’s judgement of defencemen – Smid this season notwithstanding he’s yet to make a major blunder in judging quality of that position – but I didn’t think Bergeron was that bad, and Grebeshkov had better be really good for Lowe to be trading a roster blueliner for a guy who’s not even on this continent right now. Bergeron is a guy you can trust on the bottom pairing and PP, and he’s signed for relatively forever really cheap. If the team being 4.5mm or so below cap isn’t about the money, they need to kick themselves in the balls.

    12. Rod
      February 19, 2007 at

      Bergeron is a guy you can trust on the bottom pairing and PP, and he’s signed for relatively forever really cheap.
      Completely disagreed that he’s a guy you can trust, even on the bottom pair. For sake of argument though, I’ll agree…and say that he was never going to be a top 4 guy. In that case, was he really signed that cheap? Seems to me that 5th and 6th d-man will easily be found for less than MAB. Will the replacement win the team’s hardest shot or fastest skater? Not likely. But hopefully he’ll do better than -2 against the Lafs 3rd/4th line, while preventing Johnny Pohl from looking like Johnny Bucyk…

      Is he a scape-goat for the season? Perhaps. Would he make the difference between now and the deadline? No. Especially with every game on the road, where it’s pretty hard for MacT to hide him. Just take a look at the home/road split for MAB:+1 in 30 @ home-10 in 25 on the roadGranted, Smid’s split is even worse, but he’s obviously facing tougher opposition.

      Don’t get me wrong. I wish MAB well. I hope he makes the post season with the Isles (bonus is that likely means the Lafs or Canes miss ;-).

      The Oil are simply better without him (presuming a healthy Shaggy to play with Greene).

      - Rod

    13. February 20, 2007 at

      I think that taternuts sums up Bergeron’s situation very well in the thread below, and that Dennis does an excellent job of interpreting the Oilers position in a lengthy reply on Lowetide’s blog.

      The bottom line is that this is a rebuild. It was a rebuild the minute that Smid and Lupul came back for Pronger. It still looked like a rebuild in September, and it still looks like one now.

      Bergeron is a useful player to a good team. He’s not a guy you want out there against Tkachuk, but he can deliever results in with the softer minutes. He’s been doing that for yonks.

      But to a rebuilding team with a low budget like the Oilers, he’s not a good fit. The Oilers need a place to hide their flawed young defencemen Smid and Greene. And while these two and the extra rookie added next season will be fortunate to just tread water with the icetime that Bergeron racked up gaudy numbers with … they’re the hope for the future.

      2011 baby! 2011!

    14. allan
      February 20, 2007 at

      I just want to say there are a number of smaller players that have been successful.

      Visnovsky 5′10″
      Timonen 5′10″
      Rafalski 5′10″
      Liles 5′10″

      I’m not saying Bergeron is that good, but being big isn’t everything.

      I agree about small players sometimes being able to compensate. But there’s no way in hell Marc-Andre Bergeron is 5’10. I’m 5’9, and he’s noticably shorter than me. And when a defenseman is that small, it seems to take remarkable skill to compensate.

    15. November 19, 2007 at

      Impressive.
      Great read, very informative.
      I have found here much useful information.

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