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.