|10.08.10 at 12:32 pm ET|
PRAGUE — There are plenty of determining factors that go into whether a team looks to sign a player, whether in free agency or through the process of re-upping their own guys. One factor that can turn an enticing player into a heaping bowl of plutonium is the three most dreaded words in all of sports: history of concussions.
Patrice Bergeron, who on Friday agreed to a three-year extension with the Bruins worth $15 million, unfortunately is quite familiar with concussions, having suffered a brutal Randy Jones hit from behind on October 27, 2007. Just 10 games in, Bergeron was done for the season and would not return until the following campaign.
“I still remember that arena being so quiet as a coach, and the players. Really it seemed to rattle the whole bench. The first thing you want to do when the game is over is not even talk about the game, but go and see him and make sure that everything’s fine, because it was a real close call. It was one that could have easily ended his career,” Claude Julien said on Friday. “The thing that we really wanted to do was make sure that the person was taken care of first and foremost.”
Julien added that despite Bergeron wanting to return for the playoffs that season, much like Marc Savard did this past season, the Bruins decided that taking the entire season and offseason to get his health in tip top shape was the safest route for a guy who was just 22 years of age and dealing with such a serious injury.
“We were going to be as patient as we needed to be, we were going to be as supportive as we needed to be,” Julien said. “He never played the rest of that year. I know at one point he wanted to come in and play in the layoffs, but at that point we made a decision that it would be better off not to and wait a little bit more.”
Bergeron spoke on Friday of how much the team looking after his wellbeing rather than trying to get as much production as they could meant to him. Sitting at his press conference at O2 arena in Prague, he made it clear just how respected and valued the team’s treatment of him feel in the post-concussion process.
Of course, the Jones hit would not be the last of Bergeron’s dealings with concussions. A December 2008 collision with Dennis Seidenberg, then of the Hurricanes, left him once again flat on the ice with what would later be determined to be his second concussion in the span of 15 months.
Julien said that it was natural to “start worrying again” after the Seidenberg collision, but gave Bergeron much-deserved credit for letting things like his two-way style of play, as well as his leadership, define who he’s been as a player rather the concussions. As the Savard situation has illustrated all too clearly, concussions are a messy affair, and one that makes projecting the future almost impossible. With Bergeron primed for a big season and still with room to grow offensively, the Bruins couldn’t have hoped for a better result in wake of two of the darker moments in recent franchise history.
|10.08.10 at 10:02 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins’ town hall meeting from last month was pretty interesting in that season ticket holders voiced their grievances with the 2009-10 Bruins and stated how they want the team to improve in the coming season. Though the way their opinions were phrased provided the checkmark for the entertainment column, nothing they said really went against what management or the players were trying to do. For example, an older season ticket holder got up and said that he had been watching hockey his entire life and pleaded with the players in attendance — Zdeno Chara, Mark Recchi, and Patrice Bergeron — to finish their hits. Much as was the case with the other requests, the players agreed, as Recchi and teammates had a discussion about making toughness on the ice a priority in the coming season.
“One thing we were talking about, all of this us this morning [is that] we’re a tough team. When you look at our team, we’ve got a big, physical team. If you don’t play that way every night, you’re not going to get that respect factor,” Recchi said. “If we learn to play every night as a presence on the night, physical, skating in your face, what your goal is as a team is by the second half of the year for teams to go, ‘Jeez. I don’t want to go play them, because you know they’re going to come and work their tails off, you know they’re going to finish every check, they’re going to be physical every night, and they’re big and they’re fast.’
“You want to get that reputation. That ‘Jeez, we’ve got to go play them. No matter what, they’re going to work.’ That’s important. If we can get that consistency, we’ll be a real tough team.”
Recchi said he still gets the same jitters and experiences the same sort of emotions for opening night at this stage of his career as all the others. One thing that has changed since his first game in the NHL is his look.
“I got called up from Muskegon to play in Toronto,” Recchi said of his debut with the Penguins in the 1988-89 season. “I had a mohawk. All the rookies got shaved a week before, so I remember it perfectly.”
After hearing of Recchi’s former hair style, a reporter noted that mohawks are fashionable in Prague, and that perhaps it might be appropriate if he sported one for the team’s games on Saturday and Sunday. Recchi simply smiled and took off his baseball cap to reveal how much his hair has thinned over the years.
“I don’t know if I can even grow one anymore,” the 42-year-old Recchi said.
|10.08.10 at 9:18 am ET|
PRAGUE — The all-knowing Mark Recchi can speak of the goings on of the NHL with expertise, no matter what the individual subject may be. He’s seen it all, done it all, and knows when he sees something unfolding the right way. Entering his 20th season in the league, Recchi saw just that when word came down that his center in Patrice Bergeron had inked a three-year extension that will keep him in Boston until 2015.
“It’s awesome for Patrice and he deserves it. He’s a wonderful kid and he’s a great person for the organization to keep here,” Recchi said. “I think it’s a great deal for both [sides]. He could have tested the market and gotten a lot more [money] and a lot more years. It just goes to show you the commitment that Bergy has to this organization and to the guys in this dressing room that he was willing to do this.”
Indeed, a cap hit of $5 million for a player who, despite having a history with concussions, has appeared in the preseason to be primed for a monster year, would suggest that Bergeron could have potentially made more money on the open market. Bergeron cited his comfortability with the organization and confidence in the Bruins’ future as the reasons that he had decided he would sign an extension with the Bruins “no matter what” the final offer was.
Bergeron and captain Zdeno Chara had been the team’s two big names entering the final year of their contracts, with Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm, Mark Stuart, and Recchi also unrestricted free agents at season’s end. With the team having yet to agree with an extension to keep Chara around, Recchi pointed to Bergeron’s signing as a commitment from both sides to keep the team’s top players together for years to come.
“Basically we’ve got the core guys. I’m sure Z at some point will get done, but their core guys are locked in, and a lot of teams can’t say that,” Chara said. “A lot of teams have to make a lot of changes throughout the year every summer, and the Bruins are going to be fortunate when they don’t have to. Guys are willing to accept a little bit less to stay and be part of something they think is really good. Give credit to the organization that guys like Bergy trust Peter that he’s going to continue to build a good team.”
Asked where Bergeron falls among the young leaders that he has played with throughout his career, Recchi spoke very highly of his center. Bergeron was mentored well by Martin Lapointe, whom, along with Glen Murray and Recchi, he thanked for showing him how to handle the profession. Recchi said that it has been “awesome to watch him evolve into” the player and person he is today, and didn’t feel that at 25 years of age Bergeron is too young to mentor youngsters as they funnel in.
“The way he handles himself professionally on and off the ice is incredible. He’s a great kid, and we have some young players that should watch him every day. Tyler [Seguin] should watch how he prepares, watch how he works, watch how he does everything, and watch how competitive he is.”
|10.08.10 at 8:34 am ET|
PRAGUE — Patrice Bergeron boasted both a new contract (three years, $15 million) and optimism for the direction of the franchise as both he and general manager Peter Chiarelli adressed reporters in a press conference following Friday’s skate. Now 25, Bergeron will play out the last year of his current contract at a $4.75 million cap hit before coming in at $5 million in each of the next three seasons. Bergeron’s camp and Chiarelli negotiated the deal throughout the offseason, but the center made clear that he knew the outcome of the negotiations long before the agreement was reached.
” I knew it was going to get done, because at the end of the day I was the one who was going to say yes no matter what. I just wanted to stay in Boston and I think Peter and the Bruins knew it all along.”
Sitting alongside Bergeron, Chiarelli sang the center’s praises, summing hip his value to the team as being more than statistical output.
“He’s got a lot of elements to his personality, to his game, that are terrific, really,” Chiarelli said. “When you look at this work ethic in practice, look at him doing the drills, day to day showing up and getting them right and leading the charge, he’s a consummate professional and a terrific player and a terrific young man.”
|10.08.10 at 3:42 am ET|
PRAGUE — The Bruins and center Patrice Bergeron have agreed to a three-year contract extension worth $15 million. The deal will carry an annual cap hit of $5 million, making him tied with Tim Thomas for the team’s highest cap hit in the 2011-12 season (captain Zdeno Chara remains unsigned following the coming season). RDS was the first to report the story.
Bergeron was set to become a free agent at season’s end, and after a very impressive preseason, the Bruins avoid the risk of seeing the 25-year-old center put together a career year and leave via free agency. Chara now becomes the team’s top priority regarding contracts, as he is in the final year of a five-year, $37.5 million deal signed back in 2006.
Bergeron’s career high for points in a season is 73, which he recorded in 2005-06, his second NHL season. In 73 games last season, Bergeron picked up 52 points before adding 11 more in 13 postseason games.
Both Bergeron and general manager Peter Chiarelli are set to address the media today, so stick with the Big Bad Blog for everything from both sides following the Bruins’ noon skate (6 a.m. EST).
|10.07.10 at 12:53 pm ET|
PRAGUE — With the preseason over and the roster pretty much set (Brian McGrattan is still a few days away from officially being on the team), all of the predictions made in the offseason can either be repeated with a bit more confidence, or they can just be adjusted. Here’s a quick rundown of five things assumed with the team two short days from opening the regular season.
Nathan Horton is the real deal
Both fans and some members on the media alike had a few questions when the team traded the 15th overall pick, Dennis Wideman, and a third-rounder in 2011 to the Panthers for someone, who at face value, was a top-three pick who had amounted to being just an above-average forward in the NHL. Horton had a reputation in Florida for being inconsistent, and there was no sample of him playing in a big market to gauge how he could deal with playing in Boston.
So far, Horton has made every preconceived notion look positively incorrect. He’s been happy as a clam since getting out of Florida and on the ice appears to be the scorer the team needed following the Phil Kessel trade. Horton’s size and toughness allow him to get from point A to point B however he wants, and once his skate touches even a tiny bit of a hashmark, it’s over. Twice so far this preseason he’s fired wristshots from the hashmarks to beat the opposing goaltender. Even if he doesn’t become the 40-goal scorer many people feel he can be, he’s a safe bet for at least 30 a season after Marco Sturm led the team with 22.
Blake Wheeler will be better
Maybe it’s the Boston in Boston fans, but a sophomore slump is not an uncommon occurrence when it comes to younger players. After a promising rookie season in which he scored 21 goals, Wheeler took a step back with 18 last year. As his development furthers and he approaches the prime years of his career, Wheeler will be helped mightily by being Patrice Bergeron’s left wing and skating with Mark Recchi.
One thing Wheeler took pride in was toughening up and using his size more to his advantage. Such has been apparent in the offseason, as he’s finishing his checks and seems to be taking to the ice with a renewed intensity.
At the very least, Tyler Seguin will score
The second overall pick in June’s draft is not yet the all-galaxy NHL player that he is expected to one day be, but there is no question that he is among the most talented young goal-scorers in the league. He scored four goals in the preseason, and though he displayed some hesitance at times and had some hiccups in the defensive zone, it’s not unfathomable to think that he can be a 20-goal-scorer or better as a rookie.
A lot of Seguin’s success will depend on his linemates. He’s centered the third line for the majority of training camp, with the wings recently changing up. After skating with Michael Ryder and Wheeler earlier on, Wheeler was moved to the second line, with Jordan Caron and Daniel Paille entering the battle for playing time on the wing. If Ryder has the bounceback season he and the Bruins are hoping he’ll have, the third line could flash more offensive output than one would expect. If Caron ends up sticking on the line, it could be a work in progress, with the two rookies having to adjust to a new level at the same time.
Patrice Bergeron is going to explode
…And just in time for free agency if the two sides can’t reach a deal to keep him in Boston long-term. Bergeron’s skill set is unquestioned, and between his chemistry with Recchi and numerous signs that he’s officially in the prime of an already productive career (the most recent indication being his five-point outburst against Liberec HC on Tuesday).
Bergeron is coming off a 2009-10 season in which he totaled 52 points in 73 games before adding 11 more in 13 postseason games. He has yet to top the 73 points he picked up in his second season in the NHL, but it seems quite clear that if healthy, Bergeron should easily pass that mark and could establish himself among the league’s elite centers. Bergeron is coming off a five-year, $23.75 million deal signed back in 2006.
The goaltending tandem will be productive for as long as it lasts
Tim Thomas appears ready to go after coming off hip surgery in the offseason, and Tuukka Rask enters the season a bit heavier and with the confidence of leading the league in both save percentage and goals against average a season ago. Rask is definitely the no. 1 guy for the Bruins, and it should be interesting to see how he handles getting the majority of the starts.
The biggest question — which could very well not even be a factor — is whether the tandem lasts throughout the season. If the Bruins can get something in return for Thomas, they could consider moving him in order to get his $5 million cap hit off the books as they try to keep Bergeron and fellow free agent to be Zdeno Chara in the fold.
|10.07.10 at 12:08 pm ET|
PRAGUE — Joe Thornton was named captain of the Sharks on Thursday, a distinction he once held as a 23-year-old while a member of the Bruins. Thornton gets the C after the offseason retirement of Rob Blake.
Dan Boyle is set to be the first alternate captain, with Patrick Marleau wearing the A for home games and Ryan Clowe wearing it on the road. Marleau had previously captained the team but lost his captaincy in the summer of 2009.
Thornton remained captain of the Bruins until he was dealt to the Sharks during the 2005-06 season. In 12 NHL seasons, Thornton has racked up 931 points.
“You grow as you age, and you kind of mature as a player,” Thornton told the San Jose Mercury News. “I think you become more comfortable in your skin. Back then, you maybe let your game speak louder than your words and I think now you consider both. You can stand up and tell guys how it is or just go out and play.”
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