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Pierre McGuire on M&M: Patrice Bergeron ‘one of the top 10 players in the league’

03.08.13 at 12:22 pm ET
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NBC’s Pierre McGuire joined Mut & Merloni on Friday to talk about Carl Soderberg, for whom the Bruins traded in 2007 only to see him stay in the Swedish Elite League, the possibility of visors being made mandatory for NHL players, and Patrice Bergeron‘s role on the team.

“You look at the plus-minus for Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand last year — a big part of it was because of Patrice Bergeron teaching them to play in their own zone. I’m convinced of that,” McGuire said. “There’s a lot of similarities to what Bergeron does to what Jean Ratelle did in his prime, and he’s a Hall of Famer. Bergeron and Ratelle are so similar. The one thing about Jean was the consistency in his game. Just ask Rod Gilbert about the influence Jean Ratelle had on him on the Goal-A-Game-line down in New York, or you can ask Marchand and Seguin, and I’ve done it, what’s the influence of Bergeron on their game. It’s huge.”

McGuire said he considers Bergeron “one of the top 10 players in the league,” and that his consistency and two-way play likely will lead to a long-term contract extension with the Bruins soon.

“I think [the Bruins] understand the value of players like that in a city like Boston,” McGuire said. “They’re so proactive when it comes to signing players they want to keep. You look at the extension to Seguin, you look at the extension to [ZdenoChara. They’re aggressive when it comes to identifying players that are really important to their team and keeping them, so I’ve got to believe at some point they’re going to get aggressive with Bergeron.”

News broke Thursday that Soderberg, for whom the Bruins traded Hannu Toivonen in 2007, is in talks with the Bruins about coming to Boston after the Swedish Elite League season ends. McGuire said he sees him as an impact player, likely a third-liner.

“The thing about him that’s so good is he’s rangy — he’s about 6-foot-3, 6-foot-4, 195 to 200,” McGuire said. “Serious skill level ‘€¦ he’s got huge offensive skills, a major breakthrough year for him this year, more mature now than he probably ever was, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be able to play right away in the National Hockey League.”

McGuire said Soderberg’s transition to the NHL could be comparable to that of Damien Brunner, who came over from Switzerland to put up 10 goals and eight assists so far in his rookie season with Detroit.

“There was a development process he went through — Brunner never drafted, unlike Soderberg who was drafted, and you look at what Brunner’s doing in the National Hockey League right now,” McGuire said. “One of the top rookie scorers in the league. Part of it’s because he’s playing with [HenrikZetterberg, and part of it’s because he’s playing in Detroit. But he’s not overwhelmed, and he doesn’t have nearly the size content that Soderberg has. So I’ve got to think it’s not going to be that big an adjustment.”

Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

On Anton Khudobin’s play Thursday and Claude Julien’s choice to use him: “He’s making Tuukka [Rask] get a little aggressive, because I didn’t think Tuukka was so good in Washington. Now you’re making young goalies battle, and there’s nothing like internal competition.”

On mandatory visors: “I don’t think it’ll be a battle. I think what it’ll come down to is this: Insurance companies will say, we’re not underwriting any contracts of players that don’t wear eye protection. And that’s why I think the NHLPA’s probably going to have to go with the grandfathering thing.

“What I’m hearing from guys that were dead-set against wearing shields, now all of a sudden, yeah, we’re putting shields on. One of them is Brooks Orpik in Pittsburgh. Another one who was going to take his off, Johnny Mitchell, who had a horrific eye and facial injury, not long ago, he’s going to keep his on. He was thinking of taking it off.

“Here’s some of the reasons why I think this stuff is happening and i think players are aware of it. One, the offensive zones are bigger, so how do you manufacture a lot of your offense? Pucks come back to the points, because everyone protects the front of the net. So a bigger offensive zone, more point shots. What do more point shots mean? More deflections. So when you’re tied up with a guy, what happens? You’re defenseless. So you see what happened to Marc Staal. Point shot by [KimmoTimonen, deflection by [JakubVoracek, into the face of Staal, defenseless.”

On Chicago’s season so far: “Jonathan Toews, to me, anyway, is the best captain in the National Hockey League. I’ve seen the change in that team, the maturity factor — after they won the Cup, they were just running around and they were wild and the Stanley Cup hangover existed for them, in more ways than one. I think they realized over time they didn’t want to embarrass themselves anymore. And obviously they had to do a little roster rebuilding. Nick Leddy from a trade, that was a total heist from Minnesota, they traded away Cam Barker to get Nick Leddy. Nick Leddy’s the most improved defenseman in the NHL. Then they go out and draft a kid, Marcus Kruger, and he’s the most improved forward in the national hockey league. ‘€¦ And Andrew Shaw, who was a fourth-round pick out of Owen Sound, he’s been unbelievable. They’ve rebuilt it internally either through trades or through drafting, not a lot of free agency stuff.”

On the Flyers giving up four straight goals to lose Thursday: “They’re in trouble right now because they don’t have a lot of supplemental offense and everyone’s loading up on [ClaudeGiroux, [ScottHartnell and [Jakub] Voracek. That’s a little bit tough. No [ChrisPronger, no Matt Carle, that’s tough. No Andrej Mezaros, that’s tough.

[IlyaBryzgalov wasn’t a problem ’til the last 10 days or so, and now he’s starting to fall apart again. I think it’s more fatigue than anything else. I think they’re going to have a real tough time making it, I really do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went out and tried to make one big last move before the trade deadline, but I don’t know if it’ll be enough.”

On the end of Chris Pronger’s career: “Last year, after he was sick in Winnipeg, he called me up. I was his first coach. And he called me up and he wanted to hear about his career. He had trouble remembering some of the early parts of his career. And so we were talking about it, and I’ve known Christopher a long time. When we first drafted him, he stayed at my house. I think the world of him. I know a lot of people in a lot of cities love to hate him, but you’d love to have him on your team. I’d be very surprised if he ever played again.”

Read More: Chris Pronger, Patrice Bergeron, Pierre McGuire,
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