|Some more prepared than others as Zdeno Chara, Chris Kelly and Patrice Bergeron return||01.09.13 at 2:00 pm ET|
Three of the Bruins’ leaders were back skating with their teammates Wednesday, as captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captains Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly joined eight other B’s on the ice at Agganis Arena after spending the lockout playing in Europe.
All three players spoke highly of their time in Europe, as Chara played for Prague Lev of the KHL and Bergeron and Kelly played in different leagues in Switzerland. Bergeron actually played right wing for HC Lugano of the Swiss-A league, but it wasn’t the strangest experience had by a Bruin in Switzerland. That distinction might go to Kelly, whose first game for HC Red Ice was a little more taxing than he expected.
“I think they thought I had just played in the playoffs and was swinging over there, but I hadn’t played a game in seven months,” Kelly said. “I think I played about 40 minutes that night, so the legs were a little tired. It went into overtime, so it wasn’t like you could kind of pick your shifts to catch your breath.”
Despite the first game catching him a bit off guard, Kelly called his month in Switzerland “a great experience.” Though he returned to North America (he spent the last month or so in Ottawa) in game shape, he was at least a little rusty when it came to packing his hockey bag for Wednesday. He took the ice in Tyler Seguin‘s HC Biel jersey, as he had forgotten socks and a jersey.
“It’s funny when you get used to having a jersey and socks in your stall and then you’ve got to scramble to find a jersey and socks, and asking guys if they brought an extra towel to shower with after,” Kelly said. “It will be nice having a towel at the rink.”
The Bruins had 11 players in Europe at one point or another during the lockout, something that Kelly feels should be an advantage from a preparational standpoint as teams get ready for the 48-game regular season.
“It was never about the money or anything like that or going over there of a vacation,” he said. “I know guys in this locker room extremely well, and if they went over to play, it was to play hard and help that team and play hockey.”
|KHL did not try to keep Zdeno Chara||at 11:48 am ET|
Speaking publicly for the first time since returning from the KHL on Tuesday and amidst speculation that KHL teams were making big financial pushes to keep NHL players from returning to their teams, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said Wednesday that he was not approached about staying in Europe.
“No,” Chara said after skating with teammates at Agganis Arena. “It was pretty clear in my contract that once the NHL is beginning or the deal [for a new CBA] is done, that I’m leaving. It depends on how the guys feel or how they want to decide what to do.”
Ilya Kovalchuk has been the most popular player whose future remains uncertain as the start of the NHL season draws near. Though he’s entering the third year of a 15-year, $100-million contract with the Devils, multiple reports have surfaced citing Devils sources who believe Kovalchuk will stay in the KHL. Islanders defensman Lubomir Visnovsky recently announced his intention to remain with HC Slovan Bratislava for the rest of the season rather than going back to the NHL.
“There’s a lot of speculation, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but we’ll see,” Chara said of NHL players staying in the KHL. “I mean, what can I say? I can’t really make comments for them.”
Since forming in 2008, the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League) has become the NHL’s primary competition as hockey leagues go.
“There are some really, really skilled guys there,” Chara said. “Players are very highly skilled as far as skating and handling he puck and making plays. I think it’s less physical, but skating-wise and skill-wise it’s a little bit different.”
|Report: Chris Kelly headed to Switzerland||10.31.12 at 12:10 pm ET|
|Patrice Bergeron to play in Switzerland during lockout||10.02.12 at 7:36 pm ET|
According to multiple reports, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron will play for HC Lugano of the Swiss National League A during the NHL lockout. Bergeron is the second Bruins player to choose Switzerland, as Tyler Seguin plays for EHC Biel.
Other Bruins playing overseas for the lockout include Tuukka Rask and Andrew Ference (Czech Extraliga), Rich Peverley (SM-liiga), Dennis Seidenberg (Deutsche Eishockey Liga) and Zdeno Chara and Anton Khudobin (KHL).
|What the NHL CBA situation means for junior-eligible players||08.20.12 at 2:22 pm ET|
Here’s a minor detail that should get some more attention if the league and NHLPA don’t agree on a new CBA by Sept. 15: What happens to the younger players with junior eligibility?
The current agreement between the NHL and CHL states that players under the age of 20 that don’t make the NHL after the first nine games of the season have to be returned to their junior clubs (in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL) for the rest of the season. Those players are not eligible to play in the AHL.
Because the 2004-05 season was cancelled entirely and the following season started on time, there was no precedent set during the last lockout for NHL-ready players starting the season with their junior clubs and then going to the NHL when the season started. There isn’t a rule in place to cover such a scenario, so an amendment to the NHL and CHL’s transfer agreement — which recently expired, making this all the more confusing — would be required.
Per a league source, teams are still waiting to be advised on which players will be allowed to play in the AHL should there be a lockout. The source assumed that the potential amendment of CHL/NHL eligibility would also be discussed at that time.
In the 2004-05 season, all NHL players (meaning players who had played in the NHL, not NHL-ready prospects) under the age of 22 were allowed to play in the AHL. Patrice Bergeron — who had played the previous season in Boston — was among them, and in this case a player like Tyler Seguin would be allowed to play in the AHL since he is 20 years old.
The question for the Bruins, as touched upon in Sunday’s column, is what would happen with 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton. He’s expected to make the Bruins out of training camp this season, but if he starts the season in the OHL with the Niagara IceDogs, the NHL and CHL would need to amend the transfer agreement to allow players in his situation to go to the NHL. It would be hard to imagine the CHL drawing a hard line and not allowing players to leave, as their relationship with the NHL has prevented them from losing young stars (such as a Hamilton last year) to the AHL during normal seasons.
|Overdue, but Patrice Bergeron joins Selke club||06.21.12 at 2:43 am ET|
Of all the NHL awards, the Selke certainly isn’t the flashiest of them. It doesn’t put a player on the cover of a video game, nor does it skyrocket jersey sales. Yet for real fans ‘ the ones who either played at some point in their lives or have just been around the game for long enough ‘ it’s the easiest to appreciate. Finally, it belongs to Patrice Bergeron, and it couldn’t be more fitting.
If Bruins fans were given a poll of who should win the Selke, Tyler Seguin would probably win (before you complain about that, remember the 7th Player Award fiasco). If the Selke were a popularity contest, Pavel Datsyuk, who in any given season could be considered the best player in the league, would win it for the eight hundredth time in his career. Wednesday’s awarding is long overdue, but it means that the humble and quiet Bergeron is getting the credit he deserves.
For the previous six years, the Selke fraternity hasn’t taken many new members. Datsyuk’s won it three times, Rod Brind’Amour won it twice, and two seasons ago Ryan Kesler was the recipient for the first time in his career. Through all that, it seemed an injustice that Bergeron, who has consistently been his team’s most important forward given Claude Julien‘s defense-first system, wasn’t even nominated.
Anyone who has watched Bergeron over the years saw that his defensive play in addition to his faceoff prowess made him one of the best, if not the best, two-way forwards in the game. The award is said to go to ‘the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game,” but like many awards, it doesn’t always hold true to its claimed criteria.
Rather than going to the best defensive forward, it can go to the defensive forward with the best offensive numbers. Then once you’ve won it, you stay in the voters’ (it’s chosen by members of the Pro Hockey Writers’ Association) minds for a while. It’s just tough to get their attention.
Bergeron finally began getting that attention last spring during the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run. As the B’s kept winning and the spotlight shined a little brighter on the quiet center (and his finger, of course), the fact that he’d been snubbed in past seasons got a little more play with the North American media. It was no surprise afterwards that when Bergeron put up big numbers this past season (64 points, an NHL-best plus-36 and a league-high 973 faceoffs won), he ended up being the favorite for the Selke.
From a pure offensive standpoint, 64 points won’t get you mentioned among the best playmakers in the league, but Bergeron’s season provided everything that makes him such an important member of the Bruins. He played consistently against other teams’ top scorers and kept them off the score sheet while also killing penalties and helping the Bruins to a league-best plus-67 differential. Not surprisingly, he led all Bruins’ forwards in time on ice per game and shorthanded time on ice per game.
The chatter amongst other voters suggested Bergeron would be the runaway winner Wednesday night, and he was just that. He had over four times as many first-place votes as runner-up David Backes (106-24) and his 1,312 total points for the vote nearly doubled Backes’ 698.
Now, Bergeron is in the club. Like Dastyuk (this season’s third-place finisher), he should receive significant consideration each year. With linemates Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin entering the primes of their careers, Bergeron’s offensive numbers could still improve, making him an easier pick for those who lean towards those with more points. Plus, the re-signing of Chris Kelly means that Seguin will remain a wing long-term, so Bergeron should be able to have one of the most talented scorers in the league as a weapon for the foreseeable future.
Voting for these awards isn’t easy. Jonathan Quick, my top vote for the Hart trophy, didn’t finish in the top three. I didn’t have Norris winner Erik Karlsson in my top five for the award, though I did give him my fourth Hart vote. Yet after years of watching Bergeron and seeing his proficiency in all areas of the ice this season, the Selke was an easy choice. It may have taken a little longer than it should have, but the entire hockey world seems to see it now.
|Looking back and ahead: Patrice Bergeron||05.09.12 at 7:02 pm ET|
With the Bruins’ season in the books, WEEI.com will take a look at each player on the roster one-by-one to provide some perspective on what went wrong this season and what the future holds for the 2011 champions.
2011-12 stats: 81 games played, 22 goals, 42 assists, 64 points, plus-36 (career-high, led NHL)
Contract status: Signed through 2013-14 ($5 million cap hit)
Looking back: Bergeron was healthy as a horse in the regular season for the B’s, as the only game he missed came when Claude Julien gave him the day off against the Senators in the team’s second to last game of the season.
It was the playoffs, of course, when Bergeron being injured really hurt the Bruins. Bergeron tore his oblique in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Capitals. The injury forced him out of Game 5 in the third period and prevented him from taking faceoffs in the last two games of the series, as he took only two draws. That was quite the loss for the B’s, as Bergeron’s 973 faceoff wins led the league in the regular season (his 59.3 percent success rate was second in the NHL).
The regular season earned Bergeron a Selke nomination for the first time in his career, and he figures to be the favorite to take the trophy home come June. The other two finalists for the award were St. Louis’ David Backes and Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, the latter of whom has won it in three of the last four seasons.
In addition to his smarts in all three zones and an impressive plus-minus of his own, the fact that Tyler Seguin — an immensely talented scorer whose play in his own zone is still very much a work in progress — had a plus-34 skating on his line speaks volumes for Bergeron.
Looking ahead: The Selke figures to be in Bergeron’s immediate future, as the fact that he’d yet to be a finalist had been somewhat of an injustice throughout the league. The members of the Pro Hockey Writers Association finally got on the same page after Bergeron’s plus-36, so Bergeron should end up cracking the exclusive fraternity of Selke winners (three winners the last six seasons).
As for what to expect from Bergeron in the future, a lot of that might depend on what happens with Seguin. If the B’s elect to keep him at wing and continue to play him on Bergeron’s line, that should mean a spike in numbers for that entire line as Seguin matures and becomes even more offensively dangerous.
Should Seguin stick at wing on Bergeron’s line for at least another season, it would seem Bergeron would be plenty capable of getting back to 70 points, something his did in his second and third seasons (including a career-high 73 points in 2005-06) but has not done since.
Of course, the Bruins expect more than points from Bergeron. His ability to shut down opposing teams’ top lines in addition to producing offensively and dominating in the faceoff circle while also being an important special teams player is what makes him far and away the Bruins’ most important forward.
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