|Quebec connection paying dividends for Jordan Caron, Patrice Bergeron||10.15.10 at 1:34 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — A player’s rookie year in the NHL presents some pretty predictable obstacles. Getting used to the speed of the game, limiting mistakes, and not letting the game get inside one’s own head. When the player is under 20 years of age and learning a new language, perhaps the jitters felt and the speedbumps experienced become enhanced a bit, and the rookie naturally seeks the guidance of a player who was once in similar shoes.
That may be exactly the relationship that exists between Bruins second-liners Jordan Caron and Patrice Bergeron. Both players come from Quebec, and like Bergeron did as an 18-year-old in the 2003-04 season, Caron, 19, is entering a new league while also trying to master a new language. To this point, both his English and his game have come along nicely, though the whole package has been aided by the now 25-year-old Bergeron.
After over-thinking situations on the ice at points in the team’s scrimmage in Belfast, Bergeron and Mark Recchi, at the time linemates with Caron, had lunch and discussed the challenges the young winger was facing. The lunch concluded with the two deciding that it would be best if Bergeron took Caron for dinner to remind him of how big a difference he could make.
‘It’s been a long camp for me, but I don’t want to take that as an excuse,’ Caron said a few days after the Belfast game. ‘I guess it has been a long training camp for me, but I have to get over it and just try to do my best.’
While in Prague, Bergeron did take Caron, who by then had been demoted to the third line, out for the meal, one that both players feel helped the rookie.
“We went for dinner in Prague. I didn’t say much. It was just to make him feel comfortable and realize that he’s part of the team and he’s a good player and that even though he’s young, he’s good,” Bergeron said, adding that he told Caron to, “just play the same game that he’s been playing throughout his career.”
After scoring in the team’s preseason finale in Liberec, Czech Republic, Caron was a scratch in the season-opener against the Coyotes, a game in which the team fell to Phoenix, 5-2. He made his NHL debut on Sunday, being bumped back up to the second line with Bergeron and Blake Wheeler. Caron logged a team-low 9:42 minutes of ice time but got a couple of shots on net in the process, making an overall first impression that he’s glad to have gotten out of the way.
Since the team returned from Prague, Caron has skated with the second line and though he has taken to the “anything can happen” mentality, it appears his ice time will only go up as the season progresses. As that comes, so too may more rookie challenges, but Bergeron has made it clear to Caron that he is more than happy with aiding in the adjustment as well as he can. After all, it wasn’t long ago that he had a go-to guy in the locker room for the same purpose.
“Martin Lapointe was always there [for me] my first year,” Bergeron recalled. “He was always calming me down and helping me make sure I wasn’t getting ahead of myself.”
Bergeron lived with Lapointe and his family in his rookie year. On the ice, he made big strides, contributing 39 points as rookie despite facing the challenges that accompany someone learning English off the ice.
“It was pretty hard, especially that first year. It was different and difficult as well, just for opening bank accounts and all that, social security number, and all that stuff,” Bergeron said. “Things that were different with me are pretty much the same with Jordan. They’re all things you’ve got to go through, but with help it’s pretty easy.”
A difference can definitely be observed in Caron’s English from the summer’s rookie development camp until now. He notes that he’s “getting comfortable with everything,” but that he’s not afraid to be persistent with Bergeron if it means getting a firmer grasp on things.
“I don’t want to be annoying, but he told me not to be scared to ask him anything, and that’s what I do,” Caron said.” If I don’t understand a drill sometimes because the language is different, I’ll go right up to him and ask him.”
|Team loses, but Chara deal means Bruins win big||10.09.10 at 6:16 pm ET|
PRAGUE — It was hard to imagine Saturday being too bad a day for the Bruins when word came down that the team had inked captain Zdeno Chara to a seven-year contract extension that will begin following this season, the last of his current deal.
Still, that 5-2 loss sure did give the signing a run for it’s money, didn’t it? The game aside (read about it here), Saturday marked the second of two consecutive huge days for the Bruins’ future. In re-signing both Chara (seven years, $45.5 million) and center Patrice Bergeron (three years, $15 million), the team made sure two players who wear letters other than the spoked “B” on the front of their sweaters (Bergeron himself is an alternate captain at 25 years of age) would be in the fold long term.
What does it mean financially? Put it this way: This season, with the Chara carrying a $7.5 million cap hit and Bergeron with a cap hit of $4.75 million, the Bruins are paying $12.25 million combined for the two of them. When the new deals kick in for the two players, Chara will have a $6.917 cap hit for the first six years (he makes $4 million — less than the average annual value of the rest of the deal — in salary in the last year, which since he will be over 40 is not allowed to be factored into the cap calculation), with Bergeron taking up $5 million in cap space. Combined, that’s a grand total of $11.917 million for both of the players, a savings of about $333,000 for Bergeron and Chara. Imagine the cap going up (even if it’s slightly) in the future, and the Bruins seem to have had themselves a very productive couple of days.
So how did it all come together for the players? Chara’s agent, Matt Keator, told WEEI.com on Saturday that “it was not an easy negotiation,” and that it had “lots of moving parts.” Even so, much like Bergeron said a day before, Chara said — as, to his credit, he did in the week leading up to the signing — that he believed the end result would be him staying in Boston. General manager Peter Chiarelli felt the same way, saying he was “pretty confident” before departing for Europe last week that the players would sign on the trip.
“From our perspective, these are two very, very important pieces of our team, very important individuals on and off the ice. There’s uncertainty as you see some precessions as far as trying to retain these types of players,” Chiarelli said. “As they get closer to the free agent market, you never know what’s going to happen. It’s also an extreme show of good faith when both sides can get it done now, meaning both sides wanted to get a deal done. We want Z and Bergy to be a part of the Bruins for a while, and they wanted to remain with the Bruins. It’s a typical thing. When two sides want something to happen, it usually happens.”
Any longterm deal with Chara, 33, figured to be a tough one for both sides to hammer out given that any deal that goes past a player’s 40th birthday can be complicated as a result of the new cap calculation that came about following the Ilya Kovalchuk saga that grabbed headlines in the offseason. Kovalchuk’s 17-year, $102 million deal with the Devils was nixed by the league because its later years paid out little money in an attempt to lower the cap hit. Now, as a result, the above calculation applies to longterm contracts that go into a player’s 40’s.
“Obviously, Kovalchuk’s situation was a little extreme, and that maybe put the negotiations on hold for a little bit,” Chara said of the hitches that came up in negotiations. “I just knew that we would get this done and I would be a Bruin.”
That’s two top players in two days to accept deals to stay in Boston prior to hitting free agency. It could be a coincidence, but it’s more likely that the Bruins and Chiarelli are seeing a trend develop.
|A look back at what Patrice Bergeron has overcome||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.
|Recchi: Re-signed Bergeron has a lot to teach youngsters||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.”
|Bergeron: ‘I was going to say yes no matter what’||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.”
|Bruins re-sign Bergeron||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).
|Blake Wheeler using his size, rounding out his game||10.05.10 at 6:44 pm ET|
LIBEREC, Czech Republic — Blake Wheeler hasn’t really gotten a fair shake from fans in Boston. After a 21-goal rookie year with the Bruins, Wheeler turned in 18 in his second season and was often criticized by fans for his lack of physical play. This preseason, he’s shown a more physical edge that he had vowed in the offseason to return with. Fans didn’t take notice of his use of his size in his two preseason showings at the Garden, but it likely won’t be long before they do.
A strong camp from Wheeler has landed the third year forward on the second line with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi. He picked up a goal in the team’s 7-1 victory over Liberec HC, and after seeing the five-point explosion from Bergeron should be licking his chops at the idea of skating with him as his center. Things are looking up for Wheeler, who prior to Tuesday had been skating with Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder on the third line.
“I feel great on the ice. I feel like I’m playing with a lot of speed, and confidence is up there now,” Wheeler said. “Playing with Bergeron and Recchi really makes the game a lot easier. I think we had a really good game today and I’m excited to be playing with these guys and hopefully we can really get some good chemistry going.”
As for the aspect of physicality, Wheeler trusts that by utilizing his 6-foot-5 frame he can become the well-rounded player that made him a top-five pick in the NHL draft. In addition to setting up a tarp to shoot against in his garage, his main focus was toughening up.
“I felt that if I could be more of a presence physically, a lot of the other things in my game would follow suit,” Wheeler said. “Just consistency-wise, that’s something you can bring every night. No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how you’re playing, you can be a physical presence and contribute to the game that way. I’m just trying to focus on the things that I can control and let the rest follow suit.”