The Penguins made it official on Monday that leading scorer and league poster boy Sidney Crosby would miss the game as he remains sidelined with a concussion, and Tuesday, teammate Evgeni Malkin also was declared out with a knee injury. Jarome Iginla already pulled out last week for family reasons, while Atlanta defenseman Tobias Enstrom (broken finger) and Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky (concussion) also won’t be making the trek to Raleigh, nor will fellow Oiler Jordan Eberle (ankle), who was slated to compete in the rookie skills competition.
It’s safe to say that the NHL will need to pull out the rolodex and find a few replacements fast. And while the All-Star rosters have taken a big hit with some of the marquee names now missing, there’s still plenty of talent available, including one Bruin who should get some strong consideration.
Patrice Bergeron has accomplished plenty in his career, as he’s already in his seventh season in the NHL at the ripe old age of 25. He put up back-to-back 70-point seasons in his second and third years in the league, topped the 30-goal mark with 31 back in 2005-06, overcame a severe concussion that nearly ended his career in 2007 and even earned gold as a member of Canada’s 2010 Olympic team.
But Bergeron has never been an All-Star in the NHL. That should change now as the league has a chance to add a few more worthy players to replace the injured stars, and few are more worthy than Bergeron.
Bergeron’s long road back from his concussion, and a subsequent second concussion in December 2008 when he collided with now teammate Dennis Seidenberg in a game against Carolina, finally culminated last season when he returned to be being a true two-way force. He tied for the team lead in scoring with 52 points and earned his spot on Team Canada.
This year, Bergeron has been even better. He’s one of just seven Bruins to play in all 49 games thus far, providing stability at the center position while Marc Savard battles serious concussion issues of his own and David Krejci also has missed time with a concussion.
Bergeron remains one of the league’s elite defenders at the forward position, leading all Bruins forwards with 34 blocked shots, faceoff percentage (55.7) and plus/minus (plus-21).
But he’s also been Boston’s top offensive threat. Bergeron leads the Bruins with 16-23-39 totals. He’s been red-hot since Brad Marchand, who should be a candidate himself to replace Eberle in the rookie skills competition, joined his line along with veteran Mark Recchi. That unit has combined for 17 goals and 33 points in 10 games together, with Bergeron putting up 8-6-14 totals in that span, including his first career hat trick against Ottawa on Jan. 11.
Bergeron’s hot streak goes back even further than that, though. He has 12-13-25 totals over his last 23 games, a nearly seven-week run where he’s been among the most dangerous scorers in the league.
Bergeron does have plenty of competition for the replacement spots. Philadelphia’s Danny Briere was already named to replace Iginla last week, and the Flyers can make a strong case for Mike Richards and Jeff Carter to be there as well. Minnesota’s Martin Havlat and Mikko Koivu could make legitimate claims, as can Montreal’s Tomas Plekanec, among others. Bigger names like Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom also were not chosen with the initial crop of All-Stars, though that may have been more of their choosing with the league acquiescing to give at least a couple of those guys the weekend off.
Still, Bergeron should have a strong case to be added to the game. He’s definitely got one supporter, albeit not exactly the most unbiased of sources.
“You’re always going to vouch for your players, and he’s certainly one of those guys who would definitely deserve it,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said prior to Monday’s game in Los Angeles. “He’s been with the Olympic team. That in itself says a lot. I don’t think it’s an issue of whether he deserves it or not. It’s an issue of which direction they’re going to take. If he doesn’t go, then he gets some rest. If he goes, then to me he deserves it.”
Bergeron does have one major obstacle to overcome in his quest to gain his first All-Star selection: He actually plays defense, and Selke-caliber defense at that. That sort of thing is frowned upon at these All-Star gatherings, but the league already has broken with tradition by adopting a new format with the team captain choosing the sides.
So why not do something really revolutionary and reward a two-way player that truly deserves some league-wide recognition?
Should Bergeron be an All Star? Leave your thoughts below.
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