Grade: A +++++
November 30, 2005, a day that will forever live in infamy. Hearts were broken and small children wept. After making a strategic organizational decision not to secure many players before the lockout, the Bruins then lost a number of key pieces to free agency once hockey resumed. It was time to rebuild and Joe Thornton was deemed surplus to requirements. Thornton, very critical of the team at times, often displayed a "unique" leadership style. An immense talent, nonetheless he was traded to the San Jose Sharks. "Not again?" The organization placed their faith and future in a good-looking young padawan from Quebec, Patrice Bergeron.
Undoubtedly the future captain, he has already persevered a plethora of adversity in a very young career. Not as gifted as Crosby or Ovechkin, he continually works harder than everyone else to make an impact and time after time recovers from injury. After suffering a concussion against the Flyers in the second round of this year’s playoffs, Bergeron would miss two games against Tampa, but he bounced back to finish the playoffs third in scoring with 20 points in 23 games. He finished the regular season with 57 points in 80 games, also good for third in scoring on the Bruins.
The quiet leader is perhaps the best three-zone player in the league. He was dominant in the faceoff circle this season, winning the 5th most draws in the NHL, and consistently displayed his immeasurable hockey IQ all over the ice. Although his offensive production has decreased slightly from his early years, he has since become a perennial Selke trophy star. Night after night Bergeron delivers against the top talent at both ends of the ice. Not many top forwards also display the same penalty kill prowess.
He remains the longest tenured Boston Bruin and for good reason. Bergeron consistently delivers in big moments. None were more important than Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals where he scored 2 goals. Mark Recchi by his side, he has grown exponentially. His work ethic is contagious and the team certainly rallies around him, especially after the Alex Burrows incident. Bergeron, only 26, is the reason the Bruins will contend for years to come.
Mike O’Connell’s grade: A