Patrice Bergeron Yet to Reach Potential in Boston

Philip RichContributor IJanuary 12, 2009

In 2003, the Boston Bruins were graced with the next great player to don a Bruins jersey with 18-year-old Patrice Bergeron. Considered a steal with the 45th pick in the 2003 entry draft, the young center had all the makings of a star player: size, speed, soft hands, good vision, and limitless potential.

Five years later, Bruins fans are still waiting for his potential to turn into results.

Bergeron’s talent is undeniable. He has proven that he has the ability to take over a game, to have a knack for finding the puck and to have a beautiful scoring touch. The problem is that he rarely plays to his potential for a full season, or even a full game. His goal scoring production is noticeably deficient for a player of his caliber.

In the three seasons in which he played at least 70 games, his statistics were not stellar by any means. In 2003-04, he had 16 goals, in 2005-06, he had 31 goals and in 2006-07 he had 22 goals. The 2006-07 season was also a career high season for him with 48 assists and 70 points.

Are these numbers solid? Absolutely.

Are they the products of a superstar? Absolutely not.

Looking at this year’s Bruins team, the production is astounding. Current projections have Phil Kessel finishing with 47 goals and 33 assists, Marc Savard with 27 goals and 74 assists, Michael Ryder with 33 goals and 27 assists; and David Krejci with 31 goals and 59 assists.

These are only projections, but there is no reason to expect a drop off in these players’ production. Yet, Bergeron was one of three Bruins on the initial All-Star ballot. A player who, in 31 games before being injured this season, netted only four goals, and fourteen assists.

So why did Bergeron’s name appear on the ballot, while Tim Thomas, Krejci and Kessel were conspicuously absent? One word: reputation.

Bergeron has become the face of the Bruins organization across the NHL. He is still seen as the young, talented center that will one day mature into a goal-scoring superstar. But reputation does not equal results.

Of course, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Bergeron’s intangibles make him an invaluable asset to the team. He’s a tough, gritty player with an unparalleled work ethic and a sincere passion for the game. It’s evident that if the Bruins want to make a serious run at the Cup, No. 37 will play a vital role. What that role is remains to be seen.

With last year’s season cut drastically short by a cheap shot courtesy of “Broad Street Bully” Randy Jones, Bergeron took a significant step back in his progression, and the effects of that injury may still be hampering him. A seemingly harmless check on Carolina’s Dennis Seidenberg has sidelined Bergeron indefinitely with his second concussion in just over a year.

This could be a completely unrelated fluke injury or the result of a more serious health problem stemming from Jones’ initial hit. If the latter is the case, this could be the beginning of the end for a once-promising 18-year-old phenom.

It’s time to stop treating Bergeron as a superstar. He just isn’t one; but neither are Aaron Ward, P.J. Axelsson, or Stephane Yelle. They are tremendous hockey players who do their individual jobs remarkably well and have been pivotal in Boston’s success thus far. These players may not be the face of the franchise, but they are the heart of it.

Maybe Bergeron will turn out to be the goal-scoring stud Bruins fans expected him to be. Maybe he won’t. The outstanding play of veterans like Ryder and Savard, along with the breakout seasons of Kessel, Krejci, and Blake Wheeler means that Bergeron doesn’t have to be a scoring machine.

If he does come back this season and starts playing up to his full potential, it will be very difficult to find a team who can match Boston in a seven game series this spring.