After a devastating injury to their power-play quarterback and best defenseman Andrei Markov in the first game of the season, the Montreal Canadiens were forced to sign free agent Marc-Andre Bergeron to a one-year, $750,000 contract.
During a condition stint with the Hamilton Bulldogs where Bergeron recorded six assists and a plus-six rating in only three games, the Canadiens managed to lose five games in a row, scoring only nine goals. Their anemic offense now ranks 25th in the league, tied with the Ducks and the lowly Islanders, at an average of only 2.11 goals per game.
Montreal’s power play ranks 24th in the NHL at a mere 15.4 percent. The Habs’ other offensive defensemen (Mara, Spacek, and Hamrlik) have combined for only two goals and seven assists in 20 games.
Bergeron, 29, was recalled by le Bleu Blanc Rouge on Monday. Shawn Bell was demoted to the Bulldogs as a result.
During Bergeron’s time in Hamilton, the Canadiens recalled promising offensive defenseman Yannick Weber without great success. Weber, 21, recorded no points and minus-four differential while looking out of place on the ice. Weber needs another full season in the AHL before getting major ice-time in the NHL.
Bergeron, a power-play specialist whose defensive capacities are underrated and improving, should have an immediate impact on the Habs’ transition game, which has been lackluster lately. Bergeron is known for his great skating abilities, his booming shot, and his excellent first outlet pass.
Bergeron will likely make his season debut on Tuesday against the Atlanta Thrashers at Bell Centre. His defensive partner will be Paul Mara. Coach Jacques Martin said earlier that Bergeron will be used for about 14 minutes and on the power play.
A native of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Bergeron played in 72 games with Minnesota last season, recording 14 goals and 18 assists (32 points), with seven goals coming on the power play.
In 339 NHL games, Bergeron has 62 goals and 98 assists for a total of 160 points.
Do you think Bergeron will help the Canadiens win their first game at home?