Every year, there is always a team that enlists services of Marc-Andre Bergeron in a desperate attempt to bolster their power play. This year, that team was the Carolina Hurricanes. Bergeron is not a bad player, but he has never been able to find a permanent home in the NHL. He has played for eight different teams in his ten year NHL career and has been traded four times. The reason why Bergeron has never been able to stick with most of the teams he has played for is because his skillset is very limited as an offensive defenseman and power play specialist. By that, I mean that working a power play is basically the only thing he is useful and he is somewhat of a liability beyond that.
While Bergeron does posses a lethal shot and can move the puck well, he isn't a particularly great skater and has a lot of trouble playing against skilled forwards. Bergeron is also pretty small, not great positionally and is prone to bad turnovers, so that makes it tough to use him as anything more than a power play specialist and why a lot of teams have either traded or opted not to re-sign him over his career. Regardless, Bergeron is still very good at one thing, and that is working a power play so this skill has earned him a job with several teams. The Hurricanes being the latest team to add Bergeron to their roster, trading Adam Hall & a 7th round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for him right before the deadline.
Adding another puck-mover to this team's offensive-minded defense corps is probably the last things fans wanted, but the Hurricanes power play was near the bottom of the league for most of the year. Some of that was due to them simply not being able to finish, as they were able to generate a lot of shots on their opportunities, but they also had a ton of trouble with both entering the zone and setting up plays once they did get the puck in. The Hurricanes also didn't have someone with a big, left-handed shot (when does Joni ever shoot?) to play one of the points, so at the very least Bergeron filled a need.
A way to briefly sum up Bergeron's performance with the Hurricanes is that he was about as good as advertised, which is both a good and bad thing. The Canes power play definitely improved after they acquired Bergeron, but he caused a lot of headaches when being used at even strength. Only one of Bergeron's four points as a Hurricane came at even strength and he was a -8 over 13 games. Bergeron plays his role well, but struggles a lot when asked to do more and Canes fans got a taste of both sides of MAB during his brief stint in Carolina.
Bergeron played a decent amount in his first game with the Hurricanes but his usage was limited after that. The coaching staff was reluctant to give him a lot of even strength ice time because of his defensive shortcomings and high-risk style of play. The only other time Bergeron got a lot of minutes at even strength was towards the end of the season when the Canes were destroyed by injuries. So he basically played a lot of minutes only because the Canes had no other options then.
Bergeron was also heavily deployed in the offensive zone, which is the usual case with him no matter what team he plays on. Most who have coached him know that he is best used when he doesn't have to defend a lot, so sheltering him is usually the best way to go. Kirk Muller didn't do anything different here.
5v5 Fenwick Diff/20
5v5 Chance Diff/20
Despite almost all of his shifts being like a wild adventure, Bergeron was actually pretty good at controlling puck-possession at even strength. Part of this is because he started nearly all of his shifts in the offensive zone, but at the very least he was able to keep the puck there and not get destroyed in his own end. Bergeron was also very solid at creating scoring chances, as the Hurricanes created more high quality shots during 5v5 play with him on the ice than any other defenseman on the team. Going by this, Bergeron played his role but there was another side ot his game, an uglier side.
While Bergeron helped out Carolina's territorial game, he was also on the ice for a decent amount of chances against at even strength. The puck was usually in the opponent's end whenever he was out there, but whenever Bergeron was forced to defend, it usually resulted in the opposition creating a few chances. You can blame this on Bergeron's turnovers and his tendency to get caught in no man's land in his own zone. That's the risk you take when you use him a lot at even strength, though. Bergeron can do a lot to help your offense, but he can also hurt you a lot defensively.
Another thing worth pointing out is that while Bergeron helped Carolina's power play, his contributions at even strength were pretty minimal overall. The Canes created a little over two goals for every 60 minutes that he was on the ice, which does not offset or make up for his defensive issues. He was good at controlling puck-possession, but compare Bergeron goals for with his goals against numbers and the Canes were a worse even strength team overall.
5v5 Zone Entries
Having a defenseman who can jump into the play and carry the puck through the neutral zone was something the Hurricanes lacked while Joni Pitkanen was out of the lineup, so this was one area where it was nice to have Bergeron. He wasn't an ideal replacement for Pitkanen, but Bergeron is still a fairly good puck-handler and the Hurricanes didn't really have another blue-liner who could carry the puck into the zone somewhat frequently. The rate which Bergeron carried the puck into the zone wasn't extremely impressive overall, but he ranked favorably compared to Carolina's other rearguards.
Season Grade: C-
Even though Bergeron did help Carolina's power play, his overall performance wasn't very impressive and his defensive issues ended up hurting the team a lot. In other words, Bergeron's performance was about in line from what I expected and he gets an average grade. I was hoping he would put up more points, but I thought he contributed there well in other areas like making good first passes out of the defensive zone and moving the puck around nicely. Still, he was a bit of a liability at even strength and that's about what I expected from him to be.
The Final Word
Bergeron will probably be on his ninth different team come this fall because I can't see why the Hurricanes would re-sign him unless they overvalue his contributions on the power play. He is a very good power play quarterback and while those are somewhat hard to come by, Bergeron's limited skillset and poor defensive play makes him somewhat easy to replace. It's why so many of his former teams opted to not re-sign him and I think the Hurricanes will follow suit. Had he put up more points or turned the Hurricanes power play into a force, then this would be a different story but that wasn't the case. Even if it was, the Canes have a similar player in Ryan Murphy waiting in the wings and I think they would rather see what he can do next season rather than tie up more money in another third-pairing defenseman.