Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Marc-Andre Bergeron: Facts and Fiction

I read the Oiler blogs today, and had a skim through the boards, and I'm moved to comment on Bergeron. More specifically on the argument that he was a useless when he wasn't playing with Pronger. It strikes me that most people seem to have remembered him playing with big 44 a lot more than he actually did.

We all judge defencemen so differently. If you read the game reviews of the people who actually bothered to watch preseason games so far, you generally see a concensus in the opinions on the forwards and tremendous disparity in the evaluation of defencemen. That's the way it's always been and always will be methinks.

Anyhow, for last season, some Bergeron and Pronger results, in "just the facts, ma'am" fashion. And only as accurate as the data available from


Bergeron's D partners by minutes of EV icetime:
Pronger 420 (41%)
Staios 309 (30%)
Smith 230 (22%)
Others 71

So, for example, Bergeron played 41% of his even strenght icetime last season with Pronger on the ice at the same time.

Number of Goals scored, both for and against, by D partner (i.e. Events) at evens:
Pronger 39 EV+20 EV-19 (43%)
Staios 29 EV+16 EV-13 (32%)
Smith 18 EV+8 EV-10 (20%)
Others 4 EV+6 EV-4 (4%)

Points scored while with D partner at evens:
Pronger 5
Staios 6
Smith 5
Others 2

Today's VicFact #1:
At even strength Bergeron lead this defense corps in point production with 18 points. He was more productive when he WASN'T playing with Pronger. Pronger, on the other hand, scored points at an impressive rate while playing with Bergeron (8 points in 420 minutes) and scored points at a severe sub-ScottFerguson level when he wasn't paired with Marc-Andre (a mere 6 points in 609 minutes without Bergeron).

Today's VicFact #2:
At evens Bergeron was a plus player without Pronger.
At evens Pronger was an minus player without Bergeron.


Now we all know that Pronger played tougher minutes than Bergeron when they were apart. And we know that 44 logged a bunch of icetime and was a real boon to the PP and PK units, especially the former. Pronger would have gotten my vote for team MVP, but just by a hair over Horcoff or Smyth. But facts be facts, if you're convinced that Bergeron was useless without Pronger, you're not going to be able to build a rational argument unless you fabricate evidence. I know two things about Bergeron: He's small and he can play.


Blogger Asiaoil said...

I'd be delighted if we could keep MAB on the 3rd pair to kill weak opposition - he's very effective in that role. Trouble is that we have a lot of guys who need protection this year (Smid, Gilbert, Greene, Hejda) so MAB will have to see tougher opposition. Either he takes the next step early this year in terms of ES play or he's traded for a guy who can IMO.

9/28/2006 2:04 am  
Blogger Lowetide said...

He's a solid NHL defender who is very important to this team. I doubt he gets top 4D EV minutes in too many games this season (unless Greene really stinks and Hejda is completely useless)but his ability to cover up after a miscue is an overlooked part of his game.

There aren't many defensemen I've ever seen who were that size and as effective. He's good.

Not Bob Baun good, but good.

9/28/2006 7:34 am  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Interesting post Vic - another myth exploded, huh?

People forget that he had a bad knee in the second half last season too.

It will be very interesting to see how MAB does this season - he could be a major surprise in a positive way. He has a couple of seasons under his belt now, he's had some success and some adversity. He may take a real big step forward.

Interesting comments from Smith and Staios regarding MAB the other day (those two and Moreau really are able to articulate the game, if that makes sense) - essentially they talked about how Bergeron had some attributes rare in a lot of NHL D and the fact that he can resolve a lot of his issues through experience - he is getting better and they see him taking a step forward because he is at that point in his career.

9/28/2006 9:09 am  
Blogger Alana said...

Seems like MAB performed at his best with Staios -- possible pairing for this year? (Or will the need to babysit new guys split them up?)

MAB had some bad luck at the end of last season. I hope that doesn't follow him into 2006/07.

9/28/2006 9:25 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I agree, though you could probably use a kinder word than "babysit", how about "tutor" or "mentor".

This quote from yesterday's Sun:

MacTavish said pairing Smid and Staios was a no-brainer.

"A young guy and a veteran, it seems almost like a natural," he said. "You want to put him with a guy who understands the game very well and Stevie does."

Mentor, ya, that's the ticket. Sort of like Pronger did with Bergeron for a stretch last season. Or Teppo with Campbell in Buffalo. Or Hamrlik with Phaneuf. Timonen with Hamhuis for a stretch in NSH. Probably at least a few others that I'm missing as well. And they won't be playing much critical icetime either, assuming that's the way MacTavish rolls. That pushes Bergeron and Greene up into tougher icetime. And if that doesn't scare you then you're afraid of nothing. Hopefully Hejda is a player, and hopefully he is comfortable on the right side, so he can sub in for Smid as well as Greene. One rookie D in the lineup is one too many IMO, and two in the lineup is an invitation to trouble.

9/28/2006 11:03 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Edit for above, should read "Greene as well as Smid".

9/28/2006 11:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Success this year is going to depend on how these boys grow. Nothing new there. But one thing that does concern me is how Lowe keeps talking about how the "new" NHL requires puck moving defensman - guys who can make that outlet pass on the break-out. I'm putting MAB in that category of relatively good passers, though he will still need to improve on his descision making - that comes with experience IMO.

But for all Lowe's talk about this type of defensman, who do the Oil have that fits this mold??? MAB and... Tarnqvist??? Hejda??? Smid??? Don't tell me that Staios is this offensive defensman - he's steady and I love the guy, but...

On the positive side, to my eye, we have the same D-corps we started with last year, subbing Tarqvist for CFP. Greene/Hejda/Smid are at worst a wash for Cross/Ulanov/Semenov. 20 games in, it was clear another defensman was needed... this year will be no different. Every other area that is Oil is far improved. Clone another Staios/Tarnqvist and we're gold. (hopefully that is Hejda)

Back to MAB. Although I'd prefer him to be in that 3rd pairing role where he kills lesser competition, I don't expect him to be killed facing most teams second and third lines for the majority of his shifts.

CFP/Bergeron > Tarqvist/Smith - a little better but not for the money. I'll tkae the improvement up front anyday.

Staios/Smith > Hejda/Staios - last years group were better, but not by a country mile.

Cross/Ulanov = Bergeron/Greene - this is at worst a wash.

I guess we'll have to wait and see.


9/28/2006 12:29 pm  
Anonymous Big T said...

Whoops, that's my anon comment there. My bad.


9/28/2006 12:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That does make me feel a little better but overall we'll need a combo of a few things for the D corps not to bite us in the ass.

1: Roli will have to be awesome
2: The Oilers will REALLY have to cut down on penalties. It's gonna be hard enough to keep the puck out of our own net but imagine what will happen if 21 or 24 takes the gate? I used to worry last year when Pronger took a penalty but this year it's gonna be misery waiting for the penalty clock to tick down.
3. Smith and Staios are gonna have to stay incredibily healthy and you can pretty much write it down that 21's either gonna A: miss 10 games with an injury or B: play 20 games where he's severly hobbled. Guys don't become more duarable as they age.
4. Hejda's gonna have to be really good, Smid's gonna have to be effective in more situation than Phaneuf Minutes TM or MAB's gonna have to take a step up.
5. Matt Greene will have to cease to be penatly taking garbage. I mean seriously I know the kid hasn't played a full season yet and that he's only 22 or 23 and he's big and mean and hits like a truck and he's at an age where he should only get better. BUT...Lowe and Co can feed you all the shit they want and repackage it as sugar but the Matt Greene Penalty Festival played at rinks all over NA last spring because it was a consistent show. His infractions were well deserved.
6. The Oilers play puck control offense and don't allow that many chances.

Right now it says 21/Shaggy are set for the tough min, 24 babysits NOT PRONGER and 47/2 combine to provide us all with heart palpatations or at the very least heartburn. Eventually NOT PRONGER will play the soft min and see every shift after an opp PP expires but we'll still need some big stuff from the top 5.

I love the offense and the PP could finally be super kickass. And it's been over two years since that glorious March morn that Lowe finally smartened the fuck up and dealt Salo but I still get giddy every season the Oilers have someone else in net. And Roli deserves much love for everything he did last spring except G1 in Car, ie because most people like to forget he was sucking bigtime before Ladd ended his playoffs.

But the defense is a huge question mark and I have the knives ready...;)


9/28/2006 10:32 pm  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Interesting comment on Greene. That definitely seems to be the Oilerganda - "The refs were out to get him." It's accepted wisdom at Oilfans.

Personally Dennis, I agree with you. The next step in this whole blog operation is for some cat to start putting game tapes online so we can look at this shit.

9/28/2006 11:33 pm  
Blogger dawgbone said...

big T,

There's a difference between puck moving defencemen and offensive defencemen.

I think Lowe refers to puck movers as the guys who make good decisions with the puck, headline it up the ice quickly, and get it to our forwards without making them stop, or reach behind for a pass.

I don't think it has anything to do with offensive output.

9/29/2006 9:44 am  
Anonymous namflashback said...

2-47 played as the top pair against Phoenix. Rod Phillip's play-by-play was comical -- so I don't know if I have a true perception of the game; but it sounds like they did okay against Doan/Nagy.

Plus MAB beat the crap out of Nagy's hand with his own face.

9/29/2006 10:10 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


I didn't hear the game, but according to the shift chart info, for what it's worth:

Hejda lead the march for the D against quality NHLers (Doan, Nagy, Comrie) followed by Roy (presumably they played together). Hemsky lead everybody in icetime against this level of opposition, almost all of it in fact, followed by his linemates and then a big drop to the pack.

Th vsComrie minutes are interesting. I mean aside from 19 no Oiler player in this game will be expected to play much at all against top end talent in the regular season, but they'll need to be able to hold their own for a fair amount of icetime against guys of Comrie's ilk. Greene/Bergeron lead the march at that very clearly. And of the forwards; Mikhnov, Peterson and Winchester got those minutes (Just edging out the Sykora line, who also played a whack against Doan).

9/29/2006 10:47 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Oilerganda! funny.

Sort of related: I caught a bit of talk radio the other day, The Team drive time show. Spector was bitching about the preseason, too many games, low calibre hockey etc. A few callers all agreed, season tix holders are a bit pissed that they have to pay for these games as part of the package and they haven't got a hope in hell of selling them at anything close to face value. Basically saying that it's just a money grab which causes the Oilers, and other teams with eight preseason dates, to run with larger rosters than they want or need through the preseason.

So Pat LaForge calls into the show, clearly offended. Him, Lowe and Howson really should stop listening to sports talk radio and reading the net, for their own sakes, but I digress. Anyhow he throws out his usual stream of bullshit, that the Oilers are struggling to break even and that without the extra preseason games and increased tix, parking and concession rates they'd be losing money hand over fist and would have to cut the payroll way back, etc. The fucker really is shameless, he's no longer even bothering to craft tales that leave him a way out. I turned off the radio before he finished, bu there was a real Sather/Pocklington tone of "you're lucky to have hockey at all in this town, now stop bitchin'"

9/29/2006 10:59 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...


Ya, a couple of weeks ago when Lowetide speculated that Smid would play a bunch of games as an Oiler, soft minutes with a quality veteran beside him ... that's when I wrote that ripple effec post.

If you add a Bryan Campbell then you better damn well add a Teppo Numminen.

On your favourite Dman: Oilswell says Greene was a penalty machine in college too. Sweet Christ, how far do the NHL's tentacles reach? Rumblings out of the Oiler's offices hint that the Roswell, New Mexico branch of the NHL was fucking with the kid when he was a college player! Alarming stuff!

9/29/2006 11:20 am  
Blogger mudcrutch79 said...

Holy Christ! I just went and looked and oilswell isn't kidding. 120 college games for Greene - 337 PIM. In a league with no fighting. That's like something from a video game where a guy scores 150 goals in a season or something.

As for LaForge, it's amazing to me that they got the CBA, the dollar is up 20 cents from when they bought the team and they're coming off an SCF appearance and he's still crying. Pinhead.

9/29/2006 11:24 am  
Anonymous Big T said...


Yeah, bad choice of words with regards to Staios being a offensive defensman. My bad.

My point is still the same though. MAB is still the strongest puck mover of the bunch, and he's not that great. I agree with Lowe that the "new" NHL requires D that can make a strong outlet pass, I just don't agree that the Oilers actually have an abundance of these guys.

Granted I have not seen much of Tarnqvist, Smid or Hejda... hopefully they nullify my concerns. But apart from CFP (and MAB 50% of the time), no one was making that kind of outlet pass that allowed our forwards to carry speed through the neutral zone before Dick and Chunk got here.

That's what their real value was. Certianly not Spacek's "amazing" one-timer on the PP or his ability to defend. We all saw him get beat down low on numerous occasions. No, these guys made good descisions on their outlet passes. This area will have to be addressed.

On the plus side, the group of forwards assembled should be less dependant on creating offense off of the rush (break-outs and turnovers). With the added skill they should be able to play slightly more of a puck control game once they gain the offensive zone. Hopefully this will take a little pressure off the D.



9/29/2006 11:41 am  
Blogger dawgbone said...

MC... Greene's PIM include the few fights he got into, which end up being a hit of 15 min/fight.

So 5 fights in a college carrer and thats 75 minutes right there.

Still... that's sill an average of 2 minutes per game.

9/29/2006 12:01 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greene's a PIM machine out question about it. But like you said it's not his fault because refs have been out to get him forever;)

It is embarrassing that old Patty is throwing out the same line of BS but I guess that's what the Oilers pay him for:D


9/29/2006 6:17 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Ya, Dennis, I know that's what they pay him for. And I'm sure it's no picnic having 37 owners either. And I can appreciate that revenues and payroll are linked and that they are making a whack of cash on the preseason games. But this whole schtick where he acts like the EIG are a charitable not-for-profit organization that's just scraping by ... that gets on my tit.

The EIG is a business and they should expect a return on their investment, and I'm sure that they are getting it. And I think that the vast majority of Oiler Fans are cool with that. Pat should give us some credit on that count.

9/30/2006 11:01 am  
Anonymous momentai said...

Even while in college, Matt Greene was known for his ability to take penalties. The excuse was that he was just too aggressive for that level and the referees were being unduly harsh. It seems that some of those rationalizations have followed him around.

Vic, did Patty Laforge actually come onto the TEAM and spew the same old rhetoric again about crying poor? No offense but that act wears fo thin. You'd think he'd have some respect for the fanbase. *shakes head* You'd think he know better.

9/30/2006 11:50 am  
Anonymous Rod said...

My problem with MAB is that outside of playing with Pronger, MAB's pairing was consistenly the worst on the team (despite Pronger absolutely devouring the tough minutes). Put him with Smith, and Smith looked awful. MAB had the same effect on Staios. Unless I'm missing something, I don't see how your stats disprove that...

- Rod

10/01/2006 12:06 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

The thing is Rod, they may have looked like the worst but the results are good. And you can find a bunch of fans who think the opposite.

If you subconsciously count "chances they surrendered on their own" then you're not a Bergeron fan. And there are plenty of them out there in internetland.

If you subconsciously count "chances they created on their own" then you ARE a Bergeron fan. And there are quite a few of them as well in internetland. Though fewer.

The difference between the two is what matters, given their role.

The opposite applies to Hemsky, and forwards in general, with forwards it seems most people are happy to ignore what they surrender and focus on what they create.

And IMO for forwards it's not about "being good in your own end" as losing the puck going forward in bad places. Andy Murray keeps a count of puck possessions lost within 5 feet of the oppositions blue line. Now that guys probably only has a bowel movement once a fortnight, but Oiler fans who generally appreciate that this is a really bad thing ... well they probably rate Hemsky lower than others. Though only a fool would deny the natural talent on the kid.

10/01/2006 1:02 pm  
Anonymous Rod said...

My point is that the stats you provided are somewhat flawed as they don't really compare MAB's pairing with the others. They simply illustrate MAB didn't fall off a cliff when pulled away from #44. To me, MAB was easily to worst pairing--no matter the partner--when not playing with #44. The numbers do *not* demonstrate that MAB wasn't the worst pairing since they only show MAB's numbers. What about the other pairings in those same games?

Even if the numbers were expanded to include that info, they wouldn't take into account the fact #44 took all the difficult minutes and MAB was generally sheltered. MAB's numbers should be OK. The fact they are doesn't really prove much. Treading water with easy minutes isn't exactly a good thing as you've alluded to in your current post re: Hemsky/Sykora:
>If they aren't leading this team by a country mile at EV+/- by midseason (Like McCauley/Cheechoo in 03/04 for the Sharks) then there will have to be changes.<

Not trying to pick a fight or anything. Just disputing your theory that I have to fabricate evidence to say that MAB is a liability.

Then again, maybe I completely missed something in your numbers...

- Rod

10/01/2006 4:19 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

You're thinking that MAB was in the bottom pairing, and he rarely was. To start the season with Cross for a short spell, and a few games here and there, but rarely. I really disagree that MAB's pairing "was always the worst".

As a simple point of reference, surely all but the legally blind realize that Greene played some of the softest icetime imaginable. And Bergeron played very little with him --- ergo, MAB rarely played in the bottom pair against the other team's dregs. Bergeron has very few results with Greene in the regular season (EV+2, EV-0). That's about 2% of MAB's results in about 2% of his icetime (21 minutes). Important to note that this was the only partner that Greene managed to be a plus player with. Matt was EV+5 EV-12 otherwise

This illustrates your point on the Cheechoo/McCauley thing though (albeit with a different player). This "getting killed by the other team's fringe NHLers" phenomenon was a bizarre one, and it happened a lot last season, start to finish. Watching Matt Greene play half a shift against even middling NHLers should drive that point home with a hammer. And a look at Matt Greene's results should confirm it. Or look at Ulanov's or Cross' results (or prorate Greene's to their icetime, same difference). Strange how the guy gets so much love from internet fans and talk radio callers, he's clearly a pretty terrible NHLer defender at this age. Out of position, slow and a terrible first pass. He'll never be fast, the other two things will improve I'm sure (hopeful). Seems like a helluva stretch to me that he'll ever be a player of Jason Smith's calibre though. It's just like the Semenov phenomenon. But since I found out that all of Greene's minor penalties are a result of an elaborate conspiracy ... I'll let him go on that one (poor kid, he's been through enough). :-)

10/01/2006 10:41 pm  

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