Haggerty: Bergeron deal speaks volumes for B's

Haggerty: Bergeron deal speaks volumes for B's
July 13, 2013, 12:00 pm
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The eight-year contract extension for Patrice Bergeron formally announced on Friday afternoon expresses everything the Boston Bruins want to say about the expectations and hopes they have for every one of their hockey players.

It wasn’t done purposefully, of course, but the timing was hard to ignore.

Within the last 10-day period the Bruins locked up their model franchise player to one of the richest deals ever handed out in their history, a $52 million pact that takes Bergeron through the age of 37 years old.

It will pay him $6.5 million per season, and essentially allows Bergeron to retire for the only franchise he’s known as an NHL player.

“We’re obviously very happy to get him signed. You never know now but to finish his career with the Bruins, we obviously really like him as a player. He embodies a lot of what the Bruins stand for,” said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “He’s a responsible player. He’s a hard player. He’s a leader. He’s a clutch player. He’s just done a classic way of carrying himself that I like to be part of, and the Bruins like to be part of. We’ve seen his performance over the years. We saw a gutty performance this year in the playoffs.

“We’re really happy that we can get Patrice [Bergeron] signed to a long term extension. It wasn’t any question that he’d be able to get more on the open market here. Patrice [Bergeron] really helped us in the team building aspect too, and I give a lot of credit to him because he’s seen what we’re trying to do here. The AAV [average annual value] is nice for team building. It’s something that helps us in future years. I’m very happy on behalf of the Bruins organization.”

There’s always the risk that concussions will get in the way, of course, given the four he’s suffered in his B’s career.

But the deal means Bergeron could conceivably finish up an 18-year career with the Bruins while also perhaps someday wearing the ‘C’ on his sweater. The 27-year-old was asked about someday getting his No. 37 retired and modestly demurred, but that’s clearly the direction Bergeron is headed as the rare “True Bruin” type of player.

Within the same two-week period, the Bruins also cut bait on another player that debuted with the NHL organization at 18 years old. Tyler Seguin was shipped to the Dallas Stars partly for salary cap considerations, and because the Bruins received a whopping return of impact players and future prospects in exchange for the wholly undeveloped 21-year-old forward.

But there were plenty of reasons off the ice as to why Seguin was traded away, and it essentially boils down to the former Bruins forward holding few of those Bergeron-like qualities on or off the ice. On the ice Seguin wasn’t nearly the intense competitor that Bergeron was even at 18 years old, and he didn’t have the mentality to relentlessly win battles like a teenaged Bergeron did during his first few years. Watching Seguin struggle to score one goal in 22 playoff games this spring really hammered those kinds of points home.

There were other problems too, of course.

The late night partying, the willingness to put his team’s playoff chances at risk against Toronto in his never-ending search for a good time, the stories about piles of unpaid bills and the 100-mph joy rides down Newbury Street in his Maserati painted the picture of a player aspiring to be the NHL’s Peter Pan.

He didn’t want to grow up. Seguin wanted to be in the NHL, AND he also wanted to be a Toys R us kid.

Both aren’t possible if an individual wants personal and team success, and both aren’t possible if somebody actually wants to be viewed with the same respect and admiration held for players like Bergeron. Seguin often said he looked up to Bergeron, but actions always speak louder than words in these cases.

“I’ve always wanted to be a Bruin throughout my career as a Bruin. They’re the team that believed in me as an eighteen year old kid. I’m really happy now to see that I will hopefully retire a Bruin,” said Bergeron. “[Retiring a Bruin] is the goal, and that’s what I want. All the friends that I’ve had over the years but, especially right now with this team, I’d like to thank my teammates for helping me on and off the ice become a better person and a better player.

“I’ll be proud obviously to be a Bruin hopefully for life. I really have a lot of pride every time I step on the ice as a Bruin and I couldn’t be happier.”

To be fair, Bergeron had plenty of help along the way that allowed him to grow and mature into a Selke Trophy winner, a respected team leader and somebody capable of being a key component in a Stanley Cup champion.

Bergeron lived with Bruins veteran Marty Lapointe when he was the 18-year-old youngest player in the NHL during the 2003-04 season. The gritty Bruins veteran helped shepherd along a shy kid from Quebec that wasn’t altogether comfortable with his English, and it probably became the most important thing he did for the B’s franchise during his years in Boston.

That first season was a big part of Bergeron’s life lesson in becoming a pro hockey player, and what it took to achieve his goals in the NHL.

Then Mark Recchi came along as Bergeron was hitting his stride in his mid-20’s, and further showed the young superstar what it means to be a great player, person and leader. Recchi bravely played through cracked ribs and kidney stones during the 2009 playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, and Bergeron never forgot the toughness, dedication to the team and courage he witnessed during those days.

It’s undoubtedly part of what pushed him through while he was enduring a separated shoulder, cracked ribs, torn rib cartilage and punctured lung in the Stanley Cup Final. Recchi saw the familiar example Bergeron set during Game 6 while playing through sheer agony, and beamed with pride.

“I was extremely proud,” said Recchi to CSNNE.com. “He’s all class in every sense of the word, as well. I love him to death.”

Unfortunately for Seguin, he never had a Lapointe-type player to set the example for him as an impressionable 18-year-old. By all accounts, Seguin and his camp were resistant to that type of living arrangement upon entering the NHL as the No. 2 overall pick.

Instead he lived on his own in his first NHL season without a billet family or a young veteran teammate that could offer a little guidance. That can now be looked upon in hindsight as a poor choice given the way things turned out for the perpetually immature Seguin in Boston.

Thankfully the Bruins pushed for a different arrangement for Dougie Hamilton during his 19-year-old rookie season in Boston, and the young defenseman lived with the solid, bright and responsible Adam McQuaid during his first NHL season. That’s exactly the kind of NHL chaperone that any young player should be looking for given the admittedly heady experience of playing the role of professional athlete as a teenager.

But that gets us back to the present day.

The Bruins’ actions over the last two weeks draws a pretty clear line about expectation moving forward: act like Bergeron and you’ll be showered with your just desserts, or act like Seguin and you’ll be shipped to a hockey market like Dallas. It’s pretty simple, and also pretty easy to understand.  

There’s little to prove the Bruins had any of this in mind while making their moves, and they probably had nothing more on their offseason agenda than doing what’s best for the team. But the message has been sent regardless, and it’s one that should do nothing but help the Black and Gold organization in the long run.