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November 1, 2011
Driving To The Net
Patrice Bergeron And The Bruins Power Play, Part 4

by Timo Seppa

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In Part 3 of this article reprinted from Bruins Annual 2011-12, we examined some factors eating into Patrice Bergeron's power play production under head coach Claude Julien. For Part 4, we'll see how good the two-way center could be on the man advantage, and what he's worth.

What we've looked at so far accounts for Bergeron's decreased opportunities on the man advantage, but there's still the more puzzling question of his decreased effectiveness.

To get an accurate picture of Bergeron's sagging power play production, we can simply compare his power play points per 60 minutes from year to year. For the relatively limited power play minutes played over the course of a season, it really is best to look in three-season increments, as we have been doing, to decrease to impact of good or bad luck to any one season's stats.

Table 4. Changes in Bergeron's Even Strength and Power Play Scoring Rates

Season	Age	Coach		GP	ESP/60	PPP/60	P/60
2003-04	18	Sullivan	71	1.57	4.72	2.02
2005-06	20	Sullivan	81	2.31	4.57	2.62
2006-07	21	Lewis		77	1.84	5.75	2.62
Average, first 3 seasons		1.93	5.08	2.46

Season	Age	Coach		GP	ESP/60	PPP/60	P/60
2008-09	23	Julien		64	1.64	4.28	2.03
2009-10	24	Julien		73	2.42	2.45	2.26
2010-11	25	Julien		80	2.46	3.04	2.39
Average, last 3 seasons			2.22	3.25	2.24

GP: Games played
ESP/60: Even strength points per 60 minutes
PPP/60: Power play points per 60 minutes
P/60: Points per 60 minutes

The difference is stark, as seen in Table 4. There isn't one rate from 2008-09 through 2010-11 that's equal to one rate from 2003-04 through 2006-07. And over three-year spans, Bergeron's power play production has dropped by a whopping 1.83 points per 60 minutes. And judging by his improved even strength production, it's scheme—and not diminishing skill—that's the cause.

Watch video of Bergeron's early-career success on the man advantage, and you'll see him pouring in the goals from the half wall and the left faceoff circle. It's simple to see what's changed. Under Julien, Bergeron has been played elsewhere, particularly at the point. Why mess with success? It's a misguided attempt to fix the team's struggles. There's no doubt that Boston could use a new voice on their staff with an innovative vision for the power play—preferably one that returns Patrice Bergeron to the half wall, gives 2010 second overall pick Tyler Seguin a chance to contribute, and leaves Zdeno Chara back at the point, as opposed to screening the net.

It's evident that the Bruins have a great all-around player in Bergeron. Since his sophomore season, he's produced at a more-than-adequate level for a top-six forward (1.8 even strength points per 60 minutes is the gold standard), he's been a solid penalty-killer and there's no reason to believe that he couldn't be a solid contributor on the Bruins' first power play unit once again. Properly utilized, Bergeron should be producing 5.0 PPP/60 and 0.80 points per game overall compared to his current output of 3.0 PPP/60 and 0.70 points per game.

So one might ask, "What's that worth to a team?"

Table 5. Bergeron's Value, Goals Versus Threshold (GVT)

Season		OGVT	DGVT	SGVT	GVT
2003-04		4.9	2.2	--	7.1
2005-06		7.7	3.6	-0.8	10.6
2006-07		7.9	0.9	2.0	10.7
2007-08		1.2	0.4	-0.3	1.2
2008-09		3.3	1.6	-2.5	2.4
2009-10		5.3	4.5	-0.9	8.9
2010-11		7.8	3.6	-0.8	10.7

OGVT: Offensive Goals Versus Threshold
DGVT: Defensive Goals Versus Threshold
SGVT: Shootout Goals Versus Threshold
GVT: Goals Versus Threshold (total) 

Hockey Prospectus' Goals Versus Threshold (GVT) metric measures the value of all players: forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. GVT is the player's value in goals when compared to a "replacement level player" or easily acquired replacement, such as an AHL call-up or waiver wire pickup. For the 2010-11 season, the best skaters by GVT were Daniel Sedin (26.2) and Corey Perry (23.3). Boston netminder Tim Thomas was of course the best overall player overall at an astounding 40.0.

In comparison, Bergeron (numbers in Table 5) was the 89th-best skater and 105th-best player overall, equivalent to the third- or fourth-best player on an average NHL team, which sounds about right. On the 2010-11 Bruins, Bergeron finished as the sixth-best skater on the roster, behind Milan Lucic (15.4) and Zdeno Chara (12.8), and fractionally behind Nathan Horton (11.4), David Krejci (11.2), and Brad Marchand (11.2). For comparison, on the offensively-struggling 2009-10 roster, Bergeron ranked third among skaters, behind Chara (14.5) and Krejci (9.0).

Value doesn't always coincide with success, though. In the six seasons since the Lockout, the Bruins have a winning percentage of .563 (in 492 games), yet their winning percentage in games that Bergeron played in is only .552 (in 385 games). It's essentially the same result if you look at the past three seasons as well: Boston is .630 overall (in 246 games) and .624 with Bergeron in the lineup (in 217 games). While there's some good and bad fortune involved in those results—and while it would be foolish to argue that Bergeron makes the Bruins worse—these numbers certainly don't bear out the Bruins being markedly better with Bergeron on the ice.

As far as salary, Bergeron is pretty much par for the course. Looking at 22-to-28-year-old centermen who produced at least 50 points, scored between 0.7-0.8 points per game in 2010-11, and registered at least a 50% faceoff rate, Table 6 shows the short list of players/contracts that compare to Bergeron.

Table 6. Players Similar in Age and Production to Bergeron
Player		G 	A 	P 	P/Gm	PPG	TOI	FO%	GVT	Cap
T. Plekanec	22	35	57	0.74	3	20:14	50.0	12.1	$5.0M
P. Bergeron	22	35	57	0.71	3	17:53	56.6	10.7	$5.0M
P. Stastny	22	35	57	0.77	4	19:44	53.2	9.7	$6.6M
B. Dubinsky	24	30	54	0.70	4	20:13	52.4	9.6	$4.2M
Ages: Plekanec 28, Bergeron 25, Stastny 25, Dubinsky 24

Centers such as Ryan Kesler, Jeff Carter, Joe Pavelski, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mikko Koivu produce points at a higher rate, consequently increasing their overall value to the range of 13-19 GVT. If Bergeron could increase is power play output, he could earn consideration as their peer.

All that said, Bruins fans will remember Bergeron's contributions to their long-awaited Stanley Cup run. Despite missing a few games with yet another concussion, he produced 3.2 GVT over 21 playoff games, equivalent to a regular season GVT of 12.5. It is true that Thomas (13.9), Krejci (5.0), and Horton (3.7) were more valuable to the Bruins' cause through the memorable postseason. But it's arguable that Boston wouldn't have raised the Cup without the all-around play of Bergeron.

Now the Bruins have three more years to enjoy Bergeron's exploits. The team and fans alike can see if the Bruins get more out of their one-time wunderkind-turned-veteran star.

Timo Seppa is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Timo by clicking here or click here to see Timo's other articles.

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