Tonight will mark the debut of the new Matt Schneider/Mark Streit/Sheldon Souray: Marc-Andre Bergeron, and thanks to a bit of luck he'll be starting in a game that should suit him quite nicely – the Atlanta Thrashers. A team that allows league high shots against, a team that is due for punishment for their thus far lucky balance in save and shot percentage.
In an earlier post, I made it quite clear that Marc-Andre Bergeron is not an adequate replacement when facing 4 months without Markov. Heck, he said it himself:
“I’m sure people know that Andrei Markov is a top defenceman in the NHL and he’s irreplaceable,” Bergeron said Monday after his first practice with the Canadiens. “I’m not here to replace Andrei Markov. I want to be myself and do my best to help the team win.”
However, like MA himself, I do think he can help.
The first area he can help is obviously the PP. Provided we aren't playing in Western Canada, we should count on getting a few of these, and having Bergeron set up on the right point for a shot will help with our options. And while he certainly isn't as muti-talented as markov to come in and run a PP, he does have shot and sense enough to do an adequate imitation of Matt Schneider and Mark Streit.
The second, more underrated impact Marc Andre will bring after his shot will be his ability to play adequate NHL defence against lower line forwards. No, it won't really help lessen the loads of Gorges, Spacek and Hamrlik, but he should at least ensure that Mara and Gill are kept in check. At the very least it means we won't be seeing Gill/Weber or Belle/Mara for tonight.
While I'm not quite as convinced as the player himself that he's not got one dimension to outweigh his others (i.e., offense >> defence) by a long way, I can't argue with his +/- over a career on some, let's face it, pretty awful teams. It stands him in good stead to be a neutral player on this currently awful team.
Finally, Bergeron adds the Marc with a "C" this team needs in the face of that book published by Robert Sirois this week. In fact, Marc-Andre is just about the type of player that good old Bobby Sirois was hoping to see more of the NHL – a more fringe-type player without elite level skill. The type of player, he'd argue would come from English Canada about 98% of the time.
I think this is a good bit of timing for the Habs, because it does help to diffuse the bomb that was their roster make-up in a week that will surely be full of talk about the tables and stats from the hardcover. After all, Gainey has increased his Quebecois francophone quotient by 33% this week, all while demoting an Ontarian and holding another English Canadian with similar skills (Subban) back.
Let's not expect miracles
In adding a 4th/5th defenceman with a good shot like MA Bergeron, the Habs are taking a small step forward. But let's not go into tonight's game expecting any miracles. Marc-Andre wasn't signed by 30 different GMs this summer, and that was not their accidental oversight. And I have to diverge from Bob Sirois here too in thinking that it was purely discrimination based on upbringing.
Those GMs preferred to fill the positions that Bergeron fills just fine with rookies with upside, with veterans that can out-muscle a star or two, with more intriguing options. But like Bouillon and Dandenault before him, he is a player that can ably perform the brief of a lesser used defender, and he also has that shot.
I sort of expect a goal from him tonight, just because it would ignite an interesting debate, and that's what tends to happen in Montreal. but if I had done a preview fr Bergeron coming into the season, I can tell you I'd have put him at 10 goals and 14 assists (mostly rebound creating shots).