Submitted for your approval, a young hockey player, once perilously close to death due to a tragic on-ice accident, continues to re-find and redefine his game, now he plays in...The Twilight Zone.
Patrice Bergeron has so far lived the equivalent of veteran players entire career, the problem is he’s only been in the NHL for about 6 years.
So far he has been through and achieved:
-Signed and playing at the NHL level when he was 18
-Shouldered the burden when the Bruins essentially gave up on franchise forward and epic whiner Joe Thornton
-Played (gladly) in the AHL during the lockout with nary a whimper or night off
-Developed into an NHL top five two-way forward
-Survived a terrifying head shot, culminating in a near-career (and life) ending concussion
-Went from being the offensive leader on a team with no depth to being a second or third line forward without any bitching or moaning
-Five on five, man advantage, penalty kill, shootout, it doesn’t matter; Patrice Bergeron plays in every situation.
-He wears the ‘A’ for Alternate Captain (for two seasons now)
-He is, thus far, the Bruins MVP this season.
He’s 24 years old.
In recent history the Bruins have been led by defensemen, be it Bobby Orr (all bow), Brad Park, Ray Bourque, or the big Z himself, Zdeno Chara, defensemen have been the first over the wall, shouldered the biggest load, and provided that moral anchor so needed by a team.
The history may well find itself changing.
The towering Chara is the present Bruins Captain, and he’s a damn good one. He leads by example, always keeps himself in peak physical form, is one of the most feared fighters and one of the finest defensemen, but he will be 33 years old before the season ends, Bergeron will still be 24.
Can you say ‘Captain in training’?
Personally, I never bought into the Patrice Bergeron as offensive dynamo expectations that many hung on him. It was easy enough to see when watching him play and carry himself that this was the penultimate ‘total package’, not merely a one-dimensional gunslinger, A Steve Yzerman in the making, if you will.
Do the Bruins need to be led by a defenseman to pave to the ultimate glory? Sure, it’s worked before but can’t a lead-by-example do the job too?
For now we can leave Patrice where he is, wearing the ‘A’ and learning all he can from another lead by example Captain.
But one day that ‘C’ may well be his.