Patrice Bergeron: ‘Sorry Canada, but I’ve got to go with the Stanley Cup’

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It’s pretty hard to believe that Patrice Bergeron is only 25 years old. I don’t mean that in the typical “This guy managed all these accomplishments and made all that money” tone that people use when discussing most young professional athletes, either.

Nope, what makes Bergeron’s young age stunning is all of the valleys that came with his peaks. There was a time when concussion issues seemed like they would crush a promising young career entirely, but Bergeron gradually fought back from those problems to become an extremely underrated two-way forward for the Boston Bruins.

Of course, then he suffered another concussion in the 2011 playoffs, this time from a hit by Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers. That injury seemed very troubling – especially considering his lengthy history of head issues – yet Bergeron only missed two postseason games thanks to the long break the Bruins earned by sweeping the Flyers.

He seemingly didn’t miss a beat when he came back, either. He scored nearly a point per game overall in the postseason (20 in 23 games) including two big goals and a +4 rating in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals. Bergeron was also an assassin in the faceoff circle, winning an astounding 60.2 percent of the draws he took.

Of course, winning the Stanley Cup isn’t the only great moment Bergeron experienced in Vancouver: he also won the gold medal with Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics. When asked to compare the thrills of both victories, he favored the Stanley Cup, though.

“It is amazing. It is an unbelievable feeling,” Bergeron said. “This is for us as a team but also for the city of Boston. They’ve waited so long for that — too long for that. To have a chance to be part of the team that is bringing it back means a lot to me.”

(snip)

“Sorry Canada, but I’ve got to go with the Stanley Cup,” Bergeron said when asked to compare the feeling of winning the Cup and an Olympic gold medal, which he did with Canada in February 2010. “The gold medal is up high for sure, but this is a childhood dream. When you’re playing hockey, you’re thinking about hoisting the Cup. Now I’ve had that chance. I was five years old and playing outside with my brother. We were always dreaming about winning that Cup. To have a chance to get it now is amazing, but that gold medal is something special too.”

Before people start flipping over cars again, it’s probably important to note a few key reasons why he might feel more attached to a Cup win than a gold medal win. Here are the top two ones:

1. The huge difference in the number of games played.

To win the Cup, Bergeron played in 103 of the Bruins’ 107 games between the 2010-11 season and the playoffs (Bergeron missed two games in the regular season and two in the postseason). Obviously, those contests include the ups and downs of a long regular season and the grind of the playoffs.

Compare those 103 contests to just seven games played in the Olympics and it’s beyond reasonable that Bergeron feels this way.

2. He played a bigger role with the Bruins

While spending much of his time with Sidney Crosby isn’t exactly dealing with table scraps, Bergeron finished the Olympics with zero goals and one assist in seven games. With all due respect to his talents, he was relatively anonymous on a team full of stars. There are probably a significant amount of casual fans who didn’t even know he made the team.

Meanwhile, in Boston, he was either the No. 2 center or the “1b” to David Krejci’s “1a.” His 20 points left him in second place on the team in playoff scoring and his absence was felt in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals.

Maybe he wouldn’t have had the same dreams if he didn’t grow up in Canada, but it shouldn’t be that surprising that Bergeron preferred winning the Cup to winning the gold. Too bad we all can’t have such “tough questions” to answer, though.

Willie Desjardins to coach Team Canada at Olympics

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The past two Winter Olympics, Team Canada has been coached to gold by Mike Babcock, currently the NHL’s highest-paid bench boss.

But the 2018 Olympics in South Korea will be a very different animal. The NHL is not sending its players this time. When the Games are on, Babcock will be busy with his Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, today, Hockey Canada announced that Willie Desjardins, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, will be the head coach of the two-time defending gold medalists. Desjardins will be assisted by former Team Canada head coach Dave King, as well as Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Sean Burke, who rose to prominence as a goalie in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics — which didn’t feature NHLers, either — will be Canada’s general manager. Burke will be aided by Martin Brodeur.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our National Men’s Team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeonchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Today’s announcement is yet more evidence, if you still required it, that the NHL isn’t bluffing about not sending its players to South Korea.

In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly refuted a report out of Russia that suggested the league had a backup schedule with an Olympic break in it.

“There is not an alternative schedule,” Daly wrote. “Having NHL Players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is not an available option. All of the international federations are planning appropriately for constructing teams that will not include NHL players. I anticipate there will be federation announcements in the coming days that should eliminate any and all continuing doubt or skepticism about the issue.”

The NHL released the 2017-18 schedule a month ago.

Related: Tampa awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, further dampening Olympic hopes

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

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We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.