Patrice Bergeron retired after 1,464 NHL games. Perhaps the best two-way player the game has ever seen, Bergeron was an underrated scorer. The center finished with 477 goals and 691 assists. Bergeron averaged one point in 79.7% of the games he played throughout his career. Another remarkable stat is the number of seasons Bergeron finished as a “minus” in the “plus/minus” category. In the 2006 season, Bergeron finished as a -28. It is worth noting the Bruins finished with just 76 points that season.
Golden Knights coach Bruce Cassidy coached Bergeron for nearly six seasons. Bergeron won two Frank J. Selkie Trophies under Cassidy. The Selkie is awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
Jack Eichel and Cassidy met in Cape Cod not long after Cassidy was hired in Vegas. The meeting was about what each one wanted from the other.
I used Bergeron and Krejci as examples of two-way players that put up really good offensive numbers, were good leaders the way they played the game, and played a 200-foot game. That was my expectation of (Eichel).
-Cassidy on the Murphy’s Hockey Law Podcast
There are few people around the NHL who know Bergeron’s game as well as Cassidy. Eichel’s scoring pace will keep up, but Cassidy is going to continue to emphasize improvement on defense. In season one under Cassidy, Eichel put up his career-best “plus/minus” with a +26. Eichel’s career best in Buffalo was a +5.
It is also helpful that Eichel has a great support system around him in Vegas. In Buffalo, it was Eichel against the world. There was never a Bergeron or Mark Stone-type player on any of Eichel’s Buffalo teams.
Here are some comparisons between Eichel’s and Bergeron’s last regular season per Money Puck.
% of shift starts in the defensive zone: Eichel started 12% of his shifts in the defensive zone compared to 20.2% for Bergeron. It is worth noting that Eichel started 9.3% of his shifts in the defensive zone in 2019-20 with Buffalo.
Penalty minutes: Eichel had just six penalty minutes compared to Bergeron’s 22.
Takeaways: Bergeron had 38 takeaways compared to Eichel’s 47. It is also worth noting that Eichel achieved all those takeaways and only collected three penalties in doing so.
On-ice goal differential: Bergeron’s on-ice goal differential was +71 compared to Eichel’s +41.
Eichel has a very long way to go before his name will be mentioned in the same sentence with Bergeron when the game’s greatest 200-foot players are being discussed. Cassidy is the right coach to get Eichel on the right track to becoming a great 200-foot player. Eichel’s year-over-year improvements are noteworthy. It will be fun to look back next year this time to see if Eichel’s numbers improved.
Could Eichel be a dark-horse candidate to win the Selkie?