by PuckStopsHere on 08/01/12 at 02:50 PM ET
Yesterday I posted the top 20 offensive zone starters in 2011/12. At the top of the list was the Vancouver Canuck line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin and Alexandre Burrows. I have written a few times about the way Alain Vigneault has used the strategy of getting offensive players out for offensive zone shifts more than any previous coach. I think another interesting story is Marc-Andre Bergeron of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He placed ninth overall in the list of offensive zone starters. This makes him the top defenceman on this list. He only played in 43 games. If we prorate his numbers to a full 82 game season this would be 326 excess offensive zone starts. He would be placed fourth on the list behind the Vancouver Canuck trio.
Guy Boucher in Tampa Bay tended not to select players exclusively for offensive or defensive zone starts except in the case of Bergeron and it Bergeron’s case it was quite extreme for a defenceman.
The top players ranked by excess offensive zone starts tend to be forwards because forwards most drive offense in the NHL. There are some defencemen who get many offensive zone starts but they are not the highest in the league. In part this is because nearly any defenceman worthy of an NHL job is reliable enough to be trusted in his own zone. One of the biggest counter-examples is Marc-Andre Bergeron. He is not a strong defensive player. He does have offensive value. Last year Bergeron was the top scoring defenceman on the Lightning despite only playing 43 games in the season
Bergeron is a player that has value if you play him in the right offensive roles. He can hurt you if you play him other situations. A player like this can be a valuable role player, although it would be an even better situation if you had a more reliable player in his place that you could use more robustly. Boucher gets a lot of credit for using Bergeron in a way that makes him valuable to his team but he doesn’t have the upside to be an NHL star. That said a full season from Bergeron used in the way he was last season could make him one of the ten or twenty top scoring defencemen in hockey and that is a valuable thing to have on your team.
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