Bergeron Is A Monster

The best forwards in the NHL last season were Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Patrice Bergeron. And not necessarily in that order.

 There isn’t much disagreement as to the first two, but most hockey fans wouldn’t put Bergeron in the same class.


They’d be wrong.


In almost every aspect of the game – both offensive and defensive – last season Bergeron not only held his own against “Captain Canada” (Crosby) and “Captain Serious” (Toews), he actually beat them or even blew them completely out of the water.


Everybody realizes Bergeron is a premier defensive player, but before we talk defense let’s consider offense.  Last season in 5-on-5 play Bergeron scored as many goals as Toews (19) and just one fewer than Crosby. Because Bergeron gets slightly less ice time than those two, his goals per 60 minutes is actually higher than both of theirs.


In terms of total points, as might be expected Bergeron fares slightly worse, though his 2.27 points per 60 minutes is just a shade behind Toews’ 2.35 P/60 and within striking distance of Crosby’s 2.54 P/60.


That’s offense. Let’s look at some metrics that incorporate defensive performance, which has always been Bergeron’s strong suit. Because Corsi For % (CF%) reflects the percentage of shots taken by the player’s team relative to his opponent, it incorporates defensive play.


There’s nobody better than Mr. Bergeron in CF%. At 61.2% last year (in 5-on-5 play) he was #1 in the league. Toews’ excellent 59.1% was good for 8th overall, while Crosby only registered 53.0% (30th).


To be fair, CF% isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison because the Bruins and Blackhawks were much better possession teams than the Penguins. So Crosby’s CF% would have been brought down by his teammates’ performance.


To account for this factor many in the hockey analytics community prefer a stat called “CF Rel%” As we explained last week, CF Rel% measures each player’s CF% “Rel”ative to that of his team. Basically it reflects how much better (or worse) the player’s CF% was relative to his team’s average, thus providing a Corsi-based stat that more accurately reflects just the player’s own performance.


It turns out Bergeron’s CF% Rel stacks up even better than his straight CF%. At +9.69 (3rd overall), Bergeron was almost ten points higher than the average player on a Bruins team that was already one of the best in the league.  Crosby’s CF% Rel was a very solid +6.93 (19th), with Toews at +5.33 (38th).

Relatedly, of all forward lines playing at least 300 minutes together last season, Bergeron’s line (with Marchand, and Reilly Smith) had a 5-on-5 CF% of 62.4, which was #1 overall. Toews, with his considerably better linemates Marion Hossa and Patrick Sharp, were second overall, but still way behind, at 59.6%. And Crosby with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis were tenth at 56.5%

And just for emphasis, let’s not forget to note that Bergeron started only 46% of his shifts in the offensive zone last year (compared to 51.4% for Crosby and 63.9%) for Toews. And, speaking of faceoffs, Bergeron is one of the best faceoff men in the league, winning 58.6% last year, good enough for third overall.



2013-14 (5-on-5)



Goals Points Goals/60 Points/60 CF% CF Rel% GF% Faceoff% OZ Start%
Bergeron 19 40 1.08 2.27 (#22) 61.2 (#1) 9.69 (#3) 66.7 (#6) 58.6 (#3) 46
Crosby 20 53 0.94 2.54 (#10) 53.0 (#130) 6.93 (#19) 57.1 (#80) 52.5 (#36) 51.4
Toews 19 44 1.01 2.35 (#17) 59.1 (#8) 5.33 (#38) 58.9 (#50) 57.2 (#5) 63.9



For the coup de grace let’s look at one of my favorite stats:  WOWYs. “WOWY” is an acronym for With Or Without You. It measures the performance of a player by looking at whether other players produce more when playing with him or without him. Captains Canada and Serious have excellent WOWYs. But Bergeron’s is jaw-dropping.

(Click on images to enlarge).

Toews WOWY

Crosby WOWY

The graphs below compare the CF% WOWYs for every player that played at least 250 minutes last season with either Bergeron or Ryan Getzlaf.

Although Getzlaf also has to be in the running for best forward in the world after finishing second in both scoring and MVP voting last season, he doesn’t hold a candle to Bergeron.

 Berg & Getz WOWYs


Using a simple average, Bergeron’s CF% WOWY was +10.1. In other words, on average his Bruins teammates had a CF% more than ten points higher when playing with Bergeron versus playing without him.

Getzlaf’s average was +0.8.

And just to drive the point home, take a look at what Bergeron did for Zdeno Chara – arguably the best defenseman since Nik Lidstrom. It’s not that hard to take a bad player and make him look average, but Bergeron took one of the best defensemen of our generation and added a massive 8.7 points to his CF%. Unreal.

Bergeron isn’t even the captain of the Bruins (Chara is). But I think he deserves a captain nickname to go with Crosby’s Captain Canada and Toews’ Captain Serious. Given what the numbers tell us, for Begeron “Captain Everything” has a nice ring to it.

The Department of Hockey Analytics employs advanced statistical methods and innovative approaches to better understand the game of hockey. Its three founders are Ian Cooper, a lawyer, former player agent and Wharton Business School graduate; Dr. Phil Curry, a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo; and IJay Palansky, a litigator at the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale, former high-stakes professional poker player, and Harvard Law School graduate. Please visit us on line at



  1. November 1, 2014    

    In your table you have Crosby's CF% as 53% for 130th in the league. Shouldn't that be 30th?

    • IJay Palansky's Gravatar IJay Palansky
      November 1, 2014    

      Nope. 130th is correct.

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