Commentary

Thin Blue Line: Bergeron joins Bolts

Updated: January 6, 2011, 11:02 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

Welcome back to the NHL, Marc-Andre Bergeron! We've been expecting you.

[+] EnlargeMarc-Andre Bergeron
Francois Lacasse/NHLI/Getty ImagesMarc-Andre had seven power-play goals and 15 power-play assists in just 60 games last season with the Canadiens.

Clearing waivers on Thursday, and his torn ACL far in the rear-view mirror, Bergeron can finally regard himself as an official member of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. Considering the Lightning and Bergeron's agent have been gabbing since mid-November (if not earlier), this signing hardly comes as a surprise. And, at long last, we can sink our teeth into the fantasy ramifications.

First of all, if you have your eye on Bergeron, a little patience is required. Post-signing, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman took a risk in assigning Bergeron to the AHL (exposing him to waivers) instead of just sending him down for a conditioning assignment. From that move, we can gather that Yzerman believes Bergeron needs more than a two-week stint in Norfolk to get back into game shape. Fine. In that case, we'll set our sights on the end of January, at the latest. Then what?

Well, at that point, Bergeron could very well be a valuable fantasy asset. The Lightning are open about their plans to carry seven defensemen and use the 30-year-old almost exclusively with the man-advantage. The power-play specialist -- with his lethal shot -- has had a great deal of success in that role in the past. Of the 34 points accrued in 60 games with the Montreal Canadiens last season, 22 were earned with the extra skater. Once called up, Bergeron won't get a lot of ice time with the Lightning; but as quarterback of the top power-play unit, he will get the chance to make the most of the minutes available.

As for those already skating on the Lightning blue line, Brett Clark and Pavel Kubina eventually will experience a slight dip in fantasy worth. We anticipate Clark will drop from his current position on the top power-play unit to the second, while Kubina will get fewer minutes with the man-advantage as well. Neither has been a fantasy gem this season anyway, so the fallout is hardly all that jarring. And if you're still holding out hope that the ever-crumbling significance of Victor Hedman will reverse course, stop. It won't happen. The addition of Bergeron ensures Hedman will remain utterly inconsequential, from a fantasy perspective.

Rising and Falling

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Dustin Byfuglien, Atl (1)
2. Dan Boyle, SJ (2)
3. Mike Green, Was (3)
4. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (4)
5. Zdeno Chara, Bos (5)
6. Kris Letang, Pit (6)
7. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (7)
8. Drew Doughty, LA (8)
9. John-Michael Liles, Col (11)
10. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (12)
11. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (13)
12. Duncan Keith, Chi (9)
13. Brian Rafalski, Det (14)
14. Alexander Edler, Van (15)
15. James Wisniewski, Mon (18)
16. Stephane Robidas, Dal (16)
17. Alex Goligoski, Pit (17)
18. Jack Johnson, LA (21)
19. Keith Yandle, Pho (25)
20. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (20)
21. Shea Weber, Nsh (22)
22. Niklas Kronwall, Det (23)
23. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (19)
24. Bryan McCabe, Fla (24)
25. Mark Giordano, Cgy (28)
26. Joni Pitkanen, Car (26)
27. Brent Burns, Min (34)
28. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (27)
29. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (30)
30. Erik Karlsson, Ott (35)
31. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (36)
32. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (32)
33. Brian Campbell, Chi (33)
34. Brent Seabrook, Chi (37)
35. Kevin Shattenkirk, Col (31)
36. Kurtis Foster, Edm (43)
37. Matt Carle, Phi (44)
38. Dennis Wideman, Fla (38)
39. Erik Johnson, StL (39)
40. Tyler Myers, Buf (40)
41. Cam Fowler, Ana (41)
42. John Carlson, Was (42)
43. P.K. Subban, Mon (45)
44. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (52)
45. Marc Staal, NYR (50)
46. Joe Corvo, Car (46)
47. Ryan Suter, Nsh (47)
48. Paul Martin, Pit (48)
49. Carlo Colaiacovo, StL (49)
50. Andrej Meszaros, Phi (54)
51. Jordan Leopold, Buf (53)
52. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (51)
53. Andrew MacDonald, NYI (off)
54. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (56)
55. Kevin Bieksa, Van (67)
56. Cody Franson, Nsh (58)
57. Brett Clark, TB (55)
58. Anton Babchuk, Cgy (62)
59. Marc-Andre Bergeron, TB (75)
60. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (65)
61. Andy Greene, NJ (61)
62. Pavel Kubina, TB (60)
63. Daniel Girardi, NYR (63)
64. Anton Stralman, Cls (59)
65. Chris Pronger, Phi (69)
66. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (73)
67. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (64)
68. Filip Kuba, Ott (68)
69. Michal Rozsival, NYR (66)
70. Matt Gilroy, NYR (74)
71. Tom Gilbert, Edm (70)
72. Cam Barker, Min (76)
73. Jeff Petry, Edm (off)
74. Steve Kampfer, Bos (off)
75. Ryan Whitney, Edm (10)

Brent Burns, Minnesota Wild (up seven spots): Marek Zidlicky is suffering from a nasty shoulder injury that may very well keep the Wild defenseman out for the rest of season. Under such circumstances, the Wild have little choice but to rely on Burns as Zidlicky's replacement on the team's top power-play unit. Fortunately, Burns is already in the midst of enjoying a great season already and is more than capable of carrying the load. With 26 points in 37 games, including 12 goals, the heavily-bearded lad could reach the 60-point plateau by April. Health is the only real concern in Burns' case. With a history of concussion issues, the 25-year-old may be one nasty head shot away from sitting on the shelf. Fingers crossed there's no such incident.

Additionally, Cam Barker has clawed his way out of the nasty pit of irrelevancy. A healthy scratch for a few games in December, Barker is responding by playing more aggressively, much to the satisfaction of coach Todd Richards. Barker could garner more minutes with the man-advantage, along with youngster Jared Spurgeon. If you're super-duper-desperate for a defenseman, it wouldn't hurt to keep an eye on either.

Kurtis Foster, Edmonton Oilers (up seven spots): With Ryan Whitney out for at least a month -- and likely longer -- with an ankle injury, Foster's role grows in significance. A power-play specialist by nature, Foster should blossom as the quarterback on the top unit, as he has in the past. Of 42 points earned in 71 games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in '09-'10, 26 counted with the man-advantage. Once he becomes comfortable, the power-play assists will start to roll in. Tom Gilbert and rookie Jeff Petry also have a bit of value, fantasy-wise, as long as Whitney remains absent.

Alexandre Picard, Montreal Canadiens (off): Following the acquisition of James Wisniewski, Picard is the odd defenseman out. Even if/when Picard is used in place of P.K. Subban or Yannick Weber, his role will be limited.

Francois Beauchemin, Toronto Maple Leafs (up five spots): There's been a great deal of chit-chat lately about the Maple Leafs possibly dealing away Beauchemin. Simply put, Beauchemin is worth more almost anywhere outside of Toronto.

Key injury notes

• Nursing an upper-body injury, Joni Pitkanen is set to return when the Carolina Hurricanes host the Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday. Wisely, the 'Canes are playing it extra safe with Pitkanen to ensure the defenseman is in the best shape possible to play out the remainder of the season.

• According to the Montreal Gazette, Roman Hamrlik is dealing with some unspecified ailment and could miss Thursday's match-up with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Until there's word to the contrary, we're going to assume this isn't a serious issue. If the Montreal Canadiens choose to rest Hamrlik for the one game, expect him back in action for Saturday's contest versus the Boston Bruins.

• Recovering from a broken foot, Chris Pronger has reportedly been cleared for light skating. This is good news for his fantasy owners and the Philadelphia Flyers alike, as Pronger appears to be on track to make a comeback in mid- to late-January.

• Dealing with bruised ribs, Michal Rozsival of the New York Rangers is considered day-to-day.

Power Play Performers

Mentioned only in passing in the last edition, Andrew MacDonald deserves a little bit more love this time around. Following James Wisniewski's departure, the 24-year-old blueliner has been lighting it up for the New York Islanders, notching four power-play points (all assists) in his past two games. It doesn't hurt that the Isles are currently playing come competitive hockey (John Tavares!) either. The bubble will undoubtedly burst at some point, but as long as he remains the team's No. 1 offensive-defenseman, MacDonald should be treated as a legitimate fantasy asset.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.

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