BOSTON - For anyone that has watched his now 16-year National Hockey League career, it's clear where Patrice Bergeron stands in the game's long and storied history.
If the 34-year-old retired tomorrow, he would go down as one of, if not the best two-way forwards of all-time. It is unlikely, of course, that Bergeron hangs up the skates any time soon, meaning that his legacy will only continue to grow.
His story is still being written, his chapter in hockey lore only growing.
Just don't ask him to provide the list of accolades.
"I've never stopped and thought about where I stand," said Bergeron. "I think it's something that maybe I'll do when I'm old and retired. For now, it's about learning and keep improving my game…I'm still doing a lot of learning. Even at my age, it never stops, it never should stop."
It is that type of attitude and perspective that has turned the Quebec native into one of hockey's most respected leaders. And it is, no doubt, why his game continues to improve over halfway through his second decade in the NHL.
It is also why the B's alternate captain has been able to sustain his reign as the league's premier defensive forward, as evidenced by Monday's announcement that he has been named a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for a ninth consecutive season, extending his own record.
"It's always a great recognition," said Bergeron, who is nominated along with Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers) and Ryan O'Reilly (St. Louis Blues). "You have to also realize and keep in mind that it is a team sport and I wouldn't be here without the help of all my teammates. It's the same thing every year.
"It's one of those things where you can't accomplish that on your own. I've been fortunate enough to play on great teams, great lines, and been coached by great coaches. That has helped me tremendously over the years."
There's that trademark selflessness again.
Of course, Bergeron would never gloat about the fact that should he win the Selke again this season, he would be the first player in history to capture the award five times. His previous wins came in 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017, tying him with Hall of Famer Bob Gainey for most all-time.
"It's a great honor," said Bergeron. "It's something that I've always been very proud of. I've put a lot of emphasis on my two-way game and my defensive part of my game, even from my early days growing up playing the game, my junior days…it's nice to get recognized. I'm proud of that, that's for sure."
Bergeron's defensive acumen was born during his days with Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. As a teenager, the center received an important lesson from Titan head coach Real Paiement that set the tone for what is likely to be a Hall of Fame career. While Bergeron's offensive skill was strong, Paiement was adamant that a more complete all-around game would be required to make it to the highest level.
"He basically told me that I wasn't gonna make it if I didn't explore other things on the offensive side of things but also on the defensive side of things and learn and get better. I couldn't just rely on one thing to make it to the next level," said Bergeron, who also saw time on the right wing that season in an effort to round out his skills.
"He taught me a lot, but I think it was more what he said midway through the [2002-03 season], 'If you expect to make it just by relying on one thing you don't get it,' basically. 'You need to really make sure you know every aspect of the game and you work on every aspect of the game for you to make that next level.'
"It was great to hear, but it was even better to work on it and put all the effort and time to do it."
Clearly, Bergeron took that message to heart. And his dedication paid off in June 2003 when he was selected by the Bruins in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft. The work, however, was just beginning, as Bergeron credits former Bruins coaches Mike Sullivan and Claude Julien for helping to mold his style of play early on in his Boston career.
"I learned a lot from [Claude]," said Bergeron, who also pointed to Hall of Fame forward Guy Carbonneau as one of his biggest inspirations. "I think I took a lot of things from each and every coach, some players I've grown up watching, and even Butchy [Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy] right now. Still trying to learn from all of them.
"The players that I've played with, teammates, you try to take some things away from different guys, different tendencies from guys around the league, try to make it your own and get better that way. That was very helpful.
"Even now, still trying to learn and get better and better my game. It's a work in progress. It still is."
Video: Bergeron goes 1-On-1after being named Selke finalist
A Work in Progress, Indeed
Bergeron and Marchand have looked quite sharp through the opening week of training camp, as have many of their Black & Gold teammates. But Bergeron is not quite ready to declare the Bruins as operating in midseason form. There is still much to accomplish before the B's head to Toronto on Sunday for the season's re-start.
"I think it's improving," said Bergeron, who was well on his way to surpassing his career high in goals (32) when the 2019-20 regular season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "It's a work in progress. It was to be expected that the first week was gonna be getting better, feeling better every day. I think everyone individually, you're trying to work on getting your rhythm back, your hands, all that stuff, and put it together. Now it's about a game situation and scrimmages and all that.
"It's getting better, still a little choppy. We obviously have room to improve and get better, which is what you expect at this time. So far, I'm pleased with the way the guys showed up, they seem focused and in great shape."
Not Quite Perfection
Part of the reason the team is still a work in progress is that the Bruins have yet to ice a full group for practice. Bergeron and Marchand have been without linemate David Pastrnak thus far as the league's leading goal scorer remains in quarantine after coming into contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the trio's reunion being on hold, Bergeron is not ready to hit the panic button.
"I don't think there's concern there," said Bergeron. "Right now, what we're trying to get out of the first week of practice and now the next week is rhythm, getting your hands back individually, but also collectively as the system and all the positioning and having a feel of 5-on-5 scrimmages back again. It's been a while for that.
"As far as chemistry, is it ideal? No, it's not. That being said, me, Pasta, and March have been playing together for a while now. It seems like every time we're put back on a line together, we're finding the chemistry pretty quickly and it seems pretty seamless every time.
"We're hoping to rely on that when Pasta comes, hopefully it's sooner rather than later and go from there."
Video: Bergeron talks to media after named Selke finalist