During the dog days of summer, NHL news can be scarce but hockey fans are an insatiable breed so to fill up some of those empty summer spaces, we will be doing individual profiles of the Florida Panthers players. In these profiles, we will dish on the players’ previous season, what we can expect next year and also take a look back at their careers. We hope these little pieces help all you Panther fans retain your sanity while we hold on in anticipation of the new season this fall.
The Sean Bergenheim saga is a strange one. Bergenheim spent the work stoppage playing in Europe. When he showed up to training camp in January with a hip injury the Panthers did what any team would do with a player who ostensibly suffered an injury while playing hockey during the lockout, they suspended him without pay. Bergenheim’s injury would eventually require surgery and he would miss the entire 2012-13 season. But it does not end there. The 29 year old filed a medical grievance with the Panthers, arguing that he sustained his injury prior to the lockout and not while playing in Finland’s SM-liiga. The arbitrator of the case agreed with Bergenheim and the Panthers were forced to retroactively pay him his full salary of $2.75 million.
With all the behind the scenes drama one would have to expect there to be some lingering contention between the Panthers and Sean Bergenheim. Will the two sides be able to put their he-said-she-said bickering in the rear view mirror? So far the signs are positive that at some point this season Sean Bergenheim will take off his Law & Order pants for good and get back to his day job, playing hockey for the Florida Panthers.
The fact that Bergenheim still has two years and $5.5 million remaining on his contract is probably reason enough for the Panthers to welcome him back into the fold with open arms, I mean if you are going to be paying him, you might as well get some production out of him. The Sun-Sentinal recently reported that Bergenheim was spotted at the Panthers Saveology.com Iceplex taking part in an informal practice with some Panthers teammates and other NHLers. Bergenheim and GM Dale Tallon both seemed content to move on, aware that sometimes the business end of things can get messy but that it should not interfere with the hockey end of things. “I’ve talked to coaches and everybody here,” Bergenheim said, “It’s like nothing has ever happened. I can only control myself. For me, I’m really happy to be here. I have no hard feelings. Business is business. That’s what it is. What I’m gong to do when I get on the ice is I’m going to play as hard as I can for the Florida Panthers. That’s all I really want to do.”
Looking ahead to next season, Sean Bergenheim should provide a huge boost to the Panthers as the team certainly looked like they could have used him last year. In 2011-12, his first season with the Panthers, the winger was one of the Panthers most productive players, finishing the year with 17 goals and 6 assists in only 62 games. He also had a Relative Corsi of 9.9, second highest on the team (40 or more games played) meaning he was a positive puck possession influence. Head coach Kevin Dineen was confident enough in Bergenheim to use him in a predominantly defensive role as the Fin started only 46.1% of his shifts in the offensive zone. He also demonstrated a knack for getting on opponents nerves with his scrappy play and he drew 1.6 penalties per 60 minutes, tops on the Panthers.
Bergenheim could miss some time at the beginning of the season but if he does have to sit out early, it should not be for long. If he can remain healthy throughout the season, a huge IF, he could become a sneaky 20 goal scorer for the Panthers. Even if he does not hit the 20 goal mark, Bergenheim’s presence in the lineup will give the Panthers a dose of speed and tenacity, something they were sorely missing last year.