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Grading the Islanders: Sean Bergenheim, Finn of mystery

Sean Bergenheim played with everyone this year. Everyone. According to the NHL's play-by-play data as tabulated at Dobber Hockey, his most frequent line combo was with Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo -- a combo that comprised just 15% of his even strength shifts. Other frequent line combos included Richard Park and Doug Weight (12.75%), Nielsen and Jon Sim (9.41%), and Nielsen and Trent Hunter (8.54%).

(For reference, that late-season combo with John Tavares and Blake Comeau that produced a few goals -- four points for Bergenheim -- comprised just 6.74% of Bergie's 5-on-5 minutes, yet produced the most points.)

So, the annual question: Is Bergenheim a case of offensive potential unrealized, or offensive ability untapped? Or, just a versatile guy who can play up or down a line according to need?

Sean Bergenheim

#20 / Left Wing / New York Islanders



Feb 08, 1984


RFA, $863k cap hit ($900k 09-10 salary)

Surely THIS is the year.

6.28 (converted to 10-pt. scale)

In compiling notes for Bergenheim's 2009-10 report card, it's tempting just to rehash my notes from 2008-09. Namely:

On the surface, the Sean Bergenheim of summer 2009 is the same Sean Bergenheim of every summer since 2005: "We saw some flashes there. You think next year he'll be the beast we were hoping for?" ... Like all the youngsters, his ice time started to increase in the second half and he started to feel his place. Like all Islanders in 2008-09, his year was jammed up by injuries.


...the same old hit-everything, never-stop Bergenheim energy we've come to expect. And late in the season, displays of speed and improved finishing that tell us maybe, just maybe, the 2002 first-round pick will be what we hoped for...

Except that I think Bergenheim sort of is what most (realistically) hoped for: A decently talented wing who can produce with offensive linemates, but who can play smart two-way shut-down hockey on the PK and third line. He is a trusted penalty killer for Scott Gordon, and while that cuts down on his opportunity to pile up pretty counting numbers, it hardly makes him a disappointment. At his now-expiring $863,000 rate, it makes him a bargain -- unless you dock him for injury time missed.

Trusted or not, the question of how good of a penalty killer he is, of course, is an open question. Particularly when the Islanders' PK ranked 29th overall at 76.3%.

Even after a whole season, numbers-wise individual players' PK rates can be deceiving. So Bergenheim was at the high end in 5-on-4 goals against per 60 of a very similar group (with Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo). But he was at the low end of a similar cluster in shots allowed per 60. I don't see enough data there to think he was a problem more than anyone else. And there are a lot of moving parts for the PK that include coaching, forward aggressiveness, the Islanders small D and, naturally, the goalies.

Finally, though injuries again slowed him down in mid-winter, his PK time per game actually went down compared to last year, as Andy Hilbert's departure merely made room for Nielsen, Okposo and Comeau to pass him in PK minutes.

Sean Bergenheim GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG TOI PPtoi PKtoi SOG PCT
2008-09 59 15 9 24 -2 64 0 4 5 14:14 0:22 1:55 152 9.9
2009-10 63 10 13
23 +1 45
0 2 0 14:03 0:11 1:34 133 7.5

Left Wing Block

Before the season, a fantasy site asked me to pick two relatively unknown Islanders who might see significant point increases. I selected Jack Hillen (bravo!) and Sean Bergenheim (oof). In my defense, though, this was before I really understood who Matt Moulson was, so I expected Bergenheim to get a chance at the left wing minutes Mighty Mo got.

Could Bergenheim produce the way Moulson did? Well, no, probably not. But they're different players, and Bergenheim has shown offensive flashes (oh stop it, there I go again) when he's actually put in that position with, say, Tavares and someone. Otherwise, as discussed, he's a physical, smart, two-way player in the traditional Finnish mode. Right now he's one of the few bodies the Islanders have who "plays big," yet he's cut way back on bad penalties and, as mentioned last week, drew 10 more penalties than he committed, second only to Okposo

Restricted free agency negotiations are on the horizon, but at the right price that all describes a versatile asset worth keeping.

The Poem

(Again, you just have to grin and bear it or skim onward.)

Who are you?
Who is this Finn?
Goes the debate year after year
What ceiling caps you?
What player lies within?
...I need a line -- um, pass me a beer

Each summer
We wonder
Is this the Bergie we think we know?
If signed
Will stars align
Will next winter tell us so?

The Grade

Now, just because I think Bergenheim is still a piece worth keeping doesn't mean you do -- and it certainly doesn't mean you think he met expectations this season. That's why we vote, er grade, er vote-grade. To poll the collective and look back on it on a rainy day.

So turn your grade in, and lodge your praise, complaints or rationale in comments. Remember that you're voting based on how well he met your preseason expectations, with 10 being far above expectations and 1 being far below.