Sunday, March 1, 2009

Bergenheim Emerges (It's Our Time Down Here!)

[Those on the Islanders beat (Greg Logan, Chris Botta) are reporting that there will be no announcement tonight. Furthermore, there is no anticipation of an announcement at any particular time. Remember, Guerin always retained the right to refuse a trade. And GMs (Snow included) retain the right to change their minds. We now return you to your regularly scheduled program, Bergelicious: The Sean Bergenheim Story.]

In the midst of the hoopla surrounding the location and destination of Bill Guerin, there was a hockey game last night. I will leave the chasing of Guerin to the better connected for now.

Yann Danis posted his second consecutive shutout at home in a 2-0 Islanders victory over the Buffalo Sabres. But this was Sean Bergenheim's night.

The Islanders are a 30th place team in a 30-team league. They have won only 19 of 62 games this season (.306), and in the process of selling off most of their established talent to the most desperate bidder.

Yet, this will be the third gushing article I've written on an Islanders player in the last couple of weeks. And I've only complimented Danis and his impressive play in passing.

Bergenheim is a 5'10", 205-lb. left wing who was drafted by the Islanders 22nd overall in 2002. Now 25 years old, he has been playing on the fringe of the organization's plans for a few years now. You know the story—flashes of what could be if could ever figure it out and pull it together. Kyle Okposo seems to have done that at the age of 20. Some people just take a little longer.

For much of this season, talk of the Islanders' youth core has centered around Okposo, Josh Bailey, Blake Comeau, Frans Nielsen, and Jeff Tambellini. Bergenheim was often an afterthought in that conversation. Oh, yeah, it would be nice if he developed, too.

In accounting for all of the Islanders' scoring last night against the Sabres, Bergenheim established a career high in goals with 11. He has three goals in two games, four goals in the last four, and seven points in eight games. Like Okposo before him, Bergenheim has figured out that his time is now. (I would have given you a picture of the Goonies with Okposo and Bergenheim's faces photoshopped in saying, "Down here it's our time. It's our time down here!" But it's a busy day so you'll have to settle for the mental image right now.)

Also like Okposo, Bergenheim has shown, as he did last night, that he can play the role of the go-to guy for this team when necessary. It's not just that he's scoring consistently. It's also the manner of his offensive contributions. On the first goal last night, he battled for position in front of the net and was rewarded with a loose puck, which he whirled around on and threw past Patrick Lalime almost blindly.

On the second goal, it was tenacious forechecking by Bergenheim that caused Derek Roy to cough up the puck deep in the Buffalo end. The puck ended up on Nielsen's stick behind the net. He fed Bergenheim, now camped out at the side of the net, and Bergie shoveled it past Lalime to ice the game with just over two minutes remaining.

It was this emergence of Bergenheim as a go-to guy, along with similar play from Okposo, that led me to ask Scott Gordon in the post-game about the younger players realizing the need to fill the impending leadership void. Gordon, in an answer that was more revealing than I had anticipated, admitted to having spoken to those players already (updated with full quote):

"I actually addressed a few of our younger players at one point. I went right to the point and I said, 'In this group here there's going to be two captains. It's what you're going to do in the second half that's going to allow me to make that decision.' When it'll happen, I don't know, but there's a good mix of character in our room."

So they didn't merely sense an opportunity. They have been challenged, and some of them have already accepted. You have to have guys on your roster who will take turns saying, "I'm going to win this game tonight." Bergenheim appears at ease with that role. Maybe he always was. But now he can back it up.

Gordon also explained that he showed Bergenheim video of the things Okposo was doing right to elevate his offensive game. It seems Bergenheim is a fast learner.

Gordon's methods have been under heavy examination this year. As Newsday reports, they have not gone over that well in some circles—so much so that it's no longer necessary to ask whether Bill Guerin has expressed a desire to re-sign this summer after being traded away. Regardless of that controversy, and setting aside the record, this season will conclude with some success stories.

(This post was originally published at

1 comment:

7th Woman said...

Oh you KNOW I'm going to be doing something similiar since he IS "my boy." ;o) And I'm SO very HAPPY!!!