Is Patrik Berglund in for a Steen-Like Career Year?
When you look at the St. Louis Blues roster, a number of talented wingers should pop out at you. Vladimir Tarasenko has the potential to be an electrifying goal scorer. T.J. Oshie was recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Alexander Steen erupted for 33 goals last season and there was even some talk of Paul Stastny playing wing since the Blues are already so stacked at center.
Nowhere in that preseason conversation was Patrik Berglund mentioned. With the arrival of Stastny and the signing of Jori Lehtera, the 2006 first-round pick seemed closer to a trade out of St. Louis than a top-line role. Head coach Ken Hitchcock sees things in a different way though, and he’s giving Berglund a chance to play on the top line along with David Backes and T.J. Oshie. It was there that Steen was able to notch career highs in every major offensive category in 2013-14.
Could Berglund benefit to the same degree?
Hitch said Berglund-Backes-Oshie is a line that will in all likelihood start season, rest are up in the air. Need to see how they play.
— Lou Korac (@lkorac10) September 30, 2014
Prior to last season, Steen’s best goal total had been 24, and that came back in 2009. If there was a Blues player earmarked for a sudden 30-plus goal eruption, the then 29-year-old wasn’t him. He clicked alongside Backes and Oshie though, and played his way into a new three-year, $17.4 million contract. Meanwhile, Berglund bounced from line to line, scoring just once in his first 24 contests.
Every fan base seems to have one player that drives them nuts for any number of reasons. On paper, Berglund is a head coach’s dream. He’s 6’4″, 215 pounds and has a high hockey IQ to boot. That’s why the Blues made him the 25th-overall selection in 2006, and that’s why he drives Blues fans up a wall. The pieces are obviously there. The player just can’t get them to come together.
Something strange and mildly under-the-radar happened to Berglund last year though; something that seemed to really propel him to a new level of play, at least temporarily. He was an Olympian for Team Sweden, and if you’ll recall that squad faced a boatload of injuries down the middle. Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin went down early, stripping Sweden of its two best centers and leaving Berglund as the No. 1 pivot on the team.
That probably should have sunk Sweden’s hopes of winning a medal, but the squad made it all the way to the Gold medal game against Canada. Berglund was a big part of that gutsy push from the Swedes, and when he got back to Missouri he looked like a different player. He produced seven points in his first 10 games following the Olympics, meaning nearly 22% of his overall production on the year came immediately after Sochi. Most players struggled to deal with jet lag, but Berglund looked like he had finally put it together.
Then the Blues hit a rough patch as a team, and fell flat in the postseason against the Chicago Blackhawks. Berglund went cold and didn’t register a point in his final 13 games, including the playoffs. Despite that, Hitchcock might be onto something with his new-look top line. Backes and Oshie are renowned two-way players, and Berglund is underrated in that regard.
Berglund with another takeaway. I think that's his fifth one this period.
— Randall Ritchey (@randallritchey) October 1, 2014
Perhaps looking to him to score along the same lines as Steen isn’t fair—after all, odds are against Steen himself being able to keep pace with the numbers he set last year—but Berglund could be in line for his best year at the NHL level. He’s never scored more than 22 goals and has only broken the 50-point barrier one time.
On a Blues team that has a number of scoring threats, 50 points from Berglund would simply give them another player capable of finishing on any given night. Consistency has always been the biggest issue for the Swede, but playing with guys like Backes and Oshie tend to make those problems go away.
It seems that Hitchcock is looking to settle Berglund into a top-six role after shuffling him around last season, and that bodes well for the 26-year-old. St. Louis doesn’t need him to be an All-Star. They do need him to be solid, and he has a chance to be just that if he sticks on this team’s top unit.[/vc_column_text][dt_fancy_separator separator_style=”dotted” separator_color=”accent”][/vc_column][/vc_row]
02 October 2014 at 9:10am
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