The Curious Case of Sean Bergenheim

(note: ownthepuck.blogspot.com is the place to go for easy advanced stats visuals)

Recently dropped on the Own The Puck blog was a reaction piece to an interview given by Florida's head coach, Gerard Gallant, and assistant coach, Mike Kelly. Gallant and Kelly go on the record saying that they had a guy on their team who dominated the advanced metrics, but they just weren't seeing it play out on the ice. The Panthers ended up trading this player mid-season. Of course, we are allowed to assume that Gallant and Kelly were referring to Sean Bergenheim.

Unfortunately for advanced metrics fans everywhere, their suspicions of Bergenheim were proven true after they traded him to Minnesota, and he struggled to keep a spot in the lineup with the Wild. Bergenheim would record just 1 goal in 17 games with the Wild, and dress in only 3 playoff games.  

Bergenheim has been a free agent since the market opened on July 1st. Coming off of a four-year deal worth $11 million, Bergenheim will certainly be taking a pay cut this season; if he gets an NHL contract at all.

This case is so interesting, because Sean Bergenheim is one of the poster children for advanced metrics, and how NHL teams may be able to exploit the market and get a cheap asset. Yet, the more we hear about how NHL teams are employing the metrics, we still see guys like Bergenheim fall through the cracks.

On the slash sheet (goals/assists/points/plus-minus), Bergenheim strikes you as a third liner. Over the past two seasons, Bergenheim has recorded 25/23/48/-18 over 118 games. 0.41 points per game. Including his disastrous stint in Minnesota, recording just 1 goal in 17 games. 

Let's take it further than the slash stats.

Bergenheim drives offense. 

In the past two seasons combined, he is one of 55 players who have a relative scoring chances metric of +4% or better, and a relative corsi for percentage of 2.5% or better. Among these 55 players, Bergenheim has the 27th ranked CF%, and 21st ranked SCF%. 

This may not sound like much, but I cannot stress enough the elite company Bergenheim is in above in terms of driving offense. And he is in the lower tier of this analysis, no doubt, but he sits among great company:

Further, Bergenheim makes the players around him better. 

Over the past two seasons, among forwards who have played over 100 minutes with Bergenheim, there is not a single player who sees their possession metrics improve away from Bergenheim. 

If everything is telling us that this guy is a good player, why isn't he getting his shot? Are 17 poor games in Minnesota really deterring GMs from an otherwise solid puck-driving career?

Considering it's now the end of August, free agency has been open for two months, and the start of preseason is just a few weeks away, you have to imagine that most GMs are pretty happy with the team they have now. Pending injuries in training camp and preseason, which will happen, is that the best that Bergenheim has to hope for to keep his NHL career alive?

The professional tryouts are already being handed out. Scott Gomez, Sergei Gonchar, Petr Budaj have all already agreed to go to team camps for free. Bergenheim has not. 

Scott Hatteberg couldn't throw, and he was a catcher. Jeremy Giambi loved strip clubs. Jeremy Brown had a size 44 waist. These things didn't deter the A's...

What aren't we seeing about Bergenheim?