Behind the Numbers:
If you’ve followed the St. Louis Blues this year you are well aware that Patrik Berglund has struggled this season. Heading into tonight’s game against Pittsburgh, Berglund had 18 points through 48 games and has often looked like a different version of the player we saw in 2010-11. With fans clamoring for a change and urging the team to shop Berglund, we take a quick look behind the numbers to see just how badly Berglund has struggled this season.
I typically give players the benefit of the doubt. Slumps happen. However, when I spot something wrong or troubling I’ll be quick to point it out.
Patrik Berglund hasn’t looked very impressive this season – and that’s being kind. His numbers are significantly down but more troubling, Berglund hasn’t played with the same physical style fans have grown accustomed to seeing. He isn’t winning his battles nor is he winning space on the ice.
First, the stats themselves.
This slump might have been predictable. When looking at his career stats, it’s easy to spot an up, down, up, down trend. Granted, the sample size is extremely small but the trend still appears to be one that’s developing.
2008-09: 21 goals, 26 assists – 47 points (76 games)
2009-10: 13 goals, 13 assists – 26 points (71 games)
2010-11: 22 goals, 30 assists – 52 points (81 games)
2011-12: 10 goals, 8 assists – 18 points (48 games)
The 2011-12 season still has a lot of hockey left. Berglund could easily turn his weak first half around and thrive through the final stages of the year. To date, his pace is troubling.
Last season Berglund had a point-per-game average of 0.64. Through 48 games this season his average is 0.37. There are slumps and then there are slumps.
Unfortunately, the numbers aren’t even the most troubling part of this picture. Berglund’s style of play is drastically different from what we have seen from him in previous years. He should use his large frame to muscle defenders off the puck and to clear space for himself on the ice. He hasn’t. He should be able to battle on the boards and win more battles than he loses. He hasn’t. He should be able to capitalize on the opportunities he is presented instead of flubbing the shot or firing it wide. He hasn’t. These factors combined have a lot of fans legitimately worried about him as the year moves forward, and rightfully so.
So what’s exactly happening here? Was Berglund’s 2010-11 campaign a factor of good luck or is the 2011-12 season a factor of bad luck? Which Berglund is the real one? Is this a matter of confidence or is Berglund really this streaky?
Fans have lost their patience. If you’re active on Twitter, you’ll regularly see fans asking the club to shop Berglund or include Berglund in a package deal to bring in a new forward. My issue with this is that the same fans were clamoring for Berglund to be dealt during the 2009-10 season only to retract their words in 2010-11.
Dealing Berglund isn’t as easy as some fans might think. Every single team in the NHL is aware that he has struggled this season. More troubling, every team in the league is aware that he has shown some major flaws of late and hasn’t shown much consistency over his first four seasons in the NHL. These aren’t traits that a team is going to spend an arm and a leg on. There might be some teams that think they can buy low on Berglund, which is pretty likely. However, at the same time, this would mean the Blues would be selling low and getting the smallest return on their buck. As a team, you never want to sell low unless you absolutely have to.
Berglund is currently in the first year of a two-year, $4.5 million contract. He carries a cap hit of $2.25 million in 2011-12 and in 2012-13. As far as the budget goes, Berglund isn’t exactly breaking the bank. However, on a team that desperately needs offense, he has been placed under the microscope for his poor play, perhaps unfairly.
As a whole, the Blues have struggled offensively. Is it really fair to single out one player, Berglund, when the problem exists through the majority of the St. Louis lineup? As an analyst, I’m pretty concerned with Berglund but at the same time, I’m not eager to pull the trigger on a deal sending him to a new team unless the offer really hits home and brings back a piece that can truly improve the Blues. At the same time, I’m not eager to deal a player that has as recently as last season shown he can be a force offensively.
We still have roughly a month until the trade deadline arrives. The odds of the Blues making a trade seems like it would be pretty high. Will Berglund be on his way out? I guess we will have to wait and find out.