Originally posted on NHL Hot Stove  |  Last updated 10/14/11

UNIONDALE, NY - JANUARY 12: Sean Bergenheim #20 of the New York Islanders skates during the game against the Detroit Red Wings at the Nassau Coliseum on January 12, 2010 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

By Bill Whitehead

It’s a little thing to wish for, I know, but I certainly hope Sean Bergenheim has DVR technology at his home. And I hope he recorded Tuesday night’s game at Pittsburgh. More importantly, though, I really hope he took the time to watch Versus’s in-studio report during the game’s second intermission.

Why? Because Bergenheim was skewered, put on a spit and spun, then roasted thoroughly by analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. Their argument was that the 27-year-old winger simply was hot during Tampa Bay’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, scoring nine goals and adding two assists in 15 games, and cashed in as an unrestricted free agent.

Milbury was part of the New York Islanders when the organization drafted Bergenheim in the first round (22nd overall) in 2002. The former general manager said the Panthers must understand what they have in Bergenheim, who scored 14 goals to go along with 15 assists last year during the regular season.

“If they think he’s a third- or fourth-line player who will be reliable, they didn’t get fooled. If they think he’s a second-line player and they got a steal, uh-uh, ain’t gonna happen. (The Islanders) thought they saw some offense, and it never came around. He’s a 12-, 13-, 14-goal scorer over the course of the regular season. I don’t think you’re going to get better than that,” Milbury said.

Jones’s criticism of Bergenheim was more pointed. He said Lightning GM Steve Yzerman made the right move in not re-resigning him, and even predicted the Panthers clearly would not get their money’s worth from the Finnish forward.

“There’s a player who caught fire in the playoffs and deservedly so got the credit because he did a tremendous job in creating the scoring chances and putting them in the back of the net (in the playoffs). That is not going to happen again with the Florida Panthers. You hope he does, you like the way he works, but he’s just not a natural goal-scorer,” Jones said.

Both were even more skeptical when laying it all on the line in terms of how No. 20’s season will unfold, with Milbury saying, “I think Sean Bergenheim did himself proud, but I think he’s a one-hit wonder.”

And could Bergenheim — in this regular season — match the nine goals he scored late last year?

“No, let’s go with eight,” replied Jones.

Bergenheim didn’t score or have a point against Pittsburgh and hasn’t tallied anything except four PIMs and a plus-1 so far. And if he’s healthy all year and scores just eight goals as Jones said, that would be disappointing. I would expect closer to 15 than eight, though, if Bergenheim can repeat a little history.

In fact, look for Bergenheim to ratchet his game up a bit tomorrow night, playoff-style like he did at the end of last season, against the Bolts and Yzerman, who decided to let him go. As for the critics, everyone has a right to an opinion, and that’s the job of Milbury and Jones, right or wrong. It’s up to the athletes like Bergenheim to make those pundits open wide and choke down those foul-tasting words.

Two goals tomorrow night against his former team in Florida’s home opener would go a long way in silencing naysayers like Milbury and Jones. And hey, since we’re dialing up something we hope for, let’s go ahead and make one of those markers the game-winner.

I’m sure Bergenheim would like to see a DVR’d replay of that — especially if it came with commentary from Milbury and Jones.

By Bill Whitehead
NHLHS Florida Panthers Credentialed Correspondent
Twitter: @BillWhiteheadFL
Email: BillWhiteheadFL@hotmail.com

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