This was posted at NHLHotstove yesterday, and was also written before reading that Rawhide asked the same question over at his AJC blog. Great minds think alike.
A few days ago on Puck Daddy, the guys looked at “mid-season goats” for all thirty NHL teams. The Atlanta Thrashers’ goat was Niclas Bergfors. The former All-Rookie Team member, who finished fourth in rookie scoring last year with 44 points (23 goals and 21 assists), has been an enigma so far this season. Coach Craig Ramsay had scratched him multiple times in December, finally playing him at the end of the month and during January thanks to injury depletion. As such, he’s only played 34 out of the 45 games so far this season.
He ranks 8th on the Thrashers in scoring (23 pts), and 7th in goals with nine. He’s been frustrated in the past with the scratching, there have been trade rumors brewing, and fingers are pointing at him for someone who is under-performing.
But, if you really look at it, he’s only 20 points off of his output for last season, and he’s going to play significantly fewer games this year. There’s no reason to expect him to not make up the deficit, especially with him scoring four points in the last four games. Perhaps being a scratch lit a fire under his butt, but if he wasn’t scratched, those eleven games that he’s been out could have added significantly to his point totals. He’s under-producing because he’s not being used for whatever reason.
Statistically, if you look at the Thrashers, there isn’t anyone who has been performing significantly underwhelmingly point wise. The issues have been in the defense, as is per usual with the team. Rich Peverley is a -11, Freddy Modin and Nik Antropov are a -9, and the defensive pairing of Zach Bogosian and Johnny Oduya are a -9 and -10 respectively. Peverley and Antropov are almost balancing it out with their offensive output, and Oduya’s having a solid offensive season, scoring two goals and twelve assists so far. Modin and Bogosian, however, are struggling. Modin has scored seven goals but has just added two assists for only nine points on the year. Age and injuries, as well as being a scratch, are starting to catch up to him. Does this excuse it? Not really.
Bogosian, after having a great rookie campaign (9-10-19, +11 in only 47 games), saw his numbers taper off (10-13-23, -18 in 81 games in 2009-10) after being exposed to John Anderson’s coaching style, and being played with a wrist injury when he should have been a scratch. This season, Bogosian has been banged up and has only played 37 games so far, netting three goals and five assists, and is a -9 on the year so far. His projected stats are a line of 5-9-14 with an overall -16 rating. He’s been looking lost at times out there in Ramsay’s system, and is having to adjust to his second coach in three years of a professional career. Not an easy to-do.
I’m not pointing the finger at Bogosian as the Thrashers’ goat, partially because I think it’s irresponsible to name players as the cause of the team’s ills, and because he’s got more than enough time to work things out and turn this situation around.
Players are having issues because of injury, age, and God knows what else, and without being a fly on the team’s wall, I don’t think that I’m qualified to comment on who isn’t “pulling their weight” or not. But, I do think that pinning the label of “goat” on Bergfors isn’t necessarily correct. He’s more than able to equal his output from last season in fewer games, and could have surpassed it had he not been a healthy scratch.
When some people are noticeably slipping at the same time a player is holding his career “status quo,” it’s tough to name the person maintaining his play the “goat.” Perhaps a victim of expectations is more accurate of a description.