Thursday, September 11, 2014

Berglund looking ahead to future after signing new contract

2006 first round pick was subject of trade rumors 
during summer, anxious to put it all in rear view mirror

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Patrik Berglund walked into the Blues' locker room at the Ice Zone for the first time Wednesday to the surprise of his teammates.

Same sense of humor. Same loose, keep-it-simple demeanor for the guy T.J. Oshie and teammates call 'Berg Dog.'

"I didn't even know he was going to be here," said Oshie, Berglund's teammate and one of his closest friends. "Probably the biggest smile I've had on my face the whole summer."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
With a new contract in hand, Patrik Berglund is motivated to
move forward with a fresh outlook.  

What has changed for Berglund is his exterior and perhaps, a refreshed mindset. There's a noticeable physical difference from when Berglund left in May to the one that returned a few days ago.

"A little leaner? He's a lot leaner," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of Berglund when asked.

Berglund, a 2006 first round draft pick, is listed at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds. But Berglund is leaner and he's added more upper-body muscle. 

There's plenty of motivation for Berglund these days. The 2013-14 season statistically (14 goals, 18 assists in 78 regular season games; he was scoreless in four playoff games against Chicago after battling a shoulder injury) wasn't one of his best seasons. His contract expired June 30 and there was some question whether Berglund, 26, would return to the Blues.

Berglund's name was the subject of serious trade rumors. Much of the talk was centered around the Ottawa Senators and Jason Spezza. Ultimately, the Blues and Senators could not agree on trade parameters and Spezza was traded to the Dallas Stars after general manager Doug Armstrong came back to Berglund and signed the Swede to a three-year, 11.1 million contract.

Berglund, who trains in his home country during the summer, couldn't help but hear all the talk. In the end, the Blues chose to invest mightily in Berglund's corner. 

"It's the business, right? Obviously I heard all the rumors, but there's nothing I could do so I just kept going on with myself and with my training, played some golf and had fun with my family and friends," Berglund said. "I couldn't do anything about that. I just let it go and I'm really happy that I'm still here."

Oshie said he kept in touch with Berglund during the summer on occasion. There was no question that his teammates wanted him back, but Oshie thought Berglund might need a voice of reason with all the trade talk going on.

"It's something you've got to block out," Oshie said. "I feel like I've been getting traded every year, too. You can't think about it. 

"This is where we belong. Just thinking about going somewhere else is a distraction and something we don't need. It's really, really good for us. It makes our team a lot stronger having him back here. ... When he signed, I was relieved and really excited for him. It's good for us to have him here."

Berglund, who admittedly trained more, did not alter his summer course too much. He finished the season less than 100 percent after injuring his shoulder late in the season during a game in Dallas. He was limited to four playoff games but was obviously not 100 percent. He sat down with Hitchcock at exit meetings and knew then that the team was not giving up on him despite the trade talk.

"At the end of the year, we had some defined goals that we wanted him to obtain and he wanted to obtain," Hitchcock said. "The visual alone is ... impressive. He looks like a guy that's put in a tremendous amount of work to make himself quicker and lighter, stronger. We don't have all the data yet because it's Day 1 but just from a visual standpoint, it's pretty impressive.

"A chip on your shoulder's one thing, but the team made a pretty big commitment. They signed him to a three-year deal. So he's made a commitment to the team, the team's made a commitment to him. Now it's what type of player do you want to be. You're always curious when a guy first shows up. Bergie's a player that we need to have a really good year from him. First impressions mean a lot. When you show up physically looking like this, it's an awfully big first step. This is a guy that is not going to allow fitness to get in the way of anything. It's pretty dramatic when you look at it."

Berglund, who has 220 points (106 goals) in regular season 436 games, has averaged 17.6 goals per season. But he's been a hot and cold player throughout his six-year career. Hitchcock just wants to see consistent production he feels Berglund is capable of providing.

"We need to get him back to being a scoring player," Hitchcock said. "We need him at the net, around the net, heavy on the forecheck. We need that back again. We need him to be a scoring player again. He's got the ability ... on his worst season, he gets 20 goals. We need that dynamic from him again. 

"I think he felt at the end of the year that he had to bring way more quickness and agility into the game. He's obviously lightened up. He's got way more quickness and mobility back from everything he did, (including) diet. This is an all-encompassing thing that he's done during the offseason. This is not just training. This is fitness, this is nutrition, this is basically a lifestyle. Pretty impressive."

Getting more production towards the end of last season was a result of getting time as a left wing.

"I kind of got a little hot there on the left wing. That was fun," Berglund said.

Would he entertain the idea again? 

"Absolutely," Berglund said. "Whatever they want to do, however they want to build the team, that's part of the game. If you still want to be here and stuff, you've got to adjust and take on that challenge and do the best you can. Whatever I can help, I will be there and do my best."

"It certainly helped from a forechecking standpoint," said Hitchcock, who will start training camp with Berglund and Steve Ott together and a third linemate yet to be determined. "It allowed him to get ahead of the play. It's a dynamic that we want to talk to him about moving forward. 

"I was really impressed when he played the wing, but then we got banged up and we needed him at center in the playoffs. But I think he's a versatile guy. I think it's important wherever he plays, he has to play a top-nine role, and that's where we expect him to be. ... He's a guy that's got to play in the top nine for us to be successful."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund (21) was the subject of trade talk during the
summer for the Blues. He got a new three-year contract
instead and is motivated to make good on it.

With the Blues having a strong balance of forwards, especially at center, Berglund won't have to do more than what is asked. But getting a strong scoring touch back (Berglund's efficiency shooting the puck last season was a career-low 9.7 percent scoring 14 goals on 144 shots compared to 23 percent getting 17 goals on 74 shots the previous season) could really give the team balance in their top nine; whether it be down the middle or on the wing.

"I kind of also just think about the team goals," Berglund said. "We have a great team and we need to play some good hockey and win games. That's what it's all about. What I can do with my goals is contribute to the team every night. If it's a blocked shot, if it's a goal, assist, whatever, then so be it. We are a team here and we need to play as a team to win. That's the main goal.

"We've gotten so far in this locker room. We have a few obvious steps to climb. I think after every year, we're getting more and more ready. I think everybody's been working extra hard this offseason. We've got to be ready and it starts right now."

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