Friday, August 31, 2018

Berglund will miss St. Louis, excited for new opportunity with Sabres

Former No. 1 pick in 2006 spent 10 seasons with Blues 
before being traded to Buffalo in package that netted Ryan O'Reilly 

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Patrik Berglund had to wait until Monday morning to find out his hockey life had changed for the first time since 2006.

When the Blues announced the trade that sent Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson, a first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft for center Ryan O'Reilly, it was roughly 8 p.m. St. Louis time on Sunday, July 1. Berglund was home in Sweden at the time, where it was 2 a.m.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund (21) celebrates a goal with Jaden
Schwartz in the 2016 Western Conference Final
against San Jose.

"I couldn't prepare myself because obviously when I got the phone calls and all the text messages from friends and family and everything from over here, I was obviously sleeping," Berglund said Friday after his last informal skate with former Blues teammates before jetting off to Buffalo on Saturday. "I woke up to it the next morning and I realized what happened."

And just like that, Berglund's 10-year career with the Blues was done. Instead of planning a summer of training in preparation for an 11th season in St. Louis, the 30-year-old Berglund is about to embark on a new journey, one in which will take him to New York and begin a new chapter in his life, one that involves trying to get the Sabres back on proper footing after a number of lean years of futility.

Getting that phone call though, one he thought could happen, was one he definitely prepared for.

"I was back home obviously, but it was tough," Berglund said. "But in the back of my head, I knew they were going to do something this year that would be bigger than normal and I could definitely be involved in that too. I've been here a long time and maybe they needed change. It didn't take me too long to accept it and move on and I started right away to get excited about a new adventure and a new opportunity."

Missing the playoffs last season for the first time in seven seasons, Berglund felt change was coming in St. Louis.

"Yeah, definitely. I had a feeling," Berglund said. "Then Doug [Armstrong] made some moves and here we are. There's nothing more I can say to it other than I've been preparing myself well this summer for this upcoming season. I'm excited I'm not injured again throughout a camp and throughout a summer. I'm excited to walk into camp like everyone else and you prepare yourself for a good season."

Berglund had 322 points (158 goals, 164 assists) in 694 regular-season games, and his 694 games rank sixth in franchise history behind Bernie Federko (927), Barret Jackman (803), Brian Sutter (779), Brett Hull (744) and David Backes (727). Of course the 30-year-old Berglund would have liked to finish his career with the franchise that drafted him with the 25th pick in the 2006 NHL Draft, but it's a risk one takes when venturing into the world of professional sports, and not everybody gets to experience it.

"Definitely that's something everybody dreams of if you like to play," said Berglund, who had 17 goals and nine assists in 57 games last season after missing the first 25 games rehabbing an injured shoulder sustained in summer training. "Of course, I wanted to finish out the full contract and be closer to 1,000 games here obviously, but this is part of the business. You get sad when you see your friends get traded and all that. It's the same feeling when you do too, but at the same time, you know this business. I still have a lot of hockey left to play in my career, so I'm excited about the new challenge."

Now Berglund, along with Sobotka, Thompson and goalie Carter Hutton, who signed with the Sabres as a free agent on July 1, will try to help the Sabres out of the NHL basement after finishing with 62 points (25-45-12) last season.

A major culture change was necessary and it all began with drafting defenseman Rasmus Dahlin with the first overall pick at the NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22.

"A big change. I think they tried to find some new identities to the team and added them, a lot of pieces," Berglund said of Buffalo. "It's seven pieces or something like that, and their young players are super-talented and good. [Jack] Eichel, [Sam] Reinhart, now Rasmus Dahlin, first overall pick and [Rasmus] Ristolainen too. I feel like from my part now is come in and help these guys and I still have to play my game and I want to still develop my game, if you know what I mean, and help them along the way to become a better team. 

"You get the guys from the Blues in there and Jeff Skinner. I think overall the Buffalo Sabres organization is probably really excited about this upcoming year. I am, I think all are as players too. Everybody as players are excited to get together now and to get to know each other and to start building for the future."

Perhaps Berglund can help mentor Dahlin, a fellow Swede who Berglund said has all the tools of being an NHL star.

"I'll help him as much as he wants and help him along the way to understand everything," Berglund said. "I think especially when the season starts, help him how to kind of take care of himself, a lot of travels and all that, find a way. I don't think he's played this many games, same way when I came in. It's definitely going to be a big change and if I can help him to realize that a little bit that it is a big change. He can probably calm down and feel more comfortable.

"I've seen the highlights. I think his game can definitely translate to the NHL and it already has. He's such a good skater, such a skilled guy. What I've seen too is that he's very smart. He won't get into those positions where he can be hit really hard, get injured that way. I think he's just going to do fine right off the bat."

Berglund already sounds like a player who is looking forward to a new challenge, and it started immediately. He felt good about helping the Blues franchise turn around from its last-place finish in 2005-06, to his rookie season of 2008-09 when they went 41-31-10 and were a playoff team seven of his 10 seasons.

"I think change can be good," he said. "That's why I'm excited about this instead of pouting about it or whatever. But I am excited about it. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Patrik Berglund moves on to Buffalo after spending 10 seasons with the 
Blues. His 694 regular season games played is sixth in franchise history.

"When I came in, the Blues had struggles for a long time, but I've been part of some very good years here. The only thing that I would want is the Stanley Cup here. We gave it a couple good runs, but like it is in business, it's time to move on and go to a new chapter."

But there will be obviously lots to miss about St. Louis for the Vasteras, Sweden native, and those will be the toughest to overcome.

"Obviously a lot of teammates," Berglund said. "I feel like St. Louis as a city now is a little bit of my home, so I'm going to miss the city a lot and all the places you always go to now. You get into so many routines now that that's going to be the hardest part to go to Buffalo and find those new routines that you have no idea about yet. That's going to be the hardest thing, from finding good places to eat and all that, but I guess that comes with timing."

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