The case for Niclas Bergfors

Cam Charron
June 27 2011 02:40PM

If you're like me, you might have gone and looked through the list of forwards at Behind The Net to find a few of the guys who performed well with good Corsi and Fenwick numbers but did not produce much due to low shooting percentages. One of the names among the many that pops up is that of Niclas Bergfors.

You would then go to NHLNumbers.com, see that Bergfors is a restricted free agent, and wonder if the General Manager of your favourite team would have the stones to give an offer-sheet to the former #23 overall pick, or possibly offer up a roster player in a trade to Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers, owners of his rights.

TALLON FAIL?

And then, you get word Saturday night that Tallon, for whatever reason, did not qualify Bergfors in the next of a long line of questionable moves the former Blackhawks General Manager has made in his short tenure with the Panthers. After coming off a 21-goal rookie campaign splitting time between the New Jersey Devils and the Atlanta Thrashers, Bergfors scored 11 goals in 52 games with the Thrashers last season before getting traded to Florida. From there, something happened, and, as a result, Bergfors will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Bergfors scored a single goal in the 20 games he played with the Panthers, with an absurdly low shooting percentage of 1.1%. Upon looking through Bergfors' statistics with the Panthers, it becomes clear that they did not quite know how to use him. Despite averaging a positive Fenwick number adjusted for zone starts (I crudely make one defensive zone start worth .6 of a Fenwick point) in his 20 games with the Panthers, Florida was reluctant to do anything but protect his shifts.

On the road, where defensive zone starts mean more because the coach doesn't know who the opposition will send out, Bergfors started 71.2% of his shifts in the neutral or offensive zones. To me, Florida didn't get enough of a look at Bergfors as a defensive player, which makes sense why they would base their decision on whether to retain Bergfors by looking at his offensive numbers.

With a shooting percentage of 1.9% with the team (and a career average of 10.1% before his trade to the Panthers) it became clear that a patch of bad puck luck is what caused Bergfors' offensive slump. His PDO (on ice shooting percentage plus on ice save percentage at even strength, a measure of a player's luck) was 981, which was actually higher than it was in his rookie year (978). This is a player who has not had the bounces go his way, and it might cost him a million bucks this summer.

What all of this means is that Bergfors is a prime candidate for a team to scoop up a forward to fit in as a third-liner and possibly move into a top six role once his stick progresses towards a more sustainable shooting percentage. Granted, his average shot distance was on average two feet further from the net (33.8) in 2010/2011 than it was in 2009/2010 (31.5) when he put up 21 goals, but, as a young player, that is correctible, and the two feet doesn't account for such a large drop in shooting percentage.

If your team needs a cheap forward, Bergfors is one that fits the part, with potential to surprise.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Robin Brownlee
June 27 2011, 02:43PM
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"If you're like me, you might have gone and looked through the list of forwards at Behind The Net to find a few of the guys who performed well with good Corsi and Fenwick numbers . . ."

Have to admit I haven't got around to that . . .

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#2 Bak04
June 27 2011, 02:43PM
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Why not Fist for Smytie...Ya RNH, we believe HOPE has transformed to HOPEN

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#3 c_tux
June 27 2011, 02:54PM
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What the eff is 'Fenwick'? I'm all for math as a tool to evaluate players more deeply than 'saw him good' but I can't keep up with all these terms.

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#4 S_Dub
June 27 2011, 02:56PM
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I'm a fan of looking behind the stats, but admit to being somewhat confused by this. Basically, your point is Bergfors generated more offense than he gave up, so despite the fact that HE can't score, he's bound to score more than he has and at least doesn't give up a lot of offence against him? Doesn't his absurdly high PDO number (despite the low shooting percentage) indicate that he had unsustainable goaltending behind him, artificially improving his defensive numbers?

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#5 Matt Henderson
June 27 2011, 02:57PM
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Bak04 wrote:

Why not Fist for Smytie...Ya RNH, we believe HOPE has transformed to HOPEN

wouldnt it be a real word like PHONE or maybe something like NEOPHyte?

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#6 @Oilanderp
June 27 2011, 03:00PM
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Good analysis, I fully agree Bergfors would be a bargain player with low risk and a potential for high reward. Shhhh don't tell anyone else ok?

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#7 The Hall Way
June 27 2011, 03:01PM
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Sorry, but I can't fully appreciate an article that has no picture or silly rap video at the top of it.... (see anything written by Wayne)

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#8 c_tux
June 27 2011, 03:02PM
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After further evaluation I say no thanks. 153 NHL games played....30 hits, 18 pims. Weak Sauce. Unless he's a PK machine the Oil would have no role for him.

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#9 PDumes
June 27 2011, 03:03PM
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Take a shot Feaster. Couldn't really hurt, low risk/possible high reward.

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#10 John K
June 27 2011, 03:04PM
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Nice find. I'm not sure the OilersNation audience will appreciate your reasoning though.

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#11 Matt Henderson
June 27 2011, 03:05PM
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c_tux wrote:

What the eff is 'Fenwick'? I'm all for math as a tool to evaluate players more deeply than 'saw him good' but I can't keep up with all these terms.

Actually, considering how often these kinds of numbers come up, a well written cheat-sheet accessible beside the My Account button would be handy.

Just something for the Christmas wish-list.*

*Wanyeclaus can see you when you're sleeping**

**but usually he's only watching Eberle

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#13 Jarom
June 27 2011, 03:27PM
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With a limited RFA pool we need to be careful we're not paying too much. If we can get him at a price we can live with then I say go for it. If the price starts climbing I woulod say leave him.

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#14 go jets
June 27 2011, 03:36PM
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Panthers will be an awesome team in a couple years. Will probably make the playoffs next year. Bergfors, Grabner, and the like are not good enough offensively to be as soft as they are.

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#15 The Hall Way
June 27 2011, 03:43PM
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Much Better!!!!!

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#16 Kent Wilson
June 27 2011, 04:36PM
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@Matt Henderson

Here's a cheatsheet I wrote a little while ago:

http://flamesnation.ca/2010/10/9/advanced-stats-overview

Bergfors has been a player of interest for me for awhile. His underlying numbers are consistently strong.

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#17 pete
June 27 2011, 04:53PM
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Damn you for this reasoned, cogent argument in favour of a young player who could be easily be obtained by my GM for nothing more than a reasonably amount of his ample cap space.

Now my hopes are up that Burke won't do something incredibly stupid on July 1, which he invariably does. I couldn't understand why a team like Atlanta would be in a hurry to ship out a young guy with promise, but they did. NOw a second team in the same stage, development-wise, is making the same decision.

I am completely OK with Burke throwing $2M or so at this kid and seeing if he can develop into a top sixer.

But it's not going to happen

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#18 SmellOfVictory
June 27 2011, 05:17PM
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S_Dub wrote:

I'm a fan of looking behind the stats, but admit to being somewhat confused by this. Basically, your point is Bergfors generated more offense than he gave up, so despite the fact that HE can't score, he's bound to score more than he has and at least doesn't give up a lot of offence against him? Doesn't his absurdly high PDO number (despite the low shooting percentage) indicate that he had unsustainable goaltending behind him, artificially improving his defensive numbers?

It indicates that his goals against/60 might be unsustainably low, but PDO logically shouldn't affect corsi or fenwick.

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#19 Jonathan Willis
June 28 2011, 08:22PM
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Nice article, Cam, and I'm in agreement that Bergfors could be an interesting pickup. Vancouver or Calgary in particular might be a good home for him, given team needs and direction.

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