Shots Of Bergenheim and Bailey

There's really no use getting into why it is the norm to mention Sean Bergenheim's name in this year's NHL playoffs. The kid is on fire and one of the top goal scorers in the playoffs for the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that is on it's way to the Eastern Conference finals after sweeping Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. As an Islanders fan, it's been fun to watch Bergenehim and Dwayne Roloson march their way towards the Stanley Cup with other former Isles Nate Thompson, Eric Brewer and Marc-Andre Bergeron. But the goal scorer that fans are getting to see in Bergy is the story of a true playoff performer.

Bergenheim never developed into the top-six forward that fans hoped he would. He was the 22nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and spent time between Sweden and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers before the team opted to let him go to free agency this past summer by not tending him his qualifying offer. Not many were disappointed. The kid only had 10 goals and 13 assists in 63 games in 2010 and had been a consistent 20-point guy that was at times invisible on the ice. The thing about Bergenheim is that when he scored, his goals would come in bunches and that is what Lightning fans are getting treated too right now.

You can't really say that the Islanders gave up on him. He wore an Islanders sweater in five seasons under three different coaches and never blossomed. GM Garth Snow did what he had to do and allow his spot on the roster to go to someone new that could do more with the chances that were given.

One player that comes to mind in that regard is Josh Bailey, who only had 11 goals, 17 assists and 28 points in 70 games this season. He was sent down to Bridgeport this year in an effort to boost his development as he had been slumping since the start of the season. He scored 17 points in only 11 games and was called back up to the big club to only see that hot streak fade in the NHL. Bailey has only notched 35 and 25 points in his previous two seasons respecitvely and is now a restricted free agent without a contract set for next season.

But Garth Snow has been loyal to his core of young leaders and is not likely to let Bailey go just yet. He made surprising moves at the 2008 draft to move down from the 5th overall pick not once, but twice in order to select the guy they wanted all along for his leadership quality, on-ice vision, play-making ability and character. There's no question that Bailey has potential; he just needs to reach it. It's been a slow and steady process, possibly for many reasons: the team has lacked a veteran goal-scorer for him to work with; he was rushed to the NHL straight out of the draft at only 18 years old; he was disallowed to participate in the World Junior Championships in 2008, an experience that certainly would have only further contributed to his character and abilities.

The coaching staff, management and fans should look at Sean Bergenheim, a player that did not have the upside and hype around him as much as Bailey did, and realize that his potential is still there. It wasn't wrong to let Bergenheim go, but it would be a crime to give up on someone as skilled as Josh Bailey this early in his career.

When his time comes, he will prove that he was worth the wait.

-Rob McGowan

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