That all changed for Bergenheim last year, and he took full advantage.
Bergenheim, 27, helped lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to within a win of the Stanley Cup Finals. Bergenheim spent just one season with the Lightning. But he made quite the impression. In 80 regular season games, Bergenheim had 15 goals and 14 assists. In 16 postseason games, Bergenheim had nine goals with two assists.
On July 1, the Panthers got Bergenheim to come across Alligator Alley as Florida signed him to a four-year deal.
As big a season Bergenheim had last season, he says it's only the beginning.
“We obviously had a great run there last year and I was very happy with the way I played in the playoffs,'' Bergenheim said after Saturday's opening practice of training camp. “I want to bring that here. I learned a lot last year and my goal is to play at that level the whole season. In the playoffs I really found my game – I had it there before – and that's the challenge this year. I have to play that way all year.''
Bergenheim was one of the last players to sign with the Panthers on the opening day of the free agency period on July 1. He had seen how Dale Tallon had started to put the Panthers back together, first by trading for Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky before signing the likes of Scottie Upshall, Tomas Fleischmann and Ed Jovanovski.
Although Bergenheim was close to re-signing with the Lightning, the Panthers went hard after him and apparently made a pretty good case.
“I liked what was going on here, I saw the signings they were making,'' said Bergenheim, who has 54 goals and 109 points in 326 NHL games. “I liked the atmosphere here. It's very positive and seems much stronger than it has been in the past. We are going to be a playoff team. That's our only goal. No player wants to go through a season and not make it.''
Said Tallon: “He scored nine goals in the playoffs and was really good. His energy level is high. He's a good two-way player and competes hard with a lot of speed and energy. That's contagious.''
New Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell planned on taking in his first college football game on Saturday as he and a friend went to the Hurricanes-Ohio State game. Campbell, born in Ontario, said he didn't have any allegiance but had a pretty good idea of who he was going to cheer for.
“I'm not a big college football person, but the guy I'm going with is a huge Miami fan,'' the former Chicago Blackhawk said. “And I don't like Ohio State very much. I'll be going to Miami.''
-- Only two of the 57 players on the camp roster missed Saturday's opening practice. Quinton Howden (stiff neck) is expected to be back Sunday. Anthony Luciani (shoulder) is questionable.
-- Coach Kevin Dineen says no decision has been made on who will be the Panthers new captain. “We're still a ways away on that one,'' he said. Center Stephen Weiss and defenseman Ed Jovanovski are considered the favorites.
“You look at [Weiss] as always having a leadership role for his tenure here and the way he plays the game,'' Dineen said, talking about Weiss working out with rookie Jonathan Huberdeau on Saturday. “Matching him up with one of our future star players is a good mix.''
-- The Panthers are offering two free tickets to any student with identification for Monday's exhibition doubleheader against Nashville at BankAtlantic Center (3/7:30 p.m.). Additional tickets are $10. One ticket is good for each game.
-- The Panthers will hold two scrimmages at the Coral Springs IcePlex on Sunday as part of their training camp schedule. One scrimmage begins at 10 a.m.; the other at 11:45. Admission is free and workouts are open to the public.
FLORIDA PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP
At Saveology.com IcePlex, Coral Springs
Sunday: Practice (two ice sheets), 9 a.m.-12:15 p.m.