Home > Analysis > Could Tedenby Become Lemaire’s New Bergfors?

Could Tedenby Become Lemaire’s New Bergfors?

Mattias Tedenby looked to be a breakout star earlier this season. The rookie right-winger, given an opportunity with a November callup, seemed to energize the older players on the team. He meshed well with Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias, and looked poised to become an exciting goal scorer.

But since Jacques Lemaire took over, Tedenby has been buried on the fourth line. He hasn’t been used on the powerplay, and he hasn’t had the opportunities to showcase his skills. Could Tedenby become the next Niclas Bergfors, who couldn’t flourish in Lemaire’s system?

Will Tedenby get another opportunity to showcase his abilities this season with the top six forwards? Photo Credit: Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Tedenby’s demotion looks eerily similar to the situation of Bergfors last season. The rookie right-winger broke camp with the Devils and played with the top-6 forwards. He began the season slowly (five points in 12 games), but vastly improved in November. He recorded 10 points, including five on the powerplay, in only 12 games. That play carried over into December, where Bergfors once again recorded 10 points in 15 games. It looked like the Devils had a great winger in the making.

But things went south in January. Bergfors found his way into Lemaire’s doghouse, and only recorded one point the entire month. He was taken off the second line, playing more with the third and fourth lines. It seemed like Bergfors simply struggled, as most rookies do. Instead of letting him work through it, Lemaire exhibited little patience. Eventually, the team dealt Bergfors with a package of players for Ilya Kovalchuk.

It seemed like the team lost faith in Bergfors. It seems like Tedenby is going down that same path.

Under John MacLean, Tedenby skated with the second line. In his first game, a 5-4 shootout

Niclas Bergfors spent all of January buried in Jacques Lemaire's doghouse last season. He was eventually traded as part of the Ilya Kovalchuk deal. Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Devils’ rookie collected his first career assist. That strong play continued right into the next game, when Tedenby netted his first NHL goal against the Oilers. He exploded for six points in about two weeks, making fans drool over his potential. Even his linemates gushed over his skills.

“He uses his speed well and it adds another dimension to our line,” Arnott said to Michael Mazzeo of ESPN.com. “He just wants to go, go, go all the time. He’s improved every game. And that’s a great sign. He’s shown more confidence to drive to the net, and he’s not afraid to get in there.”

As expected, Tedenby hit a rough patch in December. The rookie recorded three points the entire month while making classic rookie mistakes. Former coach John MacLean, however, continued to play Tedenby. He seemed content to let the right-winger play through his slump and figure out how to regain his scoring touch.

Under Lemaire however, that stance changed. The rookie has spent the last four games stuck primarily on the fourth line. After playing over 17 minutes against the Toronto Maple Leafs on December 26, he’s seen his time on ice drop to just five minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes.

When speaking about his young players, Lemaire said they need to produce to stay in the lineup.

“I’m just saying that if they want a spot, if they want to play and have success, this is what they have to do. You cannot play and never get points,” Lemaire said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “You cannot play in the games and end up with two points at the end of the season.”

I agree with Lemaire – players, especially young players, should produce in their lineup spot. But young players also need to develop and learn how to play in the NHL. With the Devils’ not threatening for a playoff spot, now is the time to develop their young talent.

A scorer like Tedenby needs to learn how to create chances. Remember, this is his first year playing North American hockey. Relegating him to the fourth line won’t help that process. He has no support and, more importantly, no linemates to help him along. With Arnott and Elias, Tedenby had an opportunity to play and learn with successful veterans. He won’t produce playing with Adam Mair or Tim Sestito.

With the season all but lost, the Devils need to learn about their prospects. Tedenby could be a top-6 forward for this team. With right-winger Jamie Langenbrunner approaching unrestricted free agency, the Devils need to find a replacement. This season should be Tedenby’s shot to prove his worth. Merely relegating him to the fourth line won’t give the organization anything to base decisions on.

Lemaire should allow Tedenby to work out of his slump. Doing this can only help him improve as a player. Give him the time and let him develop to see exactly what he can bring to the ice.

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  1. January 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm

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