Things are getting ugly between Florida head coach Kevin Dineen and forward Sean Bergenheim.
Bergenheim, who hasn’t played for the Panthers since Apr. 2012 due to hip, groin and abdomen injuries, had his commitment level called into question by Dineen on Friday.
“I’m worried about his career, I’m worried about him as a player,” Dineen told the Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s been an extremely long time off. I understand it’s an extremely hard game we play. He’s not a good player unless he’s physically involved in the game and he’s active.”
Dineen wasn’t done there.
“[Bergenheim] can’t feel his way into the NHL,” he continued. “That just can’t happen. He’s got to come back, feeling good about himself, understanding, you know what, there are guys in here that have bumps and bruises, and are playing hurt every night. You’re not going to feel 100 percent playing.”
Bergenheim, 29, has been working out with a Toronto-based therapist for the last few days in the hopes of returning to the lineup. The trip north was the latest development in what’s been a rocky injury rehab.
Here’s more, from the Sun-Sentinel:
Bergenheim, who signed a four-year, $11 million contract with the Panthers in the summer of 2011, and was a huge part of the franchise’s turnaround and first playoff berth in 10 seasons, has played just two games in nearly 18 months. Both were with his hometown team HIFK in Helsinki’s SM-liiga during the lockout.
The Panthers believed that Bergenheim re-aggravated a core injury that he had dealt with during the previous season’s stretch run, so they suspended him without pay in January after the lockout ended. However, Bergenheim won two injury grievances against the Panthers, and eventually earned his full $2.75 million salary.
The grievance cases caused him to put off two surgeries on his hip/groin and abdomen until early March, more than seven months ago. Bergenheim has been practicing with the Panthers for several weeks, and was supposed to consult with his surgeon in Nashville last Monday for a possible green light to play against the Predators on Tuesday.
But instead of returning to the lineup against Nashville, Bergenheim went to Toronto.
When healthy, Bergenheim can be a highly effective player. In 2011-12, he finished fourth on the Panthers in goals (17) despite missing 20 games.
He’s also showed an ability to raise his game in the postseason. In 23 playoff games with the Lightning and Panthers, he’s scored 12 goals and 17 points.