Several reasons why the Detroit Red Wings should avoid trading Jonatan Berggren

Amid the chaos of the approaching trade deadline, the Detroit Red Wings would be wise to hold on to their dancing king, Jonatan Berggren.
Detroit Red Wings, Red Wings, Jonatan Berggren
Detroit Red Wings, Red Wings, Jonatan Berggren / Sam Hodde/GettyImages
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What’s in it for Jonatan Berggren if he remains with the Detroit Red Wings?

Seemingly, the rebuild is on an accelerated timeline, with the Detroit Red Wings fighting to maintain their first wild card position in the National Hockey League (NHL) standings.

As the race continues, the Detroit Red Wings need all hands on deck and everyone ready in the wings. Whether it’s Berggren, Edvinsson, Johansson, Austin Czarnik, or Brogan Rafferty (thought Berggren had it bad with the yo-yoing until Rafferty was toyed with by the Red Wings).

As my other cousin mentions, Berggren’s contract is flexible. 

Also, it maintains as much talented depth as possible. 

Berggren is completely valid in thinking that his game is ready for a full-time NHL position. It’s understandable to be frustrated. Quite frankly, I’d be concerned if he wasn’t frustrated, given the situation. The fact that he’s frustrated shows he still cares. It also shows the competitive side of Berggren's, which is usually cloaked in a veil of fun.

Another quote from the Last Lecture that I echo with Berggren’s hurdle to make the NHL full-time:

"“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”"

Randy Pausch

I reckon there is a market (or markets) for Berggren where he would play regular minutes in the NHL today and would’ve played there all season. If that’s the most important thing to Berggren, I believe Yzerman will make that happen.

My biggest question, would Berggren ever find his ceiling?

For example, Berggren jokes that he’s not a goal scorer, so he closes his eyes and shoots. He must have found a field of four-leafed clovers, given his 17 goals this season. It seems like Berggren plays his best when his instincts and intuition take over. Maybe he doesn’t realize he’s doing the things he’s doing, or maybe he’s uncomfortable communicating those things to the media.

In my humble opinion, Berggren sells himself short. I’m not sure that he knows how good he can be.

Maybe he finds his highest ceiling anywhere, he is a determined guy, or somewhere else that he’s more comfortable. Oftentimes, though, comfortability leads to complacency. Furthermore, seemingly toxic dressing rooms, teams who may not even be in the same city in years to come, and teams who can’t keep guys long-term litter the NHL.

Conversely, the Red Wings boast a roster, coaching staff, and management group who challenge their players. As frustrating as it is for players and fans alike at times, it doesn’t diminish the performance of the Red Wings organization as a whole. 

I don’t mean to boast about the Red Wings; they have their own challenges that they face. Even so, there’s something to be said for Yzerman’s requirement of being a high-character, high-competitive individual to play for the Red Wings organization. 

As super scout Håkan Andersson said after the 2019 NHL entry draft, no matter the skill level, no dogs would join the Red Wings organization.

From all the viewings of and my interaction with Berggren, he fits that mold. I can assure you, if Yzerman felt differently, Berggren wouldn’t be in the organization any longer. Yzerman still believes in Berggren, just as he did with Filip Zadina, until the day he left the organization.

Yzerman has shown that he will work with the players even if it’s against his own preferences for the organization. Very few general managers in the NHL will do so. If another general manager had a say, a begrudged Zadina might still be in the Red Wings organization (or playing Europe if he refused to return to Detroit or Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Instead, Yzerman only wants players who want to play for the Red Wings. 

Long gone are the days where we had a surcharge for signing players well past their primes or overpaying role players to absurd contracts both in money and term, as nobody wanted to play for the Red Wings (except Dylan Larkin).

With the Red Wings organization, a great group of guys have come together. Both in Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan, players are coming together. They’re pushing themselves to be the best versions of themselves in a positive, healthy competition. 

Just a quick look at Lucas Raymond reflects this sentiment. Could he have reached the same heights without playing on a team that includes Larkin, Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, David Perron, and even Moritz Seider? 

I would expect him to reach close to his potential, but learning from some of the best players in the league helps. Every aspect of his game has improved: skating, puck protection, board battles, passing, and shooting. He’s learning things that I’m afraid cannot be learned through watching video or working with an above-average NHL player. Seeing Kane or DeBrincat shoot with the smallest amount of deception or Perron’s determination and sheer will is best adopted when they’re on your team.

It’s a painstakingly long wait for Berggren to arrive in the NHL. It’s not fair in many ways to him as a player.

At the same time, I look at a player like Alex Lyon. While he’s a goalie rather than a forward, Lyon is a prime example of waiting for his opportunity. 

After an excruciatingly long wait to get his first start in net with the Red Wings, then an extended rotation of switching between starting goaltenders and battling an injury, Lyon has shown a spot can be taken. Even when two guys stand in the way, there will always be an opportunity, eventually. It may not be the starter’s job or a prime spot in the lineup, but head coach Derek Lalonde will ultimately come around. As Tom Petty said, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

There could be a trade to open a spot in the Red Wings lineup. If the Red Wings are really going for it, though, depth is their biggest asset both in Grand Rapids and Detroit., Michigan. Trading away pieces from either roster creates a shallow depth chart at any position. 

In my opinion, opportunity will likely arrive in the form of the inevitable injury or injuries. I don’t hope anyone is injured. However, the lead-up to the playoffs often leads to exhaustion and over-excretion. Opponents play harder and nastier, coupled with exhaustion and over-excretion, creating an environment where injuries are more likely to happen. 

When an injury happens, any player not in the regular lineup for the Red Wings must be ready to not only step in but also play at the top of their game like Lyon. They must help the team win. It’s a challenging task to ask of anyone. Only a very few players can do so. It’s critical to the playoff hunt and any possible hope of a run. 

When Berggren plays for the Red Wings again, he will be more than ready. 

Berggren has played with an edge since returning to the Grand Rapids Griffins lineup. Riling up the opponents each game, it seems they come after him verbally and physically. It’s a part he’s always had to his game, but it’s coming out more. Partly, it might be frustration, maybe a confidence thing, who knows? He’s just a lot of fun. Especially when he stirs the drink, then quietly fades into the background (even returning to the bench) as scrums ensue. 

I don’t know how anyone could get mad at Berggren, but I guess it happens a lot. Chirping the entire opposing players’ bench might add to it. Berggren kind of reminds me of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Star-Lord, a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy (played by Chris Pratt). Maybe I’ll explore this idea at a later time, but it’s just how I see him.

It’s fun to watch Berggren piss off opponents for fans, fun for his teammates who get dragged into the fight, and fun for him, or so it seems. (It’s in addition to the typical fun Berggren brings to the rink.)

Part of me is still waiting for more of the Berggren antics to show. The guy who plays little pranks on his teammates or dances throughout the arena. Maybe he’s doing these things without a camera present. Perhaps he’s just not as comfortable as he was with his Swedish Hockey League (SHL) team. If it’s the latter, I hope it changes. (He might be coming out of his shell more, as demonstrated in this Post-Game Interview featuring Ryan Hana of the Winged Wheel Podcast, where Berggren’s dancing around in the background chanting “Rocky” in response to Edvinsson and his first fight.)

I've sensed some nerves when watching Berggren being interviewed alongside Larkin. It's totally understandable, but at the same time, I hope Berggren gets more comfortable and confident in himself. When he returns to the NHL, hopefully, Berggren will feel like he belongs. He deserves to be there just as much as the captain of the team (no matter where he plays).

Once he (fully) arrives in the NHL, especially if it’s with the Red Wings, he will have the opportunity to learn from great minds like Raymond. It’s tantalizing to think of the type of impact those players may have on Berggren.

More of a personal note, with international tournaments for the best on best play, I want to see just how many Red Wings can join the Swedish teams. Swedish Mafia 2.0 is back in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier.