Wednesday, September 9, 2009

2009-2010 Player Profiles: Todd Bertuzzi...

OK, it’s that time of year. Hockey’s so close that you can almost taste it. By my count, there are 23 days remaining before the Wings kick off their season in Sweden (which is still entirely too many, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel). In order to pass the time, I’ll be posting a player profile every day until then (in alphabetical order, because I’m one of those people). I want to make it very clear that these are not predictions, because I do not, under any circumstance, make predictions. They’re simply my thoughts on each player’s performances last season, and my hopes and expectations for them this time around. Today’s subject:


Todd Bertuzzi

2008-2009 Regular Season: 66 GP, 15-29-44, +/- -13, 74 PIM
2009 Playoffs: 6 GP, 1-1-2, +/- 4, 8 PIM

Season Highlight: I'm sure he scored an important goal or two for Calgary.
Season Lowlight: Being Todd Bertuzzi.

Oh dear, where to begin? I didn’t see much of Bertuzzi last season, but that didn’t stop me from threatening to burn all of my worldly possessions if he was re-signed by the Wings. Fortunately, I didn’t follow through on that, and I’m happy to say that I’ve sort of come to terms with his signing (at least enough to try to keep an open mind about it).

He managed to put up 44 points in only 66 games, which is pretty decent for a guy who just signed for $1.5 million. The thing that jumps out at me is the fact that he was -13. I know plus/minus isn’t the be all end all of statistics, but when numbers are that far negative, it is indicative of a trend. In comparison, Kris Draper was also -13 (team low) last year, but that was spread over an additional 13 games and he only put up 17 points. I don’t have power play numbers for Bertuzzi, but to put up that many points and still have a plus/minus that low shows some problems on the defensive side of the puck. He did, however, turn that around in the playoffs, where he ended up +4 after only 6 games. The other concern that Bertuzzi presents is his lack of discipline. He had 74 penalty minutes in the regular season, and an additional 8 in the playoffs. Given how dismal the Wings’ PK was last season, this is something he absolutely has to work on.

A lot of what Bertuzzi does this season is going to depend on the role he ends up playing. His linemates and ice time are obviously going to be big factors in his production. If he can put up more than 35 points, I’ll be happy. I’m not promising that I’ll like him, but putting up decent numbers will go a long way in that regard. It wouldn’t surprise me if his +/- went up this season as well. You can’t take two steps in the Wings locker room without tripping over a defensively responsible forward, and that will help (Whether that will influence Bertuzzi and result in better play, or just serve to compensate for his defensive lapses remains to be seen.). I also fully expect him to spend every bit as much time in the penalty box as he did last season. I don’t see any reason to expect his lack of discipline or tendency to get caught out of position (or the fact that he’s a favorite target for referees) to change. And I can see this not sitting well with Mike Babcock, as well as the fans. Especially me. (I’m already practicing my, “Why would you do that?” face.) Normally I say that if a guy can succeed anywhere, it’s in the Wings’ system, but I honestly don’t see Bertuzzi that way. I actually think his play is contrary to the Wings’ style, and that will cause him to struggle.

Bertuzzi faces a lot of obstacles this season. He’s a shell of his former self, and arguably the most hated current NHL-er. He’s going to have to battle for ice time while attempting to put up enough points to justify his presence to a largely hostile home fan base. Not to mention dealing with whatever personal demons are haunting him in his own head. I'd love nothing more than to be writing about his 2009-2010 season as one of the great redemption stories of our time, but I don't really see that happening.

What he needs to do to make me happy: Refrain from taking stupid penalties.

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