Bertuzzi hoping to rebound in Calgary
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Originally published in Eishockey News in 2008
By Lucas Aykroyd
A 6-0 road loss to the Vancouver Canucks on October 9 certainly wasn’t the way Todd Bertuzzi wanted to start the next phase of his NHL career with the Calgary Flames.
The 33-year-old power forward has never been able to regain the form he showed before the notorious March 8, 2004 incident where, as a member of the Canucks, he attacked Colorado’s Steve Moore and ended Moore’s career with a broken neck.
In recent stints with Florida, Detroit, and Anaheim, Bertuzzi has been more of a passive, perimeter player. He scored 40 points for the Ducks last year, his lowest total in a full season since his rookie campaign of 1997-98 (33 points). That contrasts with the combination of Eric Lindros-style strength with Mario Lemieux-like hands that Bertuzzi delivered in 2001-02 (85 points) and 2002-03 (97 points) while vying for the NHL scoring title.
Calgary captain Jarome Iginla played for Team Canada with Bertuzzi in Canada’s seventh-place effort at the 2006 Olympics, and Iginla endorsed the acquisition of the big left wing, who signed a one-year, $1.95-million deal in July. This is the third time Bertuzzi will suit up for coach Mike Keenan in the NHL.
“It seems like he’s really enjoying himself,” Iginla told Eishockey News. “He’s happy to be in Calgary and back in Canada. Our group of guys is really happy to have him. He looks great and he’s really motivated. He’s having fun with hockey again. I think it’ll be a great year for him and our club.”
The two have been paired on Calgary’s top line to start the season, but they’re still working on chemistry. Bertuzzi generated a few decent chances, deftly dropping the puck for Iginla inside the blueline at one point, and nearly stuffing a puck inside Roberto Luongo’s left post later on. But it didn’t pay off.
“We’re an old enough group that we should be able to do the right things and not go running around the way we were in the second and third period,” Bertuzzi said in disgust after the 6-0 loss. “We need a win. I don’t care how we do it. There’s a whole new level that a lot of us have to raise our game up to.”
Fitness-wise, Bertuzzi has tried to adapt to the new NHL. In his prime, during the pre-lockout era when strength mattered more than speed, he weighed up to 113 kilograms. This year, he reported to training camp at a comparatively svelte 103 kilograms.
But what’s going on inside the head of this Sudbury, Ontario native? That’s the big question. Bertuzzi has always been mentally fragile. The best evidence of that is his perennial vanishing act in the playoffs. He scored just two goals in each of his three playoff runs with Vancouver. He’s never exceeded the three goals and four assists he had in 16 games with Detroit in 2006-07, and last year, he had just two assists in Anaheim’s first-round exit against Dallas.
Also, the Steve Moore affair still hasn’t gone away. Moore has a $38-million lawsuit pending against Bertuzzi and members of the Canucks organization, including former coach Marc Crawford, and lawyers plus the involved parties will meet in Toronto on December 15 in hopes of mediating a settlement. That has to be a distraction for Bertuzzi.
But if a humiliating opening-night loss serves as a wake-up call for the Flames, maybe Bertuzzi will somehow find his way back to the 50-point plateau. Calgary fans shouldn’t hope for much more than that.