Talk about starting with a bang and ending with a whimper. Todd Bertuzzi began the 2013 campaign looking like he had plenty to contribute as a top-six forward, but ended it as something of an afterthought. How did he get to that point, and does the 38-year old warrior have anything left in the tank. Let’s see, shall we?
Looking Back at Todd Bertuzzi’s 2013:
Bert wasn’t in the lineup on opening night thanks to the flu (at one point thought to be mono), but he made an impressive debut by scoring twice in a 5-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on January 25. And that was about it, as he never found the net again, managing just one assist during the next six games.
A back injury got the best of Bertuzzi on February 7, and while his recovery had peaks and valleys, he ended up sitting out the rest of the regular season. The Red Wings seemed to miss the physical dimension he offered at first, but Justin Abdelkader ended up as a capable substitute in the agitator/protector role, and with more speed to boot.
Speaking of speed, it was a lack of it that made Bertuzzi look so out of place when he worked his way back for the first round playoff series against the Anaheim Ducks. With the opposition throwing out a dangerous third line featuring lightning quick Emerson Etem, Detroit looked a step behind with Bertuzzi skating on a line with Mikael Samuelsson.
Drew Miller‘s return for Game 2 of the Chicago Blackhawks series sent Bert to the press box, where he remained for the duration. The Wings were simply better off going younger and faster while saving fourth line spots for Miller and Patrick Eaves.
Looking Ahead to 2013-14:
The immediate future is up in the air for several Red Wings, but Bertuzzi’s is possibly the murkiest of all. For starters, there are questions about his health. He managed to avoid back surgery during this past season, but that could still be in the cards going forward.
If he’s healthy, he could be a candidate for one of the team’s compliance buyouts. Scratch that, he’s definitely a candidate, but maybe not the best one. A poll on MLive a few days ago showed that Red Wings fans feel Samuelsson should be first to be amnestied, but there was some support for bidding adieu to both players (Detroit has two buyouts to use between this year and next). Bertuzzi is due to make almost $1 million less than Samuelsson, a definite factor in the decision.
Or Bert may simply call it a career, feeling like it isn’t worth fighting through pain to go through the regular season one more time. There’s been no indication that he’s leaning that way, but it might help the team make easier choices on the fates of guys like Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary.
The guess here is that Bertuzzi will return for one last rodeo before calling it a career next summer. If not, he’ll certainly be remembered fondly for his time at the Joe, adding a much needed combo of grit and goals for three seasons and at least one good first game of a fourth.