Friday, November 08, 2013

Bertuzzi beating the odds, again [with statistical WCE comparison]

Last night, Todd Bertuzzi scored a goal and an assist in an overtime loss to Dallas. A pretty innocuous statement by itself. But a closer look reveals that with those two points, Bertuzzi's current pace (5 goals and 4 assists in 17 games) would see him score 20-plus goals for the first time since 2005-06 -- otherwise known in Vancouver as the West Coast Express's last hurrah.

The fact that Bertuzzi has carved out a very unlikely niche in Detroit's system is a well-covered story. Having been discarded by five different teams in a span of three years, Big Bert reinvented himself as a defensively-responsible cog in Mike Babcock's lineup.

But that was four years ago. The surprise now is that at age thirty-eight, Bertuzzi remains just as valuable as he unpredictably was in his first couple of seasons with Detroit -- if not more. And not only is he at an age when the vast majority of players are retired, he is coming off a season in which he spent all but seven games with a severe back injury.

Continue reading for a year-by-year and cumulative statistical
comparison of Bertuzzi, Naslund and Morrison, post-2006.
Image: Paige Kaitlyn, Flickr

Those pair of circumstances considered, same as when he first signed with Detroit, you would have easily excused him if he sharply disappeared into NHL irrelevancy. But after a slow start this season, he has taken advantage of a really, really bad Stephen Weiss Johan Franzen injury and scored five points in his last four games. In that span, he has clocked 15-plus minutes in each of those games, including a season-high 19:25 tonight against Dallas.

When Franzen returns, you can be sure that Bertuzzi's ice time won't be quite as high. But because Zetterberg and Datsyuk seem to cycle on and off each other's lines, you can be sure that Bertuzzi will continue seeing time with an elite playmaker over the course of the season.

Still, it is tremendous that Bertuzzi remains a viable option as a linemate for either Zetterberg or Datsyuk at all. Because, really, who would have imagined when the West Coast Express was dissolved that among his Canucks linemates, Bertuzzi would carve out the longest career as a role player. Not the skilled captain or the center who could kill penalties, but the perpetually-floating grump at wing with, by far, the most-distracting personal life and whose career seemed on the steepest decline.

Bertuzzi's post-WCE production (234 points) has long ago eclipsed that of Naslund (161) and Morrison (196).

Although his overall production decreased in each of his three years post-WCE, Markus Naslund managed to retire on his own accord as a 20-goal scorer. Brendan Morrison also experienced some success after 2006, but failed to land a job after an injury-plagued 2011-12 season. Meanwhile, Bertuzzi stands alone -- a key cog on a perennially strong Detroit team. Seven years after being traded for Luongo and well into his thirties, the former Canucks All-Star is on pace for 20-plus goals and the tenth 40-point season of his career.

Way to beat the odds, Bert. Again.


No comments:

Post a Comment