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The Todd Appreciation Station

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Guest irishock

Re-sign him for next year please. Guy nets us probably an extra 5-10 points a year with his shootout moves.

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"I think Bert really likes it here," general manager Ken Holland said. "We traded for him in '07, signed him again in '09. He's become a big part of our team. He's really bought into our system. All the time he's been in Detroit, there's been nothing but positives about him."

The Wings are a team that keeps seeing potential in players deemed damaged by other clubs -- players like Bertuzzi -- and then sees them thrive in Detroit.

Fearsome forward Todd Bertuzzi revives career as defense-minded Red Wing. Ken Holland, general manager of the Red Wings, remembers scouting Todd Bertuzzi as a teenager and thinking he wasn't right for them.

Consequently, the Wings passed on Bertuzzi in the 1993 NHL entry draft, watching him go to the New York Islanders one pick after they'd selected someone else. So it goes.

Two decades after missing the chance to have him start his career in Detroit, the Wings are pleased to have Bertuzzi finish his career here. Talks to extend his contract past this year already are under way, and given how both sides feel about one another, it's only a matter of time before a deal is announced.

The Wings have spun several success stories over the past few years, gambling on guys rejected by other teams, like Danny Cleary and Drew Miller. None bigger, though, than Bertuzzi, who went from revered to reviled last decade and didn't emerge as relevant again until he found a home in Detroit.

Once the NHL's premier power forward, Bertuzzi is now a guy who talks defense first. "I've actually caught myself a few times talking about winning 1-0," he said, "and making sure we take care of our own zone, which is a complete 180 from my usual pregame chatter."

Bertuzzi has backed that up with a plus-22 rating after 52 games, the best of his career, and a mark that isn't inflated by massive offensive production, as his ratings were in the early 2000s.

"The way he plays today, that wasn't there even five years ago," Cleary said. "I think he's realized that in order to play on this team in an important role, you've got to be good at both ends. I think he loves it, actually. I think he loves the fact that he can be counted on defensively and still produce offensively in key situations. A lot of people say the true test of a player is, you know, what situations can he play in the game? Right now, he can play them all."

Bertuzzi, 37, began this season relegated to the third line next to Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader. Bertuzzi was told to be physical and not expect any power-play time. Weeks passed. The Wings weren't doing well, weren't scoring much. Bertuzzi missed six games because of an infection, and when he was able to return, coach Mike Babcock put him with Pavel Datsyuk and Johan Franzen.

The three gelled instantly, with Franzen and Datsyuk benefitting from opponents having a third guy to cover offensively and cower from defensively.

"Bert's got a big body and goes on the forecheck and gets the puck, and if you're a D-man for the other team, and you get hit by him, I don't think you want to go in there first," Franzen said. "That makes a huge difference for the line, when he comes up with the puck all the time. And he's got the skill set -- he's probably the guy on this team that has scored the most goals in a season."

Bertuzzi has a dozen goals among 29 points, and another four goals, which don't count as personal stats, in shoot-outs, where he has emerged as the team's clutch closer at 66.7%. He often approaches goaltenders at so leisurely a pace in shoot-outs it's like he has slowed time, then suddenly there is his 6-foot-3, 200-plus-pound body deking or spinning around, and the puck is in.

"He's shifty, that's for sure," Franzen said. "Goalies are used to players coming down at a certain speed, so that gets their timing off. It's fun to watch."

The front office and the coaching staff take their satisfaction from watching Bertuzzi play in his own zone. "Bert's become a real good two-way player," Holland said. "He's not putting up points like his heyday in Vancouver, but you know what, what he does now, it wins games."

It's ironic: When Holland was a scout with the Wings in the early 1990s, Bertuzzi was a point-a-game player in juniors, yet the Wings selected defenseman Anders Eriksson with the 22nd pick in '93.

Bertuzzi went from New York to Vancouver, where he became the game's most fearsome forward. He had 85 points in 2001-02, 97 in '02-03. In January 2004, fans voted him to the starting lineup of the All-Star Game.

A month later came the Steve Moore Incident: Bertuzzi punched the Colorado forward in retaliation for a check to the head of Bertuzzi's linemate, Markus Naslund. Moore suffered career-ending injuries. Bertuzzi was suspended by the NHL, and he plead guilty to an assault charge leveled by the British Columbia Ministry of the Attorney General. He still faces a civil lawsuit scheduled to be heard this autumn, which prevents Bertuzzi from discussing the incident.

Bertuzzi returned to play a full season for the Canucks in '05-06, then was traded in the off-season to Florida. In the fall of '06, he was diagnosed with a herniated disk and underwent back surgery. Neither the baggage from the Moore incident nor the bad back deterred the Wings from believing he could help them, and they traded for him at the deadline in '07.

"What happened in Vancouver had no impact on my decision, no bearing," Holland said. "I don't believe that represents the player he ever was. He's a guy that plays the game hard, he plays the game within the rules. I think that incident was out of character."

The Wings wanted to keep Bertuzzi, but Anaheim offered nearly double the money. Two years later, Bertuzzi was a free agent again, and he signed with the Wings for one season. This time, he was able to get ingrained into the system.

"I remember his first training camp with us. Babs was on him a lot about playing the way we play," defenseman Brad Stuart said. "He's really bought into playing here. I didn't know him before he got here. All I knew was kind of what you read in the media and all that, but Bert is a great guy. He's portrayed a little different, but everybody in here likes him. He's done a great job finding his role."

In the summer of 2010, Bertuzzi re-signed for two years, having no desire to play elsewhere or uproot his family. Both of his children play forward for local hockey programs.

"It's kind of like home here," Bertuzzi said. "My kids are established at school here. My son plays for Little Caesars. My daughter plays for Belle Tire. They're my focus. I'm just fortunate that I get to play in an unbelievable situation, too, being here in Detroit. Even when practices are tough, you have fun doing it, and you like to show up and play.

"My whole thing is just trying to win the Stanley Cup. The points aren't always going to be there. But as long as you can still contribute in some ways -- whether it's creating space or being big in front of the net -- and the team is being successful, that means you're doing something right."

There's also the fighting. When Bertuzzi traded punches with Rostislav Klesla during the opening game of Detroit's first playoff round against Phoenix in April, fans at Joe Louis Arena erupted into "Todd Ber-tuzzi" chants. Bertuzzi, used to being booed in many arenas after the Moore incident, noted afterward how nice it was to hear his name chanted "not in a bad way."

Helm, who sat next to Bertuzzi last season in the locker room and dressed like him for the team's Halloween party, smiled when he heard it. "I loved the chant. It was great. It got me laughing pretty good. Me and Bert are good friends. We go for dinner, grab lunch if we have a day off. We like our guacamole and chips."

Come Thursday, the first 7,500 fans who arrive at the Joe to watch the Wings play the Canucks get a Bertuzzi bobblehead. Helm couldn't wait that long, getting three a week early.

"I put in an early order," he said, smiling. "No way I was missing out on a Todd Bertuzzi bobblehead. I know they usually do the head a little bit bigger on these things, but for him, with his big head, there's probably extra support. Instead of that little spring they usually put in there, there's probably a couple."

The bobblehead idea came about last summer, when the Wings held fan polls to determine which three players would join club selections Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg in polymer immortality. Cleary went viral with a video wherein he cautioned, "Don't vote for Bertuzzi. His head's way too big, won't even fit on a bobblehead," and went on to claim the second fan selection. Bertuzzi amassed nearly 500,000 votes in the third poll, delighting Cleary, who describes Bertuzzi as hilarious and misunderstood.

"He comes across like he has a rough exterior," Cleary said. "But he doesn't. He's a big teddy bear. That's what he is.

"Me and Bert are really good friends. We sit on the plane together and talk. Listen, this guy is a fantastic guy. He's caring. He's certainly not the person he's been portrayed in the media in years past. You couldn't find one guy in here to say a bad thing about him on this team, that's for sure."

Bertuzzi came to Detroit five years ago, his career stalled. To the Wings, he has become one of their best scrap-heap-to-success stories.

"You heard things about him when he was with other teams," Holland said, "but since we've had him here, he's come in and he's done what the coach has asked him. He's taken some of the kids under his wing. He's come to the rink and been positive. He's taken a real leadership role with our team, on and off the ice. He's embraced everything we're about."


Todd Ber-tuz-zi!


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That was a great read, very nice to see he's getting the kudos he deserves. He will have to be a big factor in the playoffs for us and to read how he wants a cup is very reassuring.

*edit: To Whom it may concern: May today be the day that Todd Bertuzzi beats the piss out of Joe Thorton, please and thank you.

Edited by 13dangledangle

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Great job by Bertuzzi, I cannot say it enough. From the get go, the Wings let the Preds know they weren't going to be pushed around this time. Ericsson, Cleary, Abby, and even Miller and Emmerton upped the intensity and physical play, and we rolled to the W. Bring on Sunday :thumbup:

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Good job to bert even if he really shouldnt be the guy to answer the bell here. I wish Ericsson would grow into mor a fighting role, where he could really take on the crease crashers and answer the bell. Enough complaining, good job bert!

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Good job to bert even if he really shouldnt be the guy to answer the bell here. I wish Ericsson would grow into mor a fighting role, where he could really take on the crease crashers and answer the bell. Enough complaining, good job bert!

E's big enough to handle the job but could still improve his fighting.

But in general you don't want your D-men being the guys to lean on for that because having 1 out of the 6 of them gone for 5 minutes has a much bigger impact on the team than a forward sitting for 5.

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Good job to bert even if he really shouldnt be the guy to answer the bell here. I wish Ericsson would grow into mor a fighting role, where he could really take on the crease crashers and answer the bell. Enough complaining, good job bert!

No way on that. Bertuzzi was the perfect person to do it. He doesnt kill penalties and if you remember Franzen was being called for a penalty right then. E needed to be out there for the PK

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Decent scrap. Good message though.

Agree and disagree.

It definitely sent a good message and set the tone and hyped up the team. That said, it was far from a "decent scrap". It was a pretty lame scrap, if you could even call something like that a scrap.

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