Detroit Red Wings: Todd Bertuzzi Deal Could Be Brilliance or Blunder

Matt Hutter@mahutter12Analyst IJune 17, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 08:  Todd Bertuzzi #44 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrates after Brian Rafalski scored in the second period past Evgeni Nabokov #20 of the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on May 8, 2010 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Many wayward NHL players have come to Detroit and eventually ended their careers as Red Wings.

Dallas Drake, Steve Duchesne, Jamie Macoun, and Larry Murphy to name a few.

Apparently, Todd Bertuzzi will add his name to that list.

On Wednesday, the 35-year-old winger signed a two-year deal to stay with the Red Wings through the 2011-2012 season.

The move is hardly a surprise, as both Bertuzzi and the Red Wings expressed their mutual desire to remain attached mid-way through last season.

The Red Wings liked the work ethic and physical presence Bertuzzi brought to the team, and Bertuzzi and his family truly felt they had found a home in Detroit. They had no interest in leaving.

Bertuzzi posted 44 points and played in all 82 games last season. He also contributed 11 points in 12 playoff games.

Respectable numbers for a guy earning just $1.5 million.

Apparently, they were more than respectable. Indeed, they led to a raise.

As unsurprising as it is to hear that Bertuzzi will remain a Detroit Red Wing, the $750,000 raise he'll be earning next year should furrow some eyebrows.

The two-year deal Bertuzzi signed will pay him $2.25 million next season and $1.625 in 2011-12.

Now, while these are hardly eye-popping numbers, they suggest one of two things. Either the Red Wings are convinced Bertuzzi will improve on his play of last season, or they just over-payed for a player in decline.

Let's consider the former scenario first.

With the amount of offensive talent lost the previous summer, and the unprecedented number of injuries to key players throughout the season, even Detroit's two best offensive players, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, could not perform at their usual, successful levels.

Both saw their offensive numbers decline significantly from seasons past.

While having a dearth of offensive support around them obviously impacted their numbers, Detroit's secondary scoring took a hit as well.

The Red Wings underperformed offensively in 2009-10.

Bertuzzi was one of the few exceptions.

Though he performed up to the 40-point level that GM Ken Holland hoped he would, when Bertuzzi scored those points, he proved more valuable than the points themselves.

Through the first few weeks of December 2009, when the injury bug really started biting Detroit, Bertuzzi was the one player who consistently carried the offensive flag into battle.

He single-handedly won back-to-back OT games against Anaheim and Nashville and even provided a spark to a healthy, yet struggling Pavel Datsyuk.

Those wins were huge for the Red Wings at the time, and Bertuzzi knew it.

His commitment to stepping up at the right time was evidenced months later in the playoffs.

Facing a 3-0 deficit in their second-round series against the San Jose Sharks, the Red Wings tried to avoid being swept for the first time since 2003 at home in Game Four.

Now, most people will remember Johan Franzen's four-goal, two-assist explosion.

However, what some will forget is that Bertuzzi also chipped in with five points (1 G, 4 A) of his own.

It was a huge game and Bertuzzi was equal to the task.

Additionally, the Wings offensive woes from last season are not likely to repeat themselves in 2010-11.

As long as Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, and Johan Franzen remain healthy, Bertuzzi should have plenty of top-end talent to support.

Additionally, with the return of Jiri Hudler, Bertuzzi may find a new partner with which to create some offensive magic (I'm not sure why, but something tells me those two would be great together).

All of this taken together could mean that Bertuzzi, recovered from debilitating back injuries, surgeries, and a bruised-psyche following the Steve Moore Incident in 2004, is indeed an aging, yet ascending offensive force and thus, is worthy of the raise he received.

Now, let's take a look at the other possibility, that Ken Holland has just over-payed for a player who, at best, will only repeat his performance from the previous year.

Looking back to Bertuzzi's past three seasons with Anaheim, Calgary, and Detroit, respectively, he's been a consistent 40-point contributor.

However, it's important to note that his points per game actually declined last season.

His average points per game in 2007-08 was 0.6 (40 points in 68 games), in 2008-09 it was 0.7 (44 points in 66 games) and last season, it dropped to 0.5 (44 points in 82 games).

While it's great that Bertuzzi played all 82 games (the first time he's done that since 2005-06), it could be a bit disconcerting that he wasn't able to do more offensively in those contests than he had in fewer games over the past couple seasons.

But, let's just take a step back from the numbers and look at this logically.

Is it even reasonable to assume that a 35-year-old player is actually going to play better at 36 or 37?

The raise Ken Holland gave Bertuzzi seems to suggests thiat assumption, but it flies in the face of reason that an aging player playing a decidedly "young man's game" will outperform himself as he get's older.

Bottom line, Todd Bertuzzi is a good fit in Detroit and, barring injury, should continue to be a solid secondary player.

However, whether or not his pay raise was justified is something none of us will know until next season.

Hopefully, Ken Holland knows it now.


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