Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Bertuzzi’s impact on the Leafs is starting to be felt
By Shane Seney1 month ago
It hasn’t always been easy and it ain’t always pretty, but there’s no denying the fact, Tyler Bertuzzi is quickly becoming an impact player for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Bertuzzi was a huge part of the Leafs 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night and is starting to gain his coach’s attention, and more importantly, confidence. Sheldon Keefe has been praising ‘Bert’ a ton lately and rightfully so; the pesky winger has been producing, collecting seven points in his last seven games. It’s not always ‘how many’ but more so ‘how’ with Bertuzzi, who never gives up on the play and does things a little unorthodox sometimes:
Bertuzzi loves to battle, he loves to muck it up in the dirty areas of the ice and against the Kings, he even put hockey tape on his stick for parts of the game. Imagine that? A hockey player using hockey tape, seems reasonable.
Bertuzzi Has Turned Things Around
Bertuzzi was given the absolute golden ticket out of training camp as Keefe had him penciled in on the top line alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. It was obvious early that Bertuzzi wasn’t playing his game and was too worried about finding his linemates when he should have been carrying the play more.
With only three points in his first 12 games as a Maple Leaf, the Sudbury, ON native was feeling the heat, and Keefe started moving him up and down the lineup. Now 35 games into the season, Bertuzzi has found a home on the second line with William Nylander and John Tavares and the trio is starting to create some majestic chemistry.
Bertuzzi’s an underrated passer and he’s as crafty as they come. He thinks the game at a very high and skillful level and can see the play develop, which allows for him to make a quick pass in tight quarters or chip it up to his teammates in stride. It’s a talent and not necessarily how everyone on the roster ‘thinks’ the game. Even though he’s not the fastest skater and doesn’t necessarily have all the tools someone like Matthews or Nylander have, he’s exactly what the doctor ordered for the Leafs top six and is doing a fine job replacing Michael Bunting.
Leafs Must Re-Sign Bertuzzi Long-Term
It doesn’t need to be eight years like we’ll likely see Nylander get on his expected extension, but Brad Treliving would be smart to get to work on drafting a contract extension for one of his first signings as Maple Leafs’ GM. Bertuzzi deserves to stick around Toronto and something around four-to-five years is likely long enough to get an agreement from both sides.
Bertuzzi plays a rugged game and he’s not necessarily the fleetest of foot, so it would be a risk to give him, say, $5.5 million AAV until he’s 34 or 35. However, signing the soon-to-be 29-year-old for four more seasons wouldn’t be as bad. It would cover the prime of his career and give the Leafs a one-two punch of Matthew Knies and Bertuzzi up the left side of their top six for many years to come. With the likes of Matthews who is inked long term, and Marner, Tavares and Nylander all likely sticking around, Toronto’s top six could essentially be set for the foreseeable future which is an absolute ideal situation for all involved.
‘Playoff Bert’ Should Be Fun to Watch
While he hasn’t played a ton of Stanley Cup Playoff games, as he was in dismal Detroit for parts of seven seasons, when Bertuzzi has suited up in the postseason, he’s been dominant.
After the trade to the Boston Bruins last season for their playoff push, Bertuzzi quickly worked his way up the B’s lineup and became their biggest threat offensively. He was creating plays, doing all the necessarily little things to win, but unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for his Boston teammates. Bertuzzi recorded 10 points in seven games during the Bruins first-round series against the Florida Panthers and showcased his ability to elevate his game when they start to matter the most. His playing style is perfect for the playoffs and it’s going to be fun to watch how he’ll be able to impact games all over the ice in many different ways.
The transition to a Maple Leaf hasn’t been the easiest for Bertuzzi, and even early on he admitted it was going to take some time to adjust. He wasn’t sure what his long-term future held and was open to trying the spotlight in Toronto. Right now, #59 is shining bright.
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