Tyler Bertuzzi is poised to have a monster season with the Maple Leafs
Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
By Shane Seney2 months ago
Tyler Bertuzzi is in line to have a massive season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. We’ve seen this story written before and yes, there’s a sense that history is going to repeat and maybe even exceed itself.
When Bertuzzi signed a one-year deal with the Leafs for $5.5 million, it made a ton of sense. Toronto had lost Michael Bunting via free agency to the Carolina Hurricanes, and general manager Brad Treliving knew he was going to need to find someone who could step in a play a left-wing role among the Leafs’ top two lines. More specifically, Bunting was at his best when he played with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and now, Bertuzzi is given the golden ticket and it’s his job to run away with it. Bertuzzi and Bunting play a very similar in-your-face style and they aren’t afraid to mix it up and drag their linemates into the fight.
The numbers speak for themselves when it comes to just how much your numbers can inflate when you play alongside two of the best forwards in the entire league. Bunting’s career best before joining the Leafs was 13 points in 21 games as he had only appeared in 26 NHL games before signing a two-year, $1.9 million contract with Toronto in the summer of 2021. Then-GM Kyle Dubas knew Bunting from his days in junior playing under Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe, so the fit made a ton of sense. It worked, and now the same is being said about Bertuzzi.
Bunting’s numbers skyrocketed in his first year, putting up 63 points in 79 games while playing alongside Matthews and Marner. Bertuzzi should be able to produce at this clip and potentially even more as he has more offensive tools in the bag.
If the Maple Leafs’ new first-line winger is able to stay healthy, with how much Matthews and Marner produce at 5v5, something in the realm of ~80 points isn’t at all out of the question. Of course, that’s if Bertuzzi stays on a line with them. He’ll be starting the season there from all accounts, but Keefe has shown in the past he’s never shy to mix things up, even when it doesn’t seem like a change is necessary.
At 28 years old, Bertuzzi is in the prime of his career. He didn’t want to talk about it at his first media availability, but Sportsnet insider Elliotte Friedman believes that there was mutual interest in a long-term extension at the time he signed his one-year deal – they just didn’t have the money to make it work at the time. He’ll be motivated as ever to prove to Treliving and the Leafs they made the right decision and it’s early, but the coaching staff has already shown a ton of confidence in his game to throw him the carrot of first-line duties.
All the stars feel aligned. Perfect complimentary piece to two superstars. A contract year as extra motivation. A coaching staff who believes in him. A chance at a career-best season on the horizon. What else could Bertuzzi want?
Second Power-Play Time Coming
While it will take an injury to somebody on the top unit, or perhaps a lengthy dry spell, Bertuzzi is slated to start on the Maple Leafs’ second power-play unit once the regular season opens up on Oct.11 against the Montreal Canadiens. For now, at least.
Bertuzzi has shown in the past he’s capable of producing with the man advantage, registering a career-best 14 power-play points in his last full season in Detroit and with another five points 21 games with the Bruins. He turned it on in the playoffs, collecting an impressive six power-play points in seven playoff games with the Bruins. After a historic regular season, the Bruins were eliminated by the Florida Panthers, but nobody in Boston was pointing the finger at Bertuzzi. He was one of the team’s best players when the games mattered most and if you ask a member of their fan base, they’ll likely tell you their feelings got hurt when he jumped ship for the rival Maple Leafs.
It’s likely Bertuzzi starts alongside Max Domi, Matthew Knies, Morgan Rielly and Timothy Liljegren on the Leafs second unit. Perhaps one of the deeper second units Toronto has had in a very long time.
Bertuzzi on the Maple Leafs makes all the sense in the world and kudos to Treliving for making it happen. The Sudbury, ON native will bring his lunch-pail attitude to each game. While he may not be super comfy with dealing with the Toronto media, Bertuzzi’s game will be doing all the necessary talking once the puck drops on opening night.
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