There were a lot of questions coming into the season about the kind of impact that Tyler Bertuzzi would have. Whether it be the recovery of off-season back surgery or the announcement of Bertuzzi being the NHL’s lone unvaccinated player and would be unable to play in Canada, he has been able to answer those so far this season questions. When Bertuzzi has been on the ice this season, he’s arguably been Detroit’s best player.
Bertuzzi’s Season So Far
Bertuzzi is on pace to blow past his previous career-high of 48 points as he is currently on pace for 72 points as he has 19 goals and 17 assists for 36 points in only 34 games played. As polarizing as a stat plus/minus is, Bertuzzi is has a plus/minus rating of +14, which is the highest on the team. For a team with only seven other players that are even or positive and have a goal differential of -26, Bertuzzi’s +14 is impressive.
The Red Wings have felt the effects of Bertuzzi being in the lineup and when he is out of the lineup. When Bertuzzi has been out of the lineup, the Red Wings have struggled and have a record of 2-6 and been outscored 38-23. With Bertuzzi in the lineup, they are 16-12-6 but still being outscored 90 -101. That differential is no fault of Bertuzzi, as he has factored in on 40% of the goals the Red Wings have scored when he has played. From Natural Stat Trick, Bertuzzi ranks 1st among Red Wings and 8th in the entire NHL in Goals For % with 65.96 %, as when Bertuzzi is on the ice at even-strength, the Red Wings have outscored their opponents 31-16.
From the start of the season until recently, Bertuzzi was on the top line with Dylan Larkin and star-rookie Lucas Raymond. Bertuzzi and Larkin have been linemates for large parts of each other’s careers and have found success in the past. With Raymond’s preseason performance with Larkin and Bertuzzi’s chemistry with Larkin, Blashill decided to make the trio the first line opening night. It ended up paying off pretty well for the Red Wings.
The line of Bertuzzi-Larkin-Raymond has only played 29 games together due to Larkin and Bertuzzi missing stretches throughout the season. In those games, the Red Wings have scored 68 goals, and the trio has factored in on 37 of those (54%). According to Money Puck, the line is 3rd in the NHL for lines playing over 250 minutes in expected goals per 60 minutes with 2.89.
Due to the lack of production past the first line, Jeff Blashill recently moved Bertuzzi to the second line to play with Pius Suter and Robby Fabbri. The trio all played for the Guelph Storm of the OHL and spent some time together on the same line. In one of those games, the line exploded offensively as the trio factored in on 8 of the 9 Guelph Storm goals in a 9-4 win against the London Knights. Tyler Bertuzzi set a franchise record with 7 points in a single game(2 G and 5 A), while Suter and Fabbri each added a hat-trick with 2 and 3 assists, respectively.
So far through 4 games, the lineup change has paid off very well. With the new second line, the Red Wings have gone 2-1-1, and the “Guelph Line” has been the main contributor. Tyler Bertuzzi, through those four games, has two goals and six assists, Robby Fabbri has two goals and an assist, and Pius Suter has a goal. Bertuzzi has proven that even without Larkin at times this season, he is able to be a driver offensively and produce. Robby Fabbri is a guy who needed a spark offensively, and with Bertuzzi on his line, he has looked like a different player. Between Bertuzzi and Fabbri, there is pre-existing chemistry dating back to the OHL that hasn’t really been displayed in Detroit. Last Friday versus Dallas, Bertuzzi made the perfect pass to set up Fabbri in the first period.
Bertuzzi quickly looks over his shoulder and sees Fabbri for a split second, and finds him cross-ice for the goal. Don’t be fooled by Suter’s single goal. He has had plenty of chances to score, especially in the last game versus Buffalo, where he was robbed by Sabre’s netminder Aaron Dell twice on the backdoor. The “Guelph Line” has given the Red Wings more than just one line that can consistently be a threat to score, and that’s largely due to Bertuzzi’s ability to drive offense.
Where Bertuzzi Sits Among the NHL
Bertuzzi has been a streaky player throughout his career, and this season has been the same story. Bertuzzi started the season on fire, as in his ten games, he had nine goals and six assists, including his 4-goal home opener versus Tampa Bay. In the next 11 games, Bertuzzi cooled off with only three assists over that time. With increased attention on the top line, Bertuzzi struggled to create consistent offense. Bertuzzi would end his goalless drought on December 16th in Carolina, which saw him score a goal in his usual style, right around the crease.
Often with the best goal scorers in the NHL, all it takes is for one puck to go in for them to go on a hot streak. After this goal, Bertuzzi is currently on one of the hottest streaks in the entire league. Since December 16th, Bertuzzi has played 13 games and has nine goals and eight assists for 17 points, which ties him for the 8th best in that time with the likes of Brad Marchand and Timo Meier. Jeff Blashill pointed out in a recent press conference that over the past couple of weeks, Bertuzzi has made a better effort to see plays develop and make them happen versus throwing the puck and hoping something happens.
Tyler Bertuzzi’s season so far has put him among some of the NHL’s best players in terms of production. He currently sits top-20 in the league in goals and 8th among left-wingers. The players that Bertuzzi is behind are perennial All-Stars, such as Alex Ovechkin, Brad Marchand, and Filip Forsberg. With the impact that Bertuzzi has made both when he has been in and out of the lineup, there is an argument to be had that he could have been Detroit’s All-Star.
Steve Yzerman will have a decision to make in a year on how to approach Bertuzzi’s next contract. With the way he’s playing now, Bertuzzi has made it a real possibility that he could be making upwards of $8 million a year when his current contract expires. With Larkin’s contract expiring the same year Raymond and Seider’s entry-level contracts the next year, there will be a lot of money and term to figure out. The last two contract negotiations between the Red Wings and Bertuzzi have led to an arbitration reward of one year and a two-year deal last summer, which is concerning. There is an injury risk that comes with signing a player that plays the style that Bertuzzi does long-term.
Bertuzzi has shown his value to the team this season and is well worth holding on to for the future at the right price and term. Tyler Bertuzzi has proven he is an underrated star in the NHL, and it will be very interesting what decisions will be made regarding his future.