SUN Hockey Pool

Bertuzzi should return for Flames

ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Bring up the name Todd Bertuzzi in a circle of Flames fans these days and shield yourself from the venom.

Seems all they want to talk about is his Game 6 elbowing penalty that marked the beginning of the end in that contest -- and in the first-round series.

Those same detractors will also point to his unsightly plus-minus, his Alex Tanguay-like penchant for the pass, his utter contempt for defensive play and his inability to put on the brakes and get back into the play.

They might also throw in the fact on many nights he looks disinterested, he no longer throws his weight around and he is clearly content to spend the rest of his career avoiding traffic and controversy.

People are quick to forget he was, by far, the Flames' best playmaker this year -- something that often drew frustrated fan response as his creativity regularly exceeded reasonable probabilities.

Reinventing himself after the Steve Moore incident from a menacing power forward to a perimeter passing artist, Bertuzzi's soft hands and raw talent have never been more evident.

That's not to say he's anywhere near the impact player he used to be. But the fact is, for $1.95 million, he was good value.

Of all the moves Darryl Sutter will contemplate this summer, his most intriguing may revolve around whether to re-sign the unrestricted free agent.

Truth is, Bertuzzi doesn't want to play anywhere else. After horrific experiences in Florida, Detroit and Anaheim, where his ice time was slashed and his career written off, the 34-year-old winger resurrected himself in Calgary.

He knows that and has plainly stated he wants to return.

How badly, we're about to find out.

Just like Craig Conroy did last year when he sacrificed plenty of cash to sign for $1 million a year to stay in his ideal surroundings, Bertuzzi will likely be asked to do the same.

And for $1 to 1.5 million, Bertuzzi should be kept.

Fifteen goals and 44 points in 66 games is pretty good production from a veteran at that price.

Sutter said he'll decide on all pending free agents based on their playoff showings. Big Bert wasn't great but had a goal, was plus-4 and, in Game 3, had six hits to play a big role in the win.

It's not the popular opinion, but a new coach and a new culture could help get more out of Bertuzzi if the price is right. Sutter will have more to say on that today.

Now more notes, quotes and anecdotes from a sports world wondering if the Flames would be better off with nasty ol' Iron Mike behind the bench as opposed to Mike Keenan.

PARTING GIFTS

Add Wes Heffernan to the list of those scoffing at the panic caused by the strain formerly known as Swine Flu. The Silver Springs product was in Mexico for each of the last two Canadian Tour stops and had this to say when asked by Mouthings last week if he was coming home like several of his colleagues: "It is so blown out of proportion, it is silly. It is the flu for Pete's sake. CNN is making out like it is the plague, and only seven people have died from it in like what, 115 million people? I bet more people have died from the normal flu in the last two weeks than the stupid Swine Flu. It's crazy and silly and frustrating that people aren't smarter and overreact so much." The Canadian Tour postponed last week's stop in Central Mexico and two upcoming tournaments on the Mayan Riviera ... Those who remember Miikka Kiprusoff's diving stick-save on Kyle Wellwood won't be surprised to hear it won TSN's inaugural Play of the Year as voted by viewers ... Those in the know were aware Duncan Keith was challenging for an Olympic spot, but who knew Martin Havlat had a heart, Ben Eager had speed and Dustin Byfuglien had hands?


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