SUN Hockey Pool

Defence Bert's undoing

The Wings are hoping Todd Bertuzzi will fit in with their flashy puck-control philosophy. (Sun...

The Wings are hoping Todd Bertuzzi will fit in with their flashy puck-control philosophy. (Sun Media/Al Charest)

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:16 AM ET

The break-up is official.

Wanting desperately to return to Calgary after his first and only season in Flames silks, Todd Bertuzzi learned quickly the feeling wasn't mutual.

His phone was ringing, but not from the 403 area code.

So, pending a physical examination that earns him a passing grade, Big Bert is off to the Motor City to join the Detroit Red Wings.

The first thought on many Flames fans' minds? Good riddance.

News of Bertuzzi's second stint with the Wings had barely been posted to the web before e-mails began to arrive suggesting the 2008 Stanley Cup champion's downward spiral has begun.

Some, although not as eager to make their feelings public, feel the Flames are missing out.

It brings back memories of last summer, when the Flames announced the Bertuzzi signing.

Reactions and opinions were all over the map. All strongly voiced.

Infamous for the Steve Moore incident and an often surly personality when dealing with the media ever since, many considered booing him -- a few did -- when he hit Saddledome ice for the first time.

Others chose to give him a second chance, following the lead set by captain Jarome Iginla, who lobbied management to make the addition.

Scoring five times in the first five games of the season and racking up 14 points over his first 17 contests as a Flame, people started to forgive and forget.

But his lack of defensive awareness and goal-scoring struggles for long stretches after his hot start led to the team's decision to let him test the free-agent waters this summer.

Brilliant in shootouts, his slick moves and touch with the puck are unmatched even by many of the youngsters taking over the league.

But there are no one-on-one showdowns deciding playoff games, and the post-season was Bertuzzi's last chance to show he deserved another campaign with the Flames.

GM Darryl Sutter obviously didn't see enough in the spring to bring the veteran back.

What he saw was the 34-year-old's penchant for taking bad penalties, and a 6-foot-3, 231-pounder who didn't play very physically for his size.

And that was even before knee surgery in March took away some of the jump and offensive skill that made up for that fact.

Sidelined for nearly the entire month of March after a procedure to clean out some tissue around his knee, Bertuzzi never got back up to speed.

The Wings are hoping he'll fit in with their flashy puck-control philosophy.

Known more for giveaways courtesy of silly blind passes than a tendency to carry the puck end to end, the fans in Hockeytown may quickly discover during Bertuzzi's second stint wearing the winged wheel that he doesn't make regular appearances behind his own blueline.

Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are two of the most talented two-way stars in the game.

Maybe they'll rub off on the big lug.

If they don't, fans in Detroit will become as bitter as those in Calgary did over Bertuzzi's minus-13 rating last season -- despite decent offensive totals of 15 goals and 44 points in 66 games as a Flame.

Making defence the top priority once again this summer, it's no wonder Sutter decided the negatives outweighed the positives when it comes to Bertuzzi.


Videos

Photos