Bert coulda ... shoulda ... didn't

BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

It wasn't an if, it was a when. And the when arrived last Friday for Todd Bertuzzi.

His mercurial, unforgettable tenure as a Vancouver Canuck came to a not-so-sudden halt when Dave Nonis was able to consummate a deal with Mike Keenan in Florida.

Todd Bertuzzi gone, but certainly not soon to be forgotten.

His legacy? Coulda ... shoulda ... didn't.

Maybe the worst thing Bertuzzi ever did here was score 46 goals, obliterate anyone in his path, and clearly emerge as the best power forward in the game.

When he was good, he was hall-of-fame good. He could dominate a game whenever he felt like it. Ask Barrett Jackman or Bryce Salvador. Ask Brendan Morrison or Markus Naslund. We saw the convergence of potential and ability and it was something very special. But for whatever reason, it didn't last.

March 8, 2004 had something to do with that. But I have never subscribed to that theory, because Bertuzzi had not played well leading up to the incident.

He had 17 goals with less than a month left in the regular season. He had already shown the annoying side to his game, where he seemed to be almost selective as to when he would show up. It was grating to watch a player who could be dominant whenever he chose to, not choose to do it often enough.

This market has never tolerated a player who would compromise his effort ... who would apply the blue-collar element whenever the spirit moved him. Eventually Bertuzzi's act wore awfully thin here. And Dave Nonis did what he had to do.

Please don't worry about Bertuzzi turning into the next Cam Neely. If it happens, it happens, but don't bet on it. I think Bertuzzi will be a better player in Florida and that the expectations of this market will happily fade away in his rear view mirror. But even if he scores 150 goals this season, remember it would not have happened here. If there is ever a player who needed a fresh start it is Todd Bertuzzi.

He was past his best-before date in Vancouver, and another year of his act would have been untenable. He might have taken more than his share of blame at times, but I have a very clear recollection of one former teammate telling me that Bertuzzi was "the most selfish player" he had ever been around.

This will be the deal that could very well define the Nonis regime here in Vancouver. He flushes Bert, and acquires Roberto Luongo for the goalie graveyard. Moving Bertuzzi was addition by subtraction ... getting Luongo, while maybe not a stroke of genius, was a bold strike given how many other teams coveted him. This is not Neely for Barry Pederson. This is an underachieving, malcontent trade for a player considered by many to be the best at his position. Full of confidence, void of attitude, excited to be in a hockey-mad market. As Bert might say, "It is what it is." And for the Canucks, what it is, is a steal of a deal.


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