February 16, 2006
Bert in no-win situation
BARRY MACDONALD -- 24 Hours Vancouver

He might be half a world away, but all eyes in this part of the world are still firmly fixed on Todd Bertuzzi.

You may have noticed he is part of the Canadian entry at the Winter Olympics in his ancestors' home and native land. Forget whether he actually deserves to be there. If Wayne Gretzky deems it so, then so be it.

Based on potential, Bertuzzi is a no-brainer. Based on his production over the past couple of NHL seasons, his place on Canada's Olympic side is debatable. Moot point. Bert is in Turin, and quite possibly in a no-win position.

Let's surmise for a moment that Bertuzzi picks up where he left off here. He applies himself sporadically, takes stupid penalties and generally appears to be wallowing in indifference. It will be open season for his critics, who will take comfort reminding anyone who will listen that he never should have been representing the red and white in the first place.

Why not Eric Staal, or Sid the Kid, or Jason Spezza?

Why take one of the biggest underachievers in recent memory over one of the best young players?

Based on his first game against Italy, Bertuzzi seems bent on rewarding Team Canada's decision makers. Okay, it was Italy, but his attitude was "amazing" according to TSN's Pierre McGuire.

He appeared to genuinely enjoy the post-game interview experience with CBC's Elliotte Friedman. He was a force on the ice.

Happy, shiny, Bert.

Which poses an interesting question. Where the hell has that been?

Bertuzzi in many ways finds himself in a no-win situation. If he continues to play well and conduct himself in an ambassadorial manner, it is fair for not only Canuck fans, but players alike to wonder why it took a trip to Turin for the big fella to rediscover himself and his game.

How could a nine-hour plane ride make such a difference? Certainly the international stage has something to do with it and the company he is keeping. But I have a tough time thinking it is not a mild slap in the face of his Canucks mates and the paying customers to find he is able to crank it up with a gold medal on the line. It is comforting to know he is capable of doing it. It is disconcerting to know he may be somewhat selective when it comes to applying the pedal to the uh, medal.

Interesting dilemma. Play well and it's "why now?" Poop the bed and it's "why is he even in Turin?"

The bottom line for Bertuzzi is that he can actually turn a no-win situation into the resurrection of his career. Be an integral part of a Team Canada gold medal performance, and build on that momentum for the rest of the NHL regular season and playoffs and all will be forgotten.

He has been given a free pass by Vancouver fans to this point. He has been supported through some very difficult times in this market. Payback doesn't have to be a bitch. It just requires effort.