Wednesday, June 13, 2007

WOA - Forwards: Bert

The Wings situation at forward is pretty simple at the moment. Here are the guys they have under contract:



I think this makes for a pretty weak 4th line (well, depending on how Grigorenko does) but honestly it's respectable and really becomes dangerous if the Wings can manage to split up Datsyuk and Zetterberg and spread the wealth. You can then have Cleary in the Top 6, move Kopecky to the Grind Line, and have a very good fourth line of Huds-Val-Grigorenko. This having been said, though, most agree that the Wings should bring in a Top 6-type talent, preferably power forward, to bolster this unit and keep the kids competing for their ice time. With a lot of money undoubtedly going towards keeping the Wings D unit among the best in the league (whether it's retaining Schneider and/or Markov, and/or bringing in a UFA) and the likelihood that Hasek will recieve at least a modest raise (my guess: 1.5M in base salary, 1.5M in bonuses), the Wings don't have much to spend on such a forward. But as it happens, they've got the exact guy they want, and for a few reasons, he'll probably fit right into their price range.

Todd Bertuzzi

Bert comes cheap for a number of reasons: 1) the ghost of Steve Moore's playing career following him, 2) his reputation as a goon and lockerroom cancer, 3) the fact that he's coming off of back surgery and 4) the fact that he hasn't done much lately (see 3). I think a reasonable offer would be for this guy to get in the range of 1.25M-2M, probably at 1.5M. There's a couple of reasons the Wings should do this:

First of all, he is going to get NO offers in the NHL. Maybe one or two teams will be insane enough offer him a relatively lucrative deal, but I really don't see it happening. With the Steve Moore thing and the possible negative reaction from fanbases, and the injury... I mean come on. Who is going to pay this guy. No one.

Second of all, he likes it here, he's near to his home, and he undoubtedly would not mind being a relatively low-profile guy on a team with enough star power to keep attention away from him. He doesn't have to do much, and no one's going to blame him if things aren't going great. Oh yeah, and this team is probably his best shot at a Cup.

Third of all, his personality issues become null and void on this team. It's kind of like Rasheed Wallace with the Pistons where he was a "bad apple" but on a team otherwise full of good guys, his influence is negated. In fact, I think the situation here is even better than that. I don't just think that Bert's negative influence is going to be nullified by the strong lockerroom here, I think he's actually going to turn into a good teammate. This lockerroom is that cohesive, that bulletproof. You saw it at the end of last year, with Bert towing the company line and deferring to others.

Now, what needs to happen for this to be a successful marriage? First of all, Bert does need to step up a bit. We saw his yeti-like rage just starting to show in the playoffs last year, and hopefully getting healthy and in good game shape is all he needs to re-emerge as a physical terror. But there is a sense in which Bert was a little awed by this team's style of play, to the point where he was passing the puck way too much, probably in an attempt to fit in. Even if Bert isn't "The Man" on this team (and he shouldn't be), I think he should be the man on whatever line he is on, at least as far as goal-scoring goes. His soft hands are underrated, and no doubt he should continue to look for the open man, but I think teaming him up with a pure playmaker is in the team's best interest as it will force him to go to the net and shoot. I think Bert would be great on a line with Datsyuk. If Bert defers to him, Pavs will just defer right back. Throw in Sammy, who can also benefit from Pav's passing, and I think you've got a recipe for success.

Next up: how can the Wings get Ryan Smyth?