Wings’ Bertuzzi trades Griffins’ run for more training

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — There’s no question part of Tyler Bertuzzi would like to be there, in Grand Rapids, trying to help his buddies in whatever way he could.

The Red Wings had the option of sending Bertuzzi — the AHL playoffs Most Valuable Player last year while leading Grand Rapids to the Calder Cup — but decided against it.

Rather than feeding Bertuzzi more playoff hockey — Bertuzzi had 19 points (nine goals) in 19 playoff games with the Griffins last year — the organization felt he’d be better off resting, then beginning a summer of strength and conditioning.

“The positive in this case is he gets at least an extra month of getting after it in training,” coach Jeff Blashill said when the Red Wings broke for the offseason. “My (advice) to him was you have to get bigger, stronger, faster. Find a strength and sprinting coach that can help you do those things.

“Get a skating coach that is going to help you get that much quicker. If he can do those things, he’ll be that much a better player next year.”

It was obvious listening to Bertuzzi the final days of the regular season, going to Grand Rapids would be just fine.

Certainly it wouldn’t feel like a chore or demotion. The Griffins have a tight group, and Bertuzzi has quite a few friends he communicates with.

“I still have a lot of good buddies down there,” Bertuzzi said. “It stinks obviously not going down to battle with them in playoffs, but I kind of want to focus on a good summer and coming back to training camp ready.”

Bertuzzi has been limited the past two summers while recovering from grueling Griffins playoff runs.

“I’ve been kind of hurt to start the summer and that kind of delayed training,” Bertuzzi said. “Last year we made a long playoff run and I was hurt. This is a big opportunity for me to take advantage of a long summer in the gym.”

Bertuzzi was expected to make the Red Wings’ roster out of training camp, but a wrist injury prevented that.

He finally reached the NHL to stay in late December, and gradually earned more ice time. When Tomas Tatar was dealt to Vegas at the trade deadline, a prominent role opened for Bertuzzi.

In 48 games, Bertuzzi had 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists), with five of the seven goals coming in the Red Wings’ final eight games.

“Down the stretch I had a lot of fun,” said Bertuzzi, who was on a line with Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist. “It was fun to play with Z and Gus. (They) make it a lot easier. They’re fun to be around.”

Blashill feels a productive summer in the gym will help Bertuzzi’s development.

At 6 feet, 190 pounds, Bertuzzi isn’t the biggest player around, and his speed and quickness isn’t elite level, either.

But Bertuzzi has great instincts, is willing to battle and scrap for any kind of success, and that elevates him over many other players.

“He’s a rink rat type of hockey player, he’s smart, his game is better than maybe his physical attributes right now,” Blashill said. “Every night he goes against guys that are probably a little bit stronger and faster, every night.

“And he finds a way with his mind and his will to make that up and become a positive impact in the game.

“Just think if he matched those guys in physical attributes, if he’s as strong and as fast as a lot of those guys he is going up against. He’ll be that much better.”