Red Wings' Tyler Bertuzzi looking forward, not back, after painful season
Detroit — This will be a season that Tyler Bertuzzi isn’t going to look favorably on.
Bertuzzi was off to one of the best starts of his career when a fluke fall in a late January game in Dallas triggered something in his back.
Bertuzzi’s season basically ended several days later, and back surgery occurred on April 30.
“I’d say the season was obviously tough, and frustrating, for me,” Bertuzzi said Thursday on a Zoom media call.
Now, several weeks after the surgery, Bertuzzi is beginning the process of making sure he’ll be ready for training camp in September. And, he fully expects to be there.
“I’m feeling good right now,” Bertuzzi said. “I know it’s early but I’m looking forward to next season for training camp and for the summer ahead.
“I’m really confident. I’m feeling good.”
The collision in Dallas, the play that set in motion the season’s downfall for Bertuzzi, was innocent enough.
There was nothing, in Bertuzzi’s eyes, that was out of the ordinary.
“You wouldn’t have thought anything of it,” Bertuzzi said. “There was a (Dallas) guy coming off the wall and I hit him and just bounced off him and fell on my side. It was a weird and awkward play.
“(But) I felt it right away. My back shifted and it was weird. I tried to play the next game (against Florida). I played two periods and that was it.
“I couldn’t move.”
Bertuzzi tried several times during the shortened season to return to the lineup but wasn’t successful. The final straw came in March in Carolina, when Bertuzzi finished skating.
“I was feeing real good. I was doing pregame skates with the taxi squad and doing some drills, and slowly I was feeling pretty good,” Bertuzzi said. “Then we were starting to amp it up, and in Carolina I did a bag skate to get my cardio up and I felt good during it. But as soon as I got off (the ice), 30 minutes later, my back seized up on me again and that was the setback right there.
“It was frustrating. I was doing everything I could to get back. I had a few shots in my back that helped me come back and I was making real good progress. Then I had a little bit of a setback (in Carolina).”
Bertuzzi will stay in Detroit for the summer. If the progress continues in the short term, he could be back in the gym training within the next three weeks.
Bertuzzi is a restricted free agent this summer and he said his agent hasn’t started talks with general manager Steve Yzerman regarding a new contract (the two sides went to arbitration last summer, resolved in a one-year contract).
“The only thing we talked about was my recovery process,” Bertuzzi said.
The injury was doubly frustrating in that Bertuzzi scored five goals in the nine games he played and appeared set for a fine season.
But the back injury ended all that hope.
“That’s something that I’m going to try and build off,” Bertuzzi said. “It was frustrating to watch the guys go out there every night and not be out there. I’ll do everything I can to build off (that start) and have a fresh start next season.”
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier can be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the veteran wouldn't mind staying with the Red Wings.
"My family and I really like it here," Bernier said on a Zoom call. "I feel comfortable at the rink and on the ice. For me, it would be a number one choice. But it all depends on where Steve wants to head next — if he wants to keep me or wants to try somebody else.
"But definitely I want to stay here."
Bernier had a second consecutive fine season, going 9-11-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .914 save percentage.
Having been through three losing seasons with the Wings, Bernier wants to be part of the build back to a contender status.
"When I signed, I didn't see (Henrik) Zetterberg retiring that year, but I knew they were going to that stage," Bernier said. "It's a great challenge as a goalie. You can make the rebuild faster if you're playing well and get some wins. I lived it in Toronto and the one thing I regret is going through the pain but not being there when they're getting better.
"That's one of the reasons I want to stay here. The pain we went through the last couple of years, I finally see we're getting better and we have some great young guys.
"I can see we're headed in the right direction. I want to stay here and see the process toward the end."
There were many protocols, rules and regulations for this NHL season to get completed.
Forward Luke Glendening credited Piet Van Zant, the team's head athletic therapist, for making sure everyone did what was necessary to keep the season going.
"He was in charge of implementing the rules and it wasn't his favorite thing to do, but he did a great job," Glendening said. "As a group of players and staff, we all knew if we wanted to get through the season, we had to follow these rules. Maybe we didn't agree with every one of them and didn't think they were completely necessary, but they did a great job of making sure everyone was safe.
"It was a difficult season in the sense you're in your hotel room a lot when you're on the road and there's not much you can do. But at the same time, everyone in the league is going through the same thing."
Count Glendening, an East Grand Rapids native, as another veteran who would like to stay in the organization.
"Wearing the winged wheel has been a dream since I first started playing hockey, and maybe even before," Glendening said. "I never knew if it was going to be a reality, but it was something I always dreamed of. Every day I come to the rink to and get to put that sweater on, it's a special day for me.
"I'd love to be part of this moving forward."