Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Bertuzzi: the early returns

An anonymous commenter asked Matt the other day why he thinks Bertuzzi has been bad so far.

It's a fair question, considering his okay offensive counting stats. The big guy has already scored 7 goals, half of his total from last year. He's also shown up on some highlight reels, especially the defense-splitting deke in Anaheim the other night.

The truth is, Bertuzzi has been crappy and lucky so far. His seven goals and one redemptive play/game are deceiving. Digging just below the surface reveals some pretty ugly underlying results.

Lucky -

Sore Thumb has 7 goals on just 26 shots, good for a 26.9% shooting rate. Can you say "unsustainable"? His career average is around 14 and his career best is 18.9%, which came during his 46 goal campaign back in 02/03 when he and Naslund were tearing things up.

His relatively low shot total isn't the aberration here. He has historically been a 2 shot/game player (1728 career shots in 805 games), with his highest total again coming during that career season (253 shots in 82 games). He had just 121 shots on net as a Duck last year in 68 games. Like Tanguay before him, Bertuzzi is a pass-first kind of player.

What this means is he probably isn't going to maintain this scoring pace, or anything near it. His SH% will correct itself eventually and it's not like he'll start putting a bunch more pucks on net to compensate.

Crappy -

It's Bertuzzi's 7 goals that have kept the hounds of public opinion at bay so far. Aside from that (resulting in a decent PP scoring rate) the big man has been mediocre to abysmal. Unlike his goal total, that team worst plus/minus rating is no fluke.

Here are his advanced ES stats. He's getting outshot and outscored at ES, despite enjoying excellent linemates. His production rate is terrible (1.05) as is the club's GF/60 efficiency with him on the ice (1.05). Take a look at that last number again - it's the lowest on the entire team. Keep in mind, this guy plays with Iginla a lot.

Basically, Bertuzzi is bottom of the barrel in almost all ES statistical categories so far. That's despite his ridiculous shooting percentage and playing with Jarome. How are his numbers going to look when he snaps back down to the mean?

Let's give the Devil his due - the one place Bert has been effective has been the PP. He's hovering over 5 PPP/60 with the extra man and that's where a majority of his "legit" markers (read: goals that didnt bounce of his skate or the shaft of his stick) have come. Still, that number is inflated by his 4.45 PP goals/60 figure. To put that in context, Alexander Ovechkin scored 3.03 goals/60 minutes of PP ice last year. Henrik Zetterberg was at about 2.89. You dig?

One place I expect Bertuzzi to improve, however, is assists. For all his faults, Bertuzzi still has decent hands and vision. If he's been unlucky in any area thus far it's probably in the first assist column and he's bound to start getting results there eventually. Do I expect that to assuage his weaknesses and the eventual fall off once his shooting rate corrects itself? Not really.

Overall, I think this means two things: Bertuzzi is dragging Iginla down and he needs to be sheltered more (take a look at Jaromes ES stats - they stink too). The problem is, we all know Keenan has an irrational man crush on the Big Guy and might be blind to his various faults. I can only hope that Mike will move Bertuzzi away from Iginla once the SH% drops and it becomes obvious Sore Thumb is the weakest link.