About a decade ago, Pavel Datsyuk, Boyd Devereaux/Henrik Zetterberg and Brett Hull formed the “two kids and a goat” line for the Detroit Red Wings. Around that time, Todd Bertuzzi was coming into his own as a premier power forward with the Vancouver Canucks.
A lot has changed since then. Bertuzzi earned some fantastic honors (two All-Star appearances, love from fantasy hockey owners for his tendency to score goals and take penalties) before things fell apart after that ugly incident with Steve Moore in 2004. Meanwhile, on the Red Wings’ side, Hull eventually retired, Devereaux faded from the picture and you probably are well aware of how things turned out for Datsyuk and Zetterberg. (If you need clarification: things turned out extremely well for those two “kids.”)
All these years later, Bertuzzi’s found a mild dose of redemption as a decent top-six forward in Detroit, but it looks like he’ll play more of a third line role in 2011-12. Apparently that means he’ll tag along with two rambunctious youngsters in Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader (both 24). To Helene St. James, that means that Bertuzzi-Helm-Abdelkader might just represent the next version of the “two kids and a goat” line.
“It’s a little bit different, but at the same time, you’ve got to have some respect for Helmer and Abby,” Bertuzzi said. “They’re two tremendous players, young kids trying to establish themselves in the league and all that. They offer a lot. They’ve got a lot of speed and they work hard, so it’s just going to be something that if that’s where I’m slotted in, I just have to adjust my game and find a way to complement them.”
Bertuzzi and Helm sit next to each other at Joe Louis Arena and get along very well. Helm had just the right amount of glint in his eyes when he was asked about his new right winger, replying, “I hope I can match his speed and intensity. I wasn’t on the ice when he scored today, so maybe that’s what needs to happen. No, hopefully we can find a way to click. I think we can be a good line. Bert and Abby have more offensive upside than I do, but I think we can be a line that can shut teams down and also contribute.”
(I guess this means that we’ll probably need to wait at least another season for a spiritual sequel to “The Grind Line,” at least if this trio sticks.)
Without seeing that interesting mix in action, the idea might have some legs. Bertuzzi is nowhere near the physical force he once was – possibly because he wants to avoid being cast as a villain again – but he still boasts impressive size. That being said, the best asset he’ll bring to a mostly-grinding line is his soft hands. Helm is particularly well known for possessing blazing speed yet suffering from a general inability to finish the great chances his legs create, so maybe having Bertuzzi around could fill in the blanks.
On the flip side, Bertuzzi is also known for taking his fair share of bad penalties. There could be some concern that his mental lapses might drag down his younger, defensive-minded partners.
Of course, the Red Wings have a few weeks to iron out the wrinkles or throw out that idea altogether. Don’t be surprised if this odd mix ends up being a subtle success during a pivotal season in Detroit, though.