Much is made about our summer pre-season predictions by both press and fans – and if the home team is seen to have gotten short shrift, we hear about it. Now, I’m not going to wade into the minutiae of the debates, but let’s just say we’re not pulling names out of a hat here.
And though many factors can swing a team’s fortunes in one direction or another, I can safely say this: Detroit just eighty-sixed its chances at getting back to the Stanley Cup final this season.
It’s only August, you say? No matter. The Red Wings just signed left winger Todd Bertuzzi to a one-year contract, which means for the 2009-10 season, the Wings will, in fact, be cursed.
Nothing against Detroit; it’s just (pseudo) science.
For a reason I need not remind any hockey fan of, the infamous Bertuzzi has worn the mark of Cain from the hockey gods since 2004. Since the Steve Moore attack, the one-time 97-point scorer has gone through five different address changes and this will be his second stint in Detroit.
Red Wings brass is pretty infallible, but should GM Ken Holland and friends not have learned the first time around? That would be in 2007, when Detroit picked up Bertuzzi for a Stanley Cup run that ended prematurely in the Western Conference final with a series loss to the eventual champion Anaheim Ducks. That would be the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Red Wings (shared with Buffalo), who had home-ice advantage in the series and would win the Cup the following season – once Bertuzzi was gone.
Though I wish Big Bert no specific ill will, recent history has shown that everything the man touches turns to ash. His trade from Vancouver to Florida was an unmitigated disaster for the Panthers, who lost Roberto Luongo in the deal and sloughed Bertuzzi off on Detroit after just seven games of service (karma-wise, injuries have followed the power forward around like buzzards in recent years).
At the time of the Wings deal, it seemed as though Florida had pulled off a rare coup in getting highly regarded prospect Shawn Matthias in return; but in two full seasons since, Matthias has just four points in 20 NHL games.
After winning the Cup in ’07, Anaheim brought back nearly the exact same core of players the next season, adding Mathieu Schneider and Bertuzzi. The result? The Ducks were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by lower-seeded Dallas.
Big Bert then took his show to Calgary, where a Flames lineup loaded with talented players such as Jarome Iginla, Mike Cammalleri, Dion Phaneuf, Olli Jokinen (geez, I guess the Flames were double-cursed) and Miikka Kiprusoff were doused in the first round by upstart Chicago.
The wreckage is rather awful to think about. Markus Naslund, whose honor Bertuzzi was ‘defending’ in the Moore attack, spiraled down in each season since the incident, finally taking early retirement this summer at the age of 36. Linemate Brendan Morrison has also seen a precipitous decline since 2004 and is hoping a move to the offensively gifted Washington Capitals will turn the ship around.
As for the ’09-10 edition of the Wings, I suppose they could reverse the curse – but that would likely involve waiving or trading Bertuzzi before the playoffs come.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly throughout the off-season, his column – The Straight Edge – on Fridays, and his prospect feature – The Hot List – on Tuesdays.
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