Tyler Bertuzzi visits the bench for some fist bumps after a big goal
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Sheldon Keefe says big changes are coming to the lineup, one involving Tyler Bertuzzi

Published January 13, 2024 at 1:53 PM
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY

The Toronto Maple Leafs' offense is being run by the core players and that shouldn't be a surprise. However, the organization desperately needs secondary scoring help, which also isn't difficult to grasp. Max Domi is 6th on the team with 22 points, a steep drop off from Morgan Rielly, who's 5th with 32 points and John Tavares who is 4th with 34 points.

One of the players that the Leafs need more from is Tyler Bertuzzi, who one can argue was the Maple Leafs' biggest free agent acquisition. The gritty, aggressive, soon-to-be-29-year-old has struggled mightily this season to the tune of 6 goals and 18 points in 39 games.

In the four seasons prior, Bertuzzi tallied 85 goals and 194 points in 271 games, including a 30-goal and 62-point season in 2021-22. Last year he split time between Detroit and Boston but still managed 30 points in 50 games, including 16 points in his short stint with the Bruins. For the Leafs to have continued success this season and into the playoffs, players like Bertuzzi need to step up to the plate.

Ahead of their tilt tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, Sheldon Keefe placed Bertuzzi on his usual line with Tavares and William Nylander. When asked by reporters why he thinks Bertuzzi has played his best hockey with Tavares and Nylander, Keefe chimed in with:


"I just think he pairs really well with John. It is another guy who is really strong below the dots. He hangs around the net. The pace of play matches him really well, too, and yet I do feel that Willy is extremely important to that line as well. He is the puck transporter. He can be puck-dominant. All of those guys can be a lot to handle on the inside and in the offensive zone.

At the same time, early in the season, did it not work with Matthews because it was not a good match? Or did it not work because there is a lot more going on as you are trying to get comfortable in the lineup, in a new team, in a new city, and all of these things?"

Keefe is quick to point out that both Nylander and Tavares are important because they essentially allow Bertuzzi to play his natural game. Nylander is the puck dominant winger who allows the offense to flow through his stick, while Tavares' style matches that of Bertuzzi's, playing down low near the paint and along the wall.

Keefe also mentioned that although Bertuzzi is playing really well with Tavares and Nylander, he is still going move pieces around to see what works and what doesn't:

"As the season goes along here, we are going to have to move Bert around a little bit more just to see. I think he is a guy who can pair very well with different people."

It's no surprise that the offense runs primarily through Nylander, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner. However, if and when the Bertuzzi's and the Domi's start chipping in with more regularity, the Maple Leafs will be far more successful and might actually have a chance to go on a deep run as teams look to shut down the primary scorers with tight defensive coverage, leaving more space for the secondary point producers to go to work.

POLL
January 13   |   857 answers
Sheldon Keefe says big changes are coming to the lineup, one involving Tyler Bertuzzi

Where should Tyler Bertuzzi play for the Leafs?

He's fine on line 2, leave him there25329.5 %
Bump him up to the top line again10712.5 %
Try him on line 320724.2 %
He hasn't been worth $5.5M. Trade him.29033.8 %
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