Sheldon Keefe addressing the media in Toronto
Photo credit: NHL

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe calls out one of his struggling forwards, still believes in him

Published February 17, 2024 at 2:03 PM
BY MIKE ARMENTI

I don't think anyone is under any misconceptions that Tyler Bertuzzi has met expectations, production-wise, this season. It's been a tough year for Bertuzzi, not in that he's playing poorly at all. It's just that the puck isn't going in for him, which can only make matters worse as players who are slumping tend to grip their sticks a little too tight and try to force things, whereas when the puck is going in, you can play a little more freely and continue to trust the process when it's working.

Bertuzzi is shooting just 6.2% this season, which is well below his career 13.1%, so that obviously tells us that he's a bit more snakebitten than usual, even though the opportunities have been there. He also had a goal called back recently as well thanks to a controversial goalie interference call, which I'm sure isn't making anything easier on him.

Another big issue standing in Bertuzzi's way, according to Sportsnet's Luke Fox, is the lack of powerplay time. Fox used Bertuzzi's 30-goal season as an example of why he might be struggling more this year in comparison to previous seasons.

"When Tyler Bertuzzi scored 30 goals in 2021-22, he led his team in power-play ice time per game (2:57).


This year, Bertuzzi ranks eighth on his team in that category (1:14)." - Sportsnet's Luke Fox on Tyler Bertuzzi

Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe is doing his best to challenge Bertuzzi to try to get the most out of him and help him return to his 30-goal form. He knows that Bertuzzi has it in him to be vastly more productive than he's shown this season. He had this to say earlier this week about his struggling winger:

"Quite honestly, it's not just a this-season thing, it's last season as well. His pace is not a whole lot different than where he was a season ago. You're trying to get him back to be closer to the 30-goal Bertuzzi, but we haven't been able to do that. So, be encouraged with the chances you're getting, but also value every second that you get in a practice to be prepared for those moments. We have to push him while also encouraging him.

He's got to work at his game. He's got to practice. He's got to shoot with purpose. He's got to take every rep at practice and have it be meaningful." - Keefe on Bertuzzi

Even with Bertuzzi's struggles having persisted for so long this season, Keefe maintains that Bertuzzi is still a key player for the Leafs and he told the media following Saturday's game day practice that he still very much believes in the former 30-goal scorer.

"I still feel really strongly, this guy is going to be a very important player for us. I think this guy is fearless, he's a competitor He's been a gamer when it really counts." - Keefe on Bertuzzi

Bertuzzi has just 1 point in his last 6 games and hasn't scored a goal since December 27th against the Ottawa Senators, excluding his disallowed goal a couple of weeks back. I'd say he's due.



POLL
February 17   |   896 answers
Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe calls out one of his struggling forwards, still believes in him

Will Tyler Bertuzzi be a key contributor for the Leafs come playoff time?

Yes, he'll be a game-changer in the postseason55962.4 %
No, he'll be an underachiever there too17719.8 %
Biggest waste of $5.5M16017.9 %
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