Bertuzzi will be missed everywhere

The Vancouver Canucks have a huge hole to fill with the absence of Todd Bertuzzi, one that will likely prevent a deep playoff run.

Originally Published: April 1, 2004
By Ray Ferraro | Special to ESPN.com

There are plenty of players in the NHL who are big, fast or have good hands, but none have all three in the combination Todd Bertuzzi brings to the ice.

Unfortunately, the Vancouver Canucks' star power forward will be suspended for the entirety of the Stanley Cup playoffs after his blind-side hit on Colorado's Steve Moore, and there is not a single facet of the game in which the Canucks will not miss him during the playoffs.

Markus Naslund
Markus Naslund will have a hard time getting to the net without Todd Bertuzzi on the ice.
When he is on his game, Bertuzzi is the best power forward in the NHL. His size and physical play allow him to tie up plenty of traffic and open up space for skill players like Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund. Those guys need room to maneuver and create offense, and it could be a crushing blow to the Canucks if they are unable to get free.

And while the players who will be called upon to fill Bertuzzi's skates -- such as trade-deadline acquisitions Martin Rucinsky and Geoff Sanderson -- are good, they simply cannot bring the same game to the ice as Bertuzzi.

The Vancouver power play was surprisingly ineffective even with Bertuzzi in the lineup this season, finishing the regular season with just a 14.9 percent conversion rate, so look for the Canucks to try just about everything to get that unit going in the postseason. Look for them to get big defenseman Ed Jovanovski down from the point and in front of the goal, and we may also see more shots from the point rather than attempts to get the puck down low and across the crease.

Will the losses on offense put more pressure on the Canucks' defense? Well, I live in Vancouver and can't imagine there could be any more pressure on goalie Dan Cloutier than there already is. He has been blamed for pretty much all the team's failures over the last few seasons.

Still, he is a very competitive player and has matured a lot in recent years. Cloutier has as much playoff experience as any other goalie in the Western Conference and suggestions that he is the same player who gave up the center-ice goal to Detroit's Nick Lidstrom that turned the tide of their 2001 first-round series are just not fair. I expect Cloutier will play well.

I've played on teams that lost key players for long stretches and there comes a point, after all the repeated questions about how he will be replaced, when you resign yourself to the fact that a particular guy is not going to be with you and simply forget about him.

A team has no choice but to move forward and and play its game, and it may sound cold but Todd Bertuzzi has likely been eliminated from the Canucks' conversations and minds. It does them no good to think about a player who has no chance of helping them.

But because Bertuzzi will not be there to help, Vancouver will likely not make the conference finals. He will simply be missed too much at too many key junctures.

Vancouver coach Marc Crawford is going to have to play the "Us vs. the World" card in the dressing room, and it will be a huge challenge for the entire coaching staff to convince the team it is still among the NHL's elite. It's one thing to say it -- but another to believe it.

Ray Ferraro retired from the NHL following the 2001-02 season after an 18-year career and is now an analyst for ESPN.