Robert Bortuzzo never seemed to get a fair shake with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Dan Bylsma never hesitated to scratch the feisty defenseman in favor of guys like Simon Despres (now with the Anaheim Ducks), and when Mike Johnston took over this summer, he made it clear that he wanted his defenseman to be of the puck moving variety.
Mike Johnston likes offensive defensemen. Pens now have Letang, Martin, Maatta, Despres, Pouliot, Dumoulin available this season.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) July 18, 2014
Moving the puck up ice with haste was never Bortuzzo’s meal ticket, and it wasn’t surprising to see the Penguins trade him to the St. Louis Blues for Ian Cole this season. Despite a wealth of talent on the blue line, Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock won’t be putting Bortuzzo in the press box agian anytime soon.
The veteran bench boss spoke to Jeremy P. Rutherford of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch about what Bortuzzo means to the Blues on a nightly basis and had this to say:
I think we see what he means to the team. There’s an edge, there’s a competitiveness, he’s a good player…. Bortuzzo in our lineup makes us a lot better right now.
The 26-year-old hasn’t been a mainstay in St. Louis and has been scratched a few times, but he seemed to really key the Blues in their recent 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames. As Rutherford points out in his post, the team is now 6-3-1 with Bortuzzo in the lineup.
It might be something that certain pundits discount entirely, but it can really bring a locker room together when one player sticks up for another. That’s exactly what Bortuzzo did against the Flames, fighting Brandon Bollig after he leveled Barret Jackman with a questionable hit.
Fighting might be on the decline in the NHL overall, but Bortuzzo did the right by going after Bollig. Hitchcock and the Blues seem to be of that mind, and fans of the team might want to get used to seeing Bortuzzo more often as the playoffs are just around the corner.