2013-14 Season in Review: Robert Bortuzzo

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

The Penguins big defenseman gets put under the microscope.

Age: 25 (March 18, 1989)

Contract Status: Signed through 2014-15; $600,000; restricted free agent summer 2015

2013-14 Stats

GP

TOI/GP

Goals

Assists

Points

54

15:28

0

10

10

Corsi For %

Corsi Rel %

Quality of Comp. (TOI%)

Zone Start %

PDO

45.5% (7)

-3.8% (6)

28.3% (8)

49.2% (2)

99.4% (7)

(Numbers in parentheses indicate descending rank among regular Penguins players at his position, i.e. one of the team's top nine defensemen or top 14 forwards.)

Most frequent defense partners

Partner

Goals For%

Corsi For%

Total 5v5 time (739:17 for Bortuzzo)

Brooks Orpik

70.0%

49.8%

162:30

Olli Maatta

40.0%

50.2 %

156:13

Rob Scuderi

25.0%

35.5%

151:59

Robert Bortuzzo was seen as the 7th defenseman all season long- as evidenced by coach Dan Bylsma making Bortuzzo the healthy scratch when the preferred top 6 (Orpik-Paul Martin, Scuderi-Kris Letang, Maatta- Matt Niskanen) were all healthy, which only happened for Game 4 vs. the Rangers. So as a 7th D, Bortuzzo played a little with a lot of people- including over 100 minutes with Simon Despres who didn’t make the cut on the table above.

Bortuzzo basically treads water and goes the way his partner goes. If he’s with a decent NHL defenseman (Orpik, Maatta) he will put up decent possession numbers. If Bortuzzo is with an anchor of a partner (Despres, Scuderi), he’s not good enough to elevate the pairing and it will likely be inconsistent and probably out for more bad than good.

A season of emergence

What a year it was to be the #7 defenseman on the Pittsburgh Penguins. With all the overlapping injuries all season long, Bortuzzo wasn’t a healthy scratch much this season, giving him a chance to establish himself in the NHL. He’s been on the big club now since the end of the lockout, and it was the Pens decision to waive Brian Strait and not Bortuzzo. Strait would be claimed by the New York Islanders, and now the two will be ever-linked (Strait, by the way put up 3 goals, 6 assists in 47 games and was a -16 for NYI).

Bortuzzo settled into more of a thumper role this year. He was 2nd on the team among defensemen in hits (137) and 6th in blocked shots. His 2.54 hits per game this season was WELL above his 1.2 rate in the NHL last season, suggesting that Bortuzzo is being more forceful at this level. Bortuzzo’s 6 fights this season were second on the team, showing a willingness all season long to drop the gloves to defend a hit he gave, or a teammate. Which, depending on your theory of how smart it is to take the team down to five defensemen, may or may not be a positive.

Bortuzzo’s season got stronger as the year went on, and he easily displaced veteran Deryk Engelland in the eyes of the coaches as the best depth defenseman option on the team. Bortuzzo also stayed in the lineup in favor of other youngsters who got NHL cracks like Despres, Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson. As of right now, he has to be considered past those guys in terms of experience and level of play.

GIF of the Year

Bobbortuzzostretchpass_medium

This stretch pass to Sidney Crosby to spring Bing for his only postseason goal was well-done by Bortuzzo.

Preseason expectations

Being somewhat under the radar, Bortuzzo was expected to make the team out of camp, provide depth and use his size and physicality to add to the team if he was so needed. There aren't great expectations for a player like Bortuzzo, who's mainly seen for depth purposes, and even when he is inserted in the lineup is only there as a limited used defenseman who's hopefully playing a simple, physical game.

Verdict

2013-14 has to be seen as a step forward for Bortuzzo. He had a pretty good season and seemed to get better as the year went along. Even though, disappointingly, he wasn’t seen as a Top 6 player for the one game in the playoffs by the coaching staff, he’s got to be closer to being 6th on the depth chart, rather than 8th as he would have been in the past. Bortuzzo played a very physical game, and despite not getting a ton of offensive zone starts, maintained a decent overall possession game.

Going Forward

What should Robert Bortuzzo’s role on the Penguins be next year? With all the expected turnover coming to the defense, would you be fine slotting him in as a #6 guy in the lineup and making him a true every night player? Or has he about reached his ceiling for total contribution and the team would be better served with him remaining the the #7 role?

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Robert Bortuzzo’s season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e. 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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