The St. Louis Blues’ 2020-21 season had its highs and lows but ultimately ended in disappointment after the team fell in four games to the Colorado Avalanche in Round 1. In this series, we’ll look back on the season, player by player, and evaluate each player’s performance as an individual, with an eye towards their future with the team.
Veteran Blues defenceman, Robert Bortuzzo continued his mean streak in his 11th NHL Season, using his size and strength to impact the game. He has demonstrated over his career that he can play well along the blue line and can be a source of energy in the defensive end, never shy to mix it up and lay a hard hit against the opposition.
While Bortuzzo may be a force without the puck, his abilities when he has possession of it are subpar. Never known to be a scorer, he continued his streak of low-scoring campaigns and was a somewhat non-factor when inside the offensive zone. He has proven he has the skills to be a serviceable player for the Blues, and even at 32-years-old, he has shown no signs of regression. While he is no star player, he makes the gritty plays that are necessary to win throughout the season and has demonstrated his worth to his club.
What Went Right: Tough as Nails
It is an understatement to say Bortuzzo excels with physicality. He has made a career for himself based on his ability to lay out hard checks, block shots, and never being shy to drop the gloves if the call is made. He is a warrior through and through, always looking to put his team in a position to win.
Whether it comes from his ability to spark energy for his club with a big hit or from sacrificing his body to make a key play defensively, Bortuzzo makes the little plays that could be the difference between winning and losing a game. His style of play is infectious for his team, encouraging them to play hard and make a gritty play for their team.
A great locker room presence, Bortuzzo is a positive factor for the Blues on and off the ice. His energy and hard-nosed personality make him a driving force for intensity on the Blues.
What Went Wrong: Low-level Stick Skills
His ability to make crucial plays defensively over the course of a game is not something to be overlooked, but Bortuzzo continued to come up short this season when it came to his overall production offensively. Not possessing a great shot nor the hockey IQ to create scoring chances for his teammates, he can be a liability with the puck.
With only one goal on the year, coming at the tail end of the season (a game-winner to boot), it’s clear to see that Bortuzzo is not going to be placing any sense of worry or pressure on defences when he enters the offensive zone. He is most efficient offensively when he is walking the blue line, keeping the puck-moving, never holding on to it for longer than a few seconds. When he does hold onto the puck for an extended period of time, this usually results in a turnover and a dangerous rush ensuing into the Blues defensive zone.
With no sense of offensive identity, this makes it incredibly difficult to roll out Bortuzzo’s defensive pairing down the stretch of a close game when trailing. His struggles to produce offensively have hurt him for the entirety of his career, and while it may not be his game, he has disappointed on that end of the puck mightily once again.
- five points (one goal, four assists)
- 47 PIM
- 85 hits (fourth on team)
Final Grade: C+
A fantastic player for his role, Bortuzzo had a solid season. By making tough plays over the course of the season, and instilling his presence on the ice on a nightly basis, he demonstrated he still has worth for the Blues. A great fit in the Blues game-plan, it is clear that he is comfortable in his current situation.
Bortuzzo was solid in the playoffs for the Blues, but due to injury, he would miss both games at home that resulted in the Blues being swept by the Avalanche. His ability on the defensive end would have come in handy when taking on one of the most fierce offences in the NHL, but unfortunately for him and his team, it was not meant to be.
When it comes to the bigger picture, however, Bortuzzo is a replaceable asset. While he may play his role well, there are plenty of workhorses within the NHL/AHL that could play the role to a similar level of production. Because of this, as well as his non-existent offensive skill set, he earned a final grade of a C+. This shows that while he is a solid player, his efforts were not a big enough factor in the Blues’ success this season.
What’s Next for Bortuzzo?
With one more year remaining on his current contract, Bortuzzo will need to elevate his play next season. He will need to not only impress the Blues but the entire NHL as he will enter the free agency pool at 33-years-old with a limited skillset.
If Bortuzzo can find a way to become a more productive player offensively next season and continue his excellent play defensively, he could play his way into a new contract. Signing a new deal in 2022 and prolonging his career will give him what would likely be his last chance at making another run at the Stanley Cup, as well as time to evolve his game and become a more valuable member for his club.
Originally from Owen Sound, Ontario, Matt Eichhorn has spent the past 4 years studying the field of Sport Media at Ryerson University. Eichhorn is a life-long hockey fan with experience working in a variety of media roles around the game. Currently, Eichhorn covers the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers.