The St. Louis Blues 2021-22 season represented a major transition for the franchise. No longer a stout defensive team built from the blue line out, they finished second in the NHL in goals scored, with nine forwards recording 20-plus goals. Though the season came to an end in a six-game defeat to the Colorado Avalanche in the second round, there are plenty of highs and lows to reflect on. In this series, we’ll evaluate each player who played 10 or more games with the team (as well as the head coach and general manager), grading their individual performance and looking at their future with the team.
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins 78th overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Robert Bortuzzo has been a hard-nosed defenseman his entire career. With 993 hits and blocked shots over 490 NHL games, he will always be known for his strong defensive game. Bortuzzo, along with a seventh-round pick in the 2016 Entry Draft, was traded to the St. Louis Blues on March 2, 2015, for defenseman Ian Cole. He has appeared in 377 regular-season games for St. Louis, totaling 14 goals and 49 points. He was also a key member of the 2019 Blues championship run, scoring two goals during the team’s 17 postseason games.
What Went Right: Provided a Key Depth Role
As a third-pairing defensive defenseman, Bortuzzo’s impact on a game-to-game basis is limited. At 33 years old, he averaged 13:44 of ice time, the lowest among Blues defensemen except for Jake Walman, who appeared in only 32 games this season. He was third on the team in both hits (1.85) and blocked shots (1.34) per game, including a shot that was deflected with his face.
What Went Wrong: Role on the Team
While his role as a defensive defenseman comes first, Bortuzzo has averaged nine points per season over the last three years. This season, as his role continues to decrease, so does his offensive production. Scoring only 18 goals in his NHL career, roughly 75% of his production comes via assists. His 13:44 of average ice time was one of the lowest of his eight years in St. Louis.
With players like Marco Scandella and Scott Perunovich demanding time next season, not to mention players with the Springfield Thunderbirds – such as Tommy Cross and Brady Lyle – who will push for a roster spot next season, Bortuzzo’s ice time will likely drop again in 2022-23. While he has done nothing wrong or concerning that would explain making him a healthy scratch, there are younger players ready to perform at the same or a higher level than Bortuzzo at this point in his career.
- 135 hits and 97 blocked shots were Bortuzzo’s highest since the 2017-18 season
- Bortuzzo has scored a goal in eight straight seasons
Final Grade: A
A limited role and one that he performed well, Bortuzzo deserves all the credit in the world. Few players are willing to sacrifice their bodies to block a puck or continuously body-check the opposition, but he provided these options every game while remaining an option to score a goal from impossible angles.
What’s Next for Bortuzzo?
On Feb. 8, 2022, Bortuzzo signed a contract extension with the Blues worth $950,000 annually. As a few defensemen appear ready to make the jump to the NHL sooner than later after continued development, Bortuzzo will likely become more of a locker room piece rather than an option on the ice. He still remains a valuable tool for the Blues to re-insert into the lineup in the event of an injury or someone to exert a physical presence, but his options seem limited for the future.
“It feels good. I’m excited. I’m glad they’re putting a little more faith in me,” Bortuzzo said. “It’s no secret I love being here, being around this team, and this organization. It all came together pretty quick, seemed like both sides wanted to get it done. I’m excited… we’ve got a good squad here, and it’s exciting to be part of.”
Mike is a writer for The Hockey Writers and covers the St. Louis Blues since November of 2021. He has a keen love for statistical analysis, prospects, signings, and trades. Follow Mike on Twitter for further Blues or Central division hockey discussions, interview requests, or to provide content info.