Predators Have Multi-Impact Addition in Borowiecki

Mark Borowiecki may not be as classically handsome as Joel Kinnaman, or as deadpan serious as Peter Weller, but what sets apart “BoroCop” from the actors who have portrayed RoboCop is that everyone in the universe of his fandom unequivocally loves him.

The “BoroCop” moniker – of course, a play on the RoboCop movie character, is very appropriate for the seemingly part-man, part-machine defenceman who once dislocated a rib mid-game, and returned to the ice in the same game. Borowiecki is well-known for his toughness on the ice, patrolling Ottawa’s blue line for the past several seasons and consistently ranking atop the league leaders in hits.

After spending 12 seasons as a member of the Ottawa Senators’ organization, Borowiecki signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Nashville Predators, opening the door for the second chapter in his NHL career. The 31-year-old veteran of 375 NHL games had his offensive breakout season in 2019-20 with seven goals, but that won’t be the focus of what he brings to Nashville.

Not only was Borowiecki the fan-favourite player in Ottawa for what he brought to the ice, but also for his incredible involvement in the community away from the rink. Given the Predators’ deep ties to being active in the Nashville area, one can be certain that after Borowiecki moves to Nashville, he’ll quickly insert himself into the team’s community outreach programs.

Predators fans should be excited to meet Borowiecki as a player and as a person. If the past is any indication, he should quickly feel right at home as a beloved member of the organization.

Off-Ice Impact

The most famous off-ice involvement the former Senators’ defenceman experienced was an actual BoroCop moment, in which he stopped a burglary in progress, retrieving a stolen backpack from the person who had forcibly removed it from a car. This off-day incident in Vancouver occurred in December 2019, and made the soft-spoken defenceman a North American celebrity for his actions.

Other stories about Borowiecki’s off-ice actions have a feel of urban legend to them, but when the team’s official communications page writes it out or his wife tells the stories, we realize they’re true. One example is from a 2016 winter storm in Ottawa, when he was spotted helping push cars out of snow near the Senators’ rink.

Borowiecki’s biggest impact off the ice has come in recent seasons – his involvement with Ottawa’s Capital City Condors. The program is designed to provide an opportunity for youth of all ages who are unable to play on other organized hockey teams due to cognitive or physical disabilities. Following Kyle Turris’ departure to Nashville in 2017, Borowiecki and his wife Tara took over as the team’s Honourary Captains.

During his time as the Honourary Captain of the Condors, Borowiecki helped organize team skates with the Senators, which were always day-brighteners to see on social media and in the news. After the afore-mentioned burglary thwarting in Vancouver, the Ottawa Senators Foundation quickly began to sell “BoroCop” branded t-shirts, with proceeds going to the Condors.

Early Career

Borowiecki grew up in Ottawa, and in 2008 became the first Ottawa native drafted by the Senators when general manager Bryan Murray selected the 6-foot-2, 204-pounder in the fifth round with the 139th-overall selection. The physical defenceman took what can be regarded as an unusual path to the NHL for a North American, bypassing the CHL and instead making the jump from the junior ranks to the NCAA.

Borowiecki attended Clarkson University, which has also produced such NHL talent as Todd White, Willie Mitchell and Erik Cole. In three seasons with the Clarkson Golden Knights, Borowiecki accumulated 32 points and 146 penalty minutes in 99 games, and served as team captain in his third and final season with the school.

Mark Borowiecki Ottawa Senators
Mark Borowiecki will be counted on for on-and-off-ice leadership for the Predators (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Following the conclusion of his third season, Borowiecki received the call-up to the AHL’s Binghamton Senators where, despite only playing in a handful of regular season games, he became an integral piece of the team’s run to winning the Calder Cup championship. Borowiecki played in 21 of the 23 playoff games, posting a solid plus-5 rating.

Over the next three seasons, Borowiecki was a regular in the Binghamton lineup and the penalty box, playing in 176 games and averaging 147 penalty minutes a season. More impressively, the hard-nosed player recorded a plus-32 rating in his Binghamton career, which featured a couple of call-ups and demotions between Binghamton and Ottawa. It wasn’t until the 2014-15 season that Borowiecki became a full-time Ottawa Senator, but when he did he proved he belonged.

Success in Ottawa

In his first full season, Borowiecki quickly earned a reputation for himself as a physical force, finishing second in the league among defencemen with 233 hits. Opposing players realized that keeping your head up as you crossed neutral ice on No. 74’s side was of vital importance.

The wins didn’t come right away for the Senators with Borowiecki in the lineup. However, shortly after Christmas with Borowiecki paired primarily with Eric Gryba on the blue line, the Senators went on their improbable “Hamburglar” run, on the strength of a suddenly improved defensive unit and Andrew Hammond in goal. Finishing the season 20-1-2 in the last 23 games and sneaking into a playoff spot, the Senators matched up against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round. The postseason only lasted six games for the Senators, but was a good starting point for what was still a relatively young squad.

Ottawa Senators' Mark Borowiecki and Columbus Blue Jackets' Seth Jones
Former Ottawa Senator Mark Borowiecki and Columbus Blue Jackets’ Seth Jones (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

After missing the postseason the following season, Borowiecki and the Senators turned the corner for 2016-17 on a mission. The hometown hero led the NHL with 154 penalty minutes and ran away with the league lead in hits, racking up 364 in only 70 games. This was the postseason in which the Senators went on their improbable run all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, unfortunately for Borowiecki, his postseason didn’t even last two full games.

In Game 2 of the first-round series against the Boston Bruins, Borowiecki went into the boards awkwardly, leaving with an ankle injury from which he would not return for the duration of the playoffs. For the entire Senators organization, that postseason run was the last example of a winning team, perhaps initiating the beginning of the end for Borowiecki’s time in Ottawa.

The Long Road to Nashville

The 2017-18 season was a disaster for the Senators organization, and Borowiecki was not exempt from that. Missing significant portions of the season with various injuries, the blueliner still managed to finish 10th in the league with 226 hits. Despite his continued development and improvement as a defenceman, the Senators began to spiral rapidly, finishing second-last in the Eastern Conference.

Prior to the 2018-19 season, Borowiecki unwittingly became fodder for television chatter with an incredibly awkward one-on-one “interview” with Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk. Publicly, Borowiecki showed unflinching loyalty to the Sens’ organization in response to the many criticisms and mocking parodies of the video. However, I have to think this truly became the first moment where the hometown boy looked ahead to the end of his contract and potentially departing Ottawa.

The next two seasons were full of much of the same for the hard-hitting Borowiecki, accumulating 413 hits and 147 penalty minutes while missing nearly 60 games due to injury between the two seasons. It seemed almost unfathomable to fans that he would even get close to free agency as his contract reached its conclusion. As the longest-serving Senator, assistant captain and fan favourite player seemed destined to stay in Ottawa forever.

Perhaps the continued mismanagement and financial handcuffing of the roster by owner Eugene Melnyk stoked Borowiecki’s increasing desire to change scenery and not be a part of a rebuild. This summer, after little to no negotiation with the team, the defenceman hit the free agent market and subsequently signed with Nashville.

It’s easy to see why Borowiecki will be a great fit with the Predators: with three very strong offensive defencemen, they don’t need another one who will produce offensively. Borowiecki fits that bill. With Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis dictating a lot of the Predators’ offence, it’s important that they stay healthy so they can continue to produce. Borowiecki is the type of player who will grit out a battle in the corner, deliver or take a hit to make a play, and block shots with reckless abandon. Not to say he is more expendable than Josi or Ellis, but his presence should alleviate some of the physical pressure on the two offensive superstars and could, believe it or not, open up even more offensive opportunities for them.

With the start date of the 2020-21 season still uncertain, it should allow Predators fans to properly familiarize themselves with Borowiecki prior to seeing him in action on the ice. With plenty of community outreach programs to participate in, and an uncanny ability to find spontaneous, unplanned ways to help people out, Nashville will likely very soon have another folk hero on their hands.

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