The Pittsburgh Penguins have had a tremendous opportunity handed to them regarding defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. For those of you not in the know, the Pens coaching staff have soured heavily on the 24-year old Canadian since the first week of November. He had a minus-3 rating against the Rangers on the 6th and was horrible in the Nov. 13th Philly game, which lead to him losing his starting job. Since that calumnious Flyers contest, Bortuzzo has appeared in one game (the 23rd against Montreal where he played only ten minutes). But like the opening sentence stated, the Penguins can now give Bortuzzo a chance to redeem himself.
Sadly, it's one player's misfortune that allots them this chance. Friday the Pens placed Andrew Ebbett on IR with a broken ankle. Now that is terrible and all, but when the hockey gods break a stick they tape up another. The opening in the bottom six forwards should be filled in by Deryk Engelland (although he'd hate that) and Engelland's spot along the blueline should go to Bortuzzo.
It's not like it's a crazy idea. Engelland has played for the third and fourth lines already and has found the back of net twice while there. His physically and net-crashing-ness was a great fit for the grinder lines. Plus, there's absolutely no harm in having two guys on the ice who are more than capable of dropping he gloves. The enforcer combo of Engelland and Bortuzzo gives the Pens a toughness few teams in the NHL have. That and they're pretty good at playing hockey too.
Especially Bortuzzo. His size and defense alone are reasons enough to champion his continued play. Let's face it, guys like Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin are not going to be around much longer. The Pens have plenty of guys ready to replace Martin, but the sand of Orpik? True, guys like him are usually a dime a dozen but when you have one that's as promising as Bortuzzo why not try and season him early? There's nothing too lose in giving him ice time.
Bortuzzo is someone the Pens should try and retain, not demoralize. He came into training camp and outworked Simon Despres, who was all but given a roster spot. His play in the beginning of the season was good and trending upward. What is the coaching staff teaching Bortuzzo by sidelining him so long for a bad week? Other players have had rough patches and have received no extreme discipline like this.
The Dustin-Jeffrey-Healthy-Scratch treatment is not good coaching. It's a horrible lesson and a failed teaching moment. Is Harry Zolnierczyk really apart of the Pens long-term solutions? No, but Robert Bortuzzo is and he should be on the ice and not on the pine. Tonight at the earliest.
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