Vancouver Canucks 2015/16 Season Preview: X-Factor #2 Matt Bartkowski


Going into the 2015-16 NHL season, the Vancouver Canucks are surrounded with questions. Veterans with expiring contracts. Rookies looking to make the jump. New guys in the locker room from questionable trades. Number One goaltender coming back from a major injury. In a year already looking gloom with the moves their division rivals have made – McDavid, Lucic, Hamilton, the list goes on and on – will sophomore coach Willie Desjardins be able to salvage 100 points over the next 82 games as GM Jim Benning expects?

As the Canucks make their way through pre-season, we will dive into key story-lines going into the 2015-16 season as a mean to get ourselves ready for the puck to drop on opening night.

In this second look into the X-Factors in the 2015-16 Vancouver Canucks roster, we will look at our new Free Agent arrival, defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

X-Factor #4, Matt Bartkowski – 47GP, 4A, 4pts 37PIM

Do not be fooled by his -6 and his lackluster offensive output. Bartkowski is the second Tanev in the making, with great mobility and puck-moving skills. Coming to Vancouver from an ill-spoken Boston locker room, Bartkowski is looking to start all over again, after signing a new one-year, $1.75M deal.

One reason for early optimism for this signing is his performance in the Canucks preseason games. After a couple rusty shifts, Bartkowski turned on his game and showed us why we had paid to land him via free agency. His transition play was spectacular, and his up-ice vision made the forwards’ lives easier going up the ice.

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Taking a look at the games he has played as a Canuck, he can be penciled in to take the 3rd defense pairing with Sbisa for the opening night line-up. He looked great complimenting Sbisa’s physicality with his puck movement and mobility, even better when he set up Adam Cracknell‘s OT winner for the preseason opener.

Bartkowski is coming off a season with just four assists in 47 games, a decline from his production from two years ago when he played a top-4 role with the Bruins. However, as a defenseman, his year will not be gauged just based on his point totals. He will be judged on how well he plays out Jim Benning’s purpose in signing him, to be a mobile defenseman who has the wheels to provide some playmaking.

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The reason he breaks at number 4 in our X-Factor list is that his year not only depends on his play, but on his d-man partner’s play. Last year’s Bieksa-Sbisa pairing got burnt by the Flames during the playoffs, exposing the now-Duck and the former-Duck and their inability to adjust to a fast-tempo game where the puck needs to exit the d-zone in the blink of an eye.

If Bartkowski wants to stay in Vancouver, he will need to carry Sbisa and bail him out on multiple occasions. I am more than comfortable in having Bartkowski at $1.75M a year as my 3rd pairing defender, because I know that he knows how to make Sbisa better. Man, has his passing been fantastic so far this preseason!

My prediction for Bartkowski is mixed. I expect him to provide offensive punch here and there when Weber stalls, but he is most likely to stack up assists by giving Horvat, Vrbata, or Hansen hundred-foot-long breakaway passes out of the d-zone.

Prediction for Bartkowski for the 2015-16 season: 3 goals, 15+ assists, and perhaps an astoundingly low plus/minus rating alongside some 30+ PIM.

Next: Vancouver Canucks 2015-16 Preview X-Factor #1: Linden Vey

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