Photo Credit: Kirby Lee / USA Today Sports

FlamesNation Player Evaluations: Matt Bartkowski

I suppose the question here is: if there wasn’t an upcoming expansion draft, would Matt Bartkowski be back in the NHL?

2016-17 season summary

After spending the entire 2015-16 season playing for the Vancouver Canucks on a one-year deal, Bartkowski found himself back in the minors. He played 80 NHL games in 2015-16, scoring six goals and 18 points; not bad numbers for the then-27-year-old, but also not exactly inspiring – especially considering the high ground he was fed through the year and how the play always went against him.

Cheap, sure. But someone you want regularly dressing for you? According to NHL teams, not so much.

So he ended up heading back to the Providence Bruins, a team and organization he was already very familiar with – he’d played three seasons for them before – and stayed there until mid-February, scoring 10 points over 34 AHL games.

That’s about when the Flames came calling, first signing him to a PTO, and then quickly for real. The most striking part of his deal was that it was for two years, making him the seventh Flames defenceman to have a contract extending into 2017-18 (the first six being T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Oliver Kylington, Rasmus Andersson, and Keegan Kanzig, which is understandably not going to be Calgary’s top six that season).

The reason it was striking: every NHL team needs to have at least one defenceman signed for 2017-18 who had played at least 40 games this season or 70 over the previous two. With 80 played in 2015-16, Bartkowski fit the bill. And just like that, there was no reason to have to re-sign Jyrki Jokipakka, who was more expensive and who had struggled. He was traded, and Bartkowski slotted in the Flames’ bottom pairing for 24 games, coming just in time for the 10-game win streak.

Bartkowski scored one goal and one assist over his 24 games, averaging 15:23 a game as the sixth defenceman. He did about as well as Jokipakka did, but at least he was cheaper and on a two-way.

Compared to last season

Via Corsica, Bartkowski is pretty much who we thought he was.

Bartkowski’s 5v5 CF was 45.50%; last season, he was at 45.84%. Jokipakka and Michael Stone were marginally better than him. Troy Brouwer and Garnet Hathaway were worse. That’s about it. Bartkowski looked like a welcome addition namely because he came a game before that 10-game win streak started. When your goalie is playing as out of his mind as Brian Elliott was, everyone looks good.

Most common teammates

Everyone was better away from Bartkowski. He more dragged other guys down than anything else.

I don’t know what to say about Bartkowski being marginally better away from Brouwer than Brouwer from Bartkowski, though. It’s just a parody at this point right?

What’s next?

This is the part where Bartkowski’s deal being a two-way comes into play: it makes him that much easier to bury. Bartkowski is a sixth defenceman at absolute best, and even then, still not exactly a guy you want dressing in your lineup every day. It would be very easy to see him back in the AHL.

At the same time, though, the seventh defenceman position would work, too. That would put a veteran in the pressbox, both not really harming anything on the ice and not taking playing time away from anyone younger with more potential.

Anything more than that? Probably not for the best.

#1 – Brian Elliott #5 – Mark Giordano
#6 – Dennis Wideman #7 – T.J. Brodie
#10 – Kris Versteeg #11 – Mikael Backlund
#13 – Johnny Gaudreau #17 – Lance Bouma
#18 – Matt Stajan #19 – Matthew Tkachuk
#23 – Sean Monahan #25 – Freddie Hamilton
#26 – Michael Stone #27 – Dougie Hamilton
#29 – Deryk Engelland #31 – Chad Johnson
#36 – Troy Brouwer #39 – Alex Chiasson


  • L.Kolkind

    I would rather have Wotherspoon as our #7. T-spoon at this point is still improving and hasn’t looked too out of place in his call ups. He also was arguably one of the best defencemen on the Heat this past season. We can’t keep bringing in replacement level players simply so we don’t give our own prospects a chance. Wotherspoon has been with the organisation for quite some time and has been jumping through all the hoops management has set up fo him. If we don’t start giving our prospects a chance some may pull a Sven and simply ask for a trade to a team willing to give them an opportunity.

  • Just.Visiting

    Ok with him as a seventh and coming in to help out with little injuries, flu, etc. There is something fundamentally wrong with the team’s approach to development if he is playing over a worthy Stockton player. As I noted before, if I’m Wotherspoon, I need to think twice before signing up again after the way he has been used. People love up to the expectations you create for them. If you keep giving someone the message that you don’t think you trust their ability, it is a natural consequence that the person will play a very tentative game.

  • cjc

    I imagine the situation was explained to Bartkowski when he signed – he probably wouldn’t have done it unless the team guaranteed he’d get some NHL reps in. Hopefully headed to Stockton, if not, should be the 7th D in Calgary, and if he is playing on the bottom pairing, well, lord help us.