Matt Bartkowski assumed that after years of being in and out of the lineup, his time with the Bruins was done when his contract expired at the end of last season. Even after the team traded Dougie Hamilton at the draft ahead of free agency, Bartkowski considered himself a goner, set to find a new home where he could play consistently.
That didn’t make the change easy for him, however. Unless your last name is Drouin, it’s common for players to want to become a full-time player with the team that develops them. Bartkowski has become a full-time player, but it’s with the Vancouver Canucks after signing a one-year deal with the team in July.
“I have a lot of good memories here. I developed here as a player,” Bartkowski, who has played in 46 of Vancouver’s 47 games entering Thursday’s game against the Bruins, said after the team’s morning skate. “Now it’s good to I guess have that piece of mind [to be a lineup regular].”
The Bruins didn’t draft Bartkowski, but after acquiring his rights from the Panthers in the 2010 Dennis Seidenberg trade, they were the team with whom he went pro and the team that brought him up to the NHL. After being one of the final cuts in the preseason of their Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season, Bartkowski spent the next four seasons up and down and in and out of Boston’s lineup.
The most games Bartkowski played with the Bruins was 64 in the 2013-14, an opportunity created by Seidenberg’s season-ending knee injury at the time. Yet between a numbers game on defense and occasional struggles with confidence when he was in the lineup, Bartkowski was never able to hold down a full-time job in the Bruins’ lineup.
Asked about the Hamilton trade, Bartkowski said that the move didn’t re-open door to explore staying with the Bruins. That makes sense given that the B’s still had a number of young defensemen pushing for jobs, a group that they added to with the Milan Lucic trade that netted them Colin Miller.
“I kind of knew that I was going to go somewhere else,’ Bartkowski said. “In terms of trading Dougie, that was definitely a shock. It’s not every day you get a defenseman like that.”
Bartkowski also went to bat for his former teammate. Hamilton not being the most popular guy in the Bruins’ dressing room ‘ an issue clearly not big enough to be a major concern given that the team still wanted to sign him ‘ made its way into the news following the Bruins’ trade with the Flames, but Bartkowski spoke highly of Hamilton’s character.
“I like Dougie,” Bartkowski said. “I heard about all that. I don’t know where that was really coming from. Yeah, he’s a quiet kid, but he’s a nice kid. If you get to know him a little bit, you’ll find that out.”
Bartkowski would probably love to accentuate his return to the Garden with a goal, something he never did in 131 regular-season games with the Bruins (his lone goal came in the playoffs in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs). By comparison, he’s an offensive dynamo this season, as he’s scored twice for the Canucks.