As we approach the start of the 2022-23 NHL season, On The Forecheck is taking an in-depth look at expectations for each Nashville Predators player for the new season. Today, we’re putting defenseman Mark Borowiecki under the microscope.
Regular Season: 57 GP, 0 Goals, 4 Assists, 4 Points, CF% (All situations) 40.85%, 13:07 ATOI
Playoffs: 2 GP, 0 Goals, 0 Assists, 0 Points, CF% (All situations) 22.37%, 15:47 ATOI
Considering where Mark Borowiecki was entering last season, both in terms of his career and his personal life, it’s hard not to look at his 2021-22 as a feel-good story. After missing most of his first season with the Preds due to concussion issues and while seeking treatment for obsessive compulsive disorder, Boro entered the season with a renewed fire, and it showed in his play.
John Hynes found niche roles for Borowiecki, who in turn played them effectively. He excelled at times in the role of a “throwback, stay-at-home defenseman,” blocking shots, using his body to clog passing lanes, and disrupting plays by stepping up to the puck-carrier with a hit or a poke check. This type of play is also what earned Boro a sizable chunk of penalty-killing time, which saw him contribute several key plays as part of the Preds’ much-improved short-handed unit.
Still, Boro’s play had its fair share of holes. There were times his aggressive play would cost him; his attempt to step up and make a hit would backfire into an odd-man rush for the other team, or his aggressive stick would lead to a cheap penalty (although in his defense, he was FAR from the only one with that issue last season). There were also moments — especially towards the end of the year as the Preds played the likes of Colorado, Calgary, and Tampa Bay — that Borowiecki flat-out got beat by faster, more skilled competition. That led to Borowiecki getting benched in the Preds’ final two playoff games against the Avalanche.
Borowiecki’s Expectations for 2022-23
It’s still unknown what role Borowiecki will have in the new-look Predators’ defense, but it’s likely that consistent playing time will be more difficult to find than it was in 2021-22. Josi, Ekholm, McDonagh, Carrier, and Fabbro appear to be locks for everyday roles, and considering the Preds invested a 2nd-round pick and a 4-year contract in deadline addition Jeremy Lauzon, it’s likely he’ll get the preference in playing time.
That may leave Borowiecki as Nashville’s extra defenseman. But all things considered, that’s not a bad role for him. He’s certainly reliable enough that his play won’t be an outright liability (as has been an issue for some Preds depth d-men in the past). And if the injury bug hits the blueline, he’s someone who can anchor a pairing with Josi or Carrier in small doses, locking down the defensive responsibilities so the latter two can jump into the play offensively.
This may be the role Poile envisioned for Borowiecki when he signed him to a one-year extension in February. It’s hard to envision him playing for the Preds past this season, especially with the likes of Marc Del Gaizo and Adam Wilsby waiting in the wings defensively. But who knows? A strong, reliable season from Borowiecki could continue to earn him a spot on an NHL team.
One Bold Prediction
Mark Borowiecki has yet to score a goal for the Nashville Predators. In his final season with the Ottawa Senators, Boro scored 7 (and added 11 assists). It was a career-best year in terms of scoring that Boro has yet to replicate.
No, I’m not predicting a Roman Josi season from Mark Borowiecki. BUT, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Boro scores not one... but TWO goals for the Predators this season. If he does spend some time in an elevated role due to injury elsewhere, or even thanks to better defensive depth with the McDonagh trade, it’s likely Borowiecki will find playing time with decent playmakers at some point this season. So why not? Let’s assume, if only for just two glorious moments, Boro is going to rocket a shot top shelf past an unsuspecting goalie (or, you know, just a terrible backup). I can only imagine the celebration that goes on inside that Preds locker room if that happens.