Victor Bartley was in Bridgestone Arena on opening night last season in a suit. It was a suit in an NHL arena, but it was a suit nonetheless.
Injured in Nashville’s abbreviated training camp in January, Bartley hung around in Nashville for a few extra days to heal. Those few extra days meant that Bartley was added to the Predators opening night roster but was a “healthy” scratch (healthy in name only, since he was injured). After opening weekend, Bartley found himself on a plane back to Milwaukee.
Bartley actually began the 2012-13 season in Milwaukee. While several players went to Europe during the lockout, Bartley’s two-way contract, lack of NHL playing time and projected roster spot (or projected non-existent roster spot) meant that he stayed in North America and plied his trade with Nashville’s farm club.
Making the most of his opportunity, Bartley unleashed 26 points (7G – 19A) in 54 games with the Admirals, becoming Milwaukee’s lone representative at the AHL All Star Classic.
Technicalities aside, Bartley did not make the Predators team until halfway through the season when injuries to Hal Gill and Scott Hannan and the further regression of Jon Blum necessitated Bartley’s call up on March 8 against the Oilers.
In Bartley’s debut, the Predators shut out Edmonton and had a rare (for last season) offensive explosion, winning 6-0. After the game, Barry Trotz paid Bartley perhaps the highest praise that Barry Trotz can pay a new player.
“He didn’t look like he played his first game,” Trotz said. “He was pretty solid.”
Bartley played out the remainder of the season in Nashville, sufficiently cementing his spot on the roster in the coming season. In fact, with Roman Josi’s ability to step up, the drafting of Seth Jones and Bartley’s performance last year, the Predators were able to let Hal Gill and Jonathon Blum walk out the door at the end of the season. To use a baseball analogy, if Bartley was to the Predators last season what Evan Gattis is to the Atlanta Braves this season, Hal Gill was the pre-LASIK Dan Uggla.
For his part, Bartley was rewarded with the first one-way contract of his career, a three-year, $2 million deal.
Bartley has literally played all over the place. His professional career began in Providence, took him to Utah, Bridgeport and Sweden before the Predators signed him to a two-way contract. For the first time in his career, Bartley at least has a small sense of comfort and stability for the next few seasons.
This season, Bartley will be joining a much stronger defensive group than last. In addition to Bartley, opposing teams will need to get past Seth Jones, Roman Josi, Kevin Klein and, of course, Shea Weber before they still have to unleash a shot on Pekka Rinne.
A hard-working player who does not show any signs of slacking off, Bartley should continue to improve upon his already solid play from last year and become one of the most dependable of Nashville’s blue-liners.
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Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua
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