The TJ Brodie Situation

Kent Wilson
September 27 2010 01:22PM

OTTAWA, ON - JUNE 21:  114th overall pick, T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames poses for a portrait at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 21, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Getty Images)

 

On Saturday night, TJ Brodie added another data point to his rapid ascension up the Flames prospect depth chart, scoring two power play goals against a decidedly veteran Tampa Bay pre-season squad. Brodie was also amongst the team leaders in ice time that night at 25:04, including more than 16 minutes at ES.

With each notable performance and in light of the news today that the org has cut Seabrook, Baldwin, Keetly and Negrin, the Brodie situation is inching closer and closer to "controversy" territory. Unfortunately, the Flames depth and cap situation makes this issue far more tangled than simply a surprise rookie making a bid to oust a veteran.

There are all sorts of reasons why TJ Brodie is, in all likelihood, not going to make the Flames this year: he's just 20 years old, he wieghs all of 180 pounds, he hasn't played a single game of real pro hockey and the Flames already boast at least 8 established NHLers on one-way contracts. Plus now waiver-eiligible (and much older) Matt Pelech. So while Brodie has seemingly jumped the line ahead of guys like Seabrook, Negrin and Baldwin, there remains a whole host of reasons his rapid rise will inevitably meet with a glass ceiling.

On top of all that, hopes sprung from a handful of good performances in a few pre-season and prospect competitions should be tempered. Every year, a number of names show up in the exhibition scoring charts only to disappear completely once the real stuff gets going. Brodie has been tracking well throughout his career and clearly looks a step ahead of his peers at this juncture, but that doesn't necessarily translate to him stepping out of junior and onto the big ice. There's a sizable transition when youngsters make the leap, especially for defenders which makes extrapolating a good game here or there out to a full 82 game schedule a dangerous business.

On the other hand, there are actually a few somewhat compelling arguments to be made in favor of Brodie making the leap:

1.) While few defensemen can compete at 20, it's certainly possible. Joni Pitkanen, Andrej Meszaros and Dion Phaneuf spring to mind. You'll notice most of them are of the "offensive ilk" given that that is perhaps the best way to squeeze value from a defender on an ELC - protect him at ES and give him the easy minutes and PP time. The guys listed averaged 13 goals and 38 points between them in their rookie seasons.

Now, those are clearly some pretty good players and not necessarily an apt comparison, but the principle stands: one can glean some value from an offensively minded rearguard on the back-end by managing his minutes. This issue is especially notable for the Flames, whose primary weapons on the blueline will all be seeing top 4 match-ups this coming season: Ian White, Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester. The best bets to land on the bottom of the rotation are Adam Pardy, Steve Staios and Cory Sarich. None of whom are threats at the good end of the ice. This is also an issue for hopeful Matt Pelech - he doesn't add much of anything north of the red line. It would be nice to equip the 3rd pairing with a guy who can do more than "off the glass and out". it's a role that Mark Giordano has mostly grown up in the last couple of years. Ditto Dion, until he started making the big bucks.

2.) The cap savings for replacing, say, Staios with Brodie would be pretty significant. According to capgeek, the latter's cap hit in the NHL would be $733,333. That's marginally more expensive than Pelech and Kronwall, but obviously about $2M cheaper than Steady Steve. Moving or demoting Staios would also allow the club to keep Pardy in a 6th/7th defender role and swap him out with Brodie should the youngster falter. Brodie could also be demoted half way through the season without fear of losing him to waivers. In essence, it would give the cap-strapped club a tad more flexibility should the need to dodge the ceiling on a game-to-game basis arise. That's not true of Matt Pelech.

3.) The Flames roster is strong enough to shelter Brodie. With Regehr, Bouwmeester, Sarich, White, Giordano and Pardy, the Flames have 6 established NHL defenders who will be able to soften the blow for the kid (assuming Staios is the guy that gets the heave-ho). A third pairing featuring Sarich and Brodie could be anchored by the elder statesman and still potentially keep it's head above water. Iroincally, with lesser depth there would be greater room on the club for Brodie but it would probably be a worse idea since trusting a rookie d-man to take on anything more than marginal competition in his first year is usually a mistake.

4.) The future is rapidly approaching. Meaning two things. Firstly, the bulk of Calgary's prospect strength is on the back-end. Pelech, Negrin, Erixon, Seabrook will all likely be pressing for an NHL job at some point in the near future. The team will have to stagger the appearances of these kids in the line-up in order to maintain competitiveness and avoid a future where a bunch of them all become notable free agents at the same time.

Secondly and of more pressing concern, the organization is looking at having to replace or re-sign Mark Giordano, Ian White, Steve Staios and Adam Pardy next summer. It's almost certain that at least one (if not both) of Gio and White will bolt for free agency. It would be nice to get at least one kid into an apprenticeship this year so he can step in and fill the gap next season. Shopping for 30+ point/PP defenders on the open market is an expensive endeavor. 

Overall, I still consider Brodie's chance of making the squad out of camp to be close to "nill", however, it's not as obvious a choice as it initially seems

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Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Corey Pronman
September 27 2010, 01:25PM
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"Pelech, Negrin, Erixon, Seabrook will all likely be pressing for an NHL job at some point in the near future."

Don't you mean,

Pelech, Negrin, Erixon, will all likely be pressing for an NHL job at some point in the near future.

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#3 jess
September 27 2010, 01:40PM
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Thanks for this one Kent,

I've been aching to get some more info on Brodie other than misleading boxscores. Kid seems to be able to handle the pre-season pressure, but the real gig at the NHL is a totally different monster.

I'd like to see Staios go and Brodie move up. Sucks for Pelech, but not everyone is destined to become an NHL player.

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#4 PrairieStew
September 27 2010, 01:53PM
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Very few d men compete at 20. All of those guys you listed were also much larger - all over 210. You missed Doughty - and he is also 219 (!). At 180 I'd hate to see him get banged up as he adjusts to the speed of the pro game.

The defense position is definitely a quandry - we know the top 4, but the 5 guys looking for the bottom 3 positions are all pretty much have little to offer on the offensive side, making TJB an attractive option.

As I said before, it really would be a shame to lose Pelech or Kronwall for nothing on the waiver wire - so the solution that still seems feasible to me is trade Sarich and (if ownership can stomach it) send $2.7 man to the minors to play with Brodie. If an injury happens on the back end mid season then bring him up then for a look.

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#5 Michael
September 27 2010, 03:12PM
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The question is whether playing in the NHL would help or hurt his development.

With actual points on the line, both Sutters prefer to ice a vet lineup, so you have to think that Brodies ice time would be limited. Given limited ice time, having him spend the first year in the minors, and allowing him time to develop, seems like the way to go.

Given the Pelech would have to clear waivers, having Pelech serve as the 7th guy, and using Brodie as a call up, seems to make sense.

We have a surplus of good young dmen, and a lack of good young forwards... umh?

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#6 Graham
September 27 2010, 03:44PM
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@Michael

We have a surplus of good young dmen, and a lack of good young forwards... umh?

Sounds like the Flames have been shopping Regehr, but with the league cap issues, its hard to move a big salary.

I doubt we can keep both Gio and White, so would it make sense to move one of them, but both are UFA's next year.. so that has to limit their value. If we are out of the play off race, moving one at the deadline for a rental type return might work...

At their current salaries, Bouwmeester, Staios and Sarich don't have any value. Pardy is also UFA...(and is a depth guy at best)

Can't see much more than a Stalman type depth move, and I hated that one last year.

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#8 jess
September 27 2010, 04:19PM
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you don't get better by playing against lesser competition.

Brodie however, may not quite be strong enough for the NHL. Hard but true reality in this day and age of the game.

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#9 SmellOfVictory
September 27 2010, 08:02PM
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But that's the thing: if they can shelter Brodie well enough on the bottom pair, he might be able to continue applying his skill without having to worry so much about situations that would require increased strength. I personally want to see him in the NHL under the circumstances Kent is talking about. Aside from the fact that I think it's more likely to help him than hurt him, it would be friggin' nice to finally see a young prospect in the organization playing ahead of his projected development curve (when was the last time that happened?)

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#11 RossCreekNation
September 27 2010, 10:37PM
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Let Brodie develop & play big minutes in the 'A'. You can call him up when the inevitable injury bug bites.

Matt Pelech stays with the big club.

If nothing else (ie: a Staios move, for instance), Adam Pardy is exposed on waivers to make room for Pelech. While NHL capable, Pardy has no real upside compared to Pelech, nor does he have the pedigree. Organizations rarely expose a former 1st rounder, however green he may be at the NHL level, in favour of a steady 6th/7th d-man.

Like I said, in a perfect world, Pelech & Pardy could both stay & Staios would be shown the door, but I've never yet believed even once that Steady Steve wouldn't be here this season... not since the day they acquired him.

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#13 PrairieStew
September 28 2010, 08:56AM
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jess wrote:

you don't get better by playing against lesser competition.

Brodie however, may not quite be strong enough for the NHL. Hard but true reality in this day and age of the game.

The jump between Major junior and the AHL is significant - make no mistake about that. He will get better playing against 23-30 year olds rather than 17-19 year olds in junior.

With every level of hockey you step up, things happen at a quicker pace and you must make quicker and better decisions. I'd rather have him be confident at the AHL level and play his game than be rushed at the NHL level and be forced to play an "off the glass and out" style to be safe.

There are a couple of theories of development too - are you best served by being surrounded by competition that is better than you - forcing you to move faster - or are you best served by being near the top of the pile - and then you have the puck way more often. Kids who play hockey in really small towns where there is only one team at every level sometimes produce a great hockey players - because all the way through he always has the puck ( T fleury comes to mind); he doesn't always need tiered teams.

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#14 dotfras
September 28 2010, 10:26PM
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Brodie looked great again tonight. This guy stands out way more than Pardy or Pelech. From what I saw he is very aware of everything out there, knows when to jump up & where to be. I think him & Sarich on a 3rd pairing would be fine facing lesser competition & give him a good chance to develop.

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