The Evolution of TJ Brodie

Kent Wilson
August 30 2013 12:01PM

 

 

We've talked a lot about TJ Brodie this season. It's been impossible not to - the 4th round pick has gone from a competent third pairing defender to a probable top pairing guy in the space of a year. All before the age of 23. He led the blueline in relative possession last season and is poised to become a cornerstone of the rebuild on the back-end.

I wanted to take a look at his season to illustrate how things changed for Brodie as Bob Hartley gained confidence in the youngster. His average ice time was 20:13 by the end of the year, but that probably underestimates his season ending role, as well as what we can expect from him this upcoming year. This inquiry will also illustrate why I was personally advocating for a long-term contract for Brodie this summer as opposed to the actual bridge contract that was negotiated.

First Half

Game G A P +/- Shifts TOI
Mar 11 '13 CGY @ LAK 0 0 0 0 27 21:36
Mar 9 '13 CGY @ LAK 0 0 0 -2 18 22:47
Mar 8 '13 CGY @ ANA 0 0 0 -1 19 12:48
Mar 6 '13 SJS @ CGY 0 1 1 1 22 18:13
Mar 3 '13 VAN @ CGY 0 0 0 1 23 15:15
Feb 28 '13 CGY @ COL 0 0 0 -1 23 15:51
Feb 26 '13 CGY @ MIN 0 0 0 0 27 16:58
Feb 24 '13 PHX @ CGY 0 0 0 0 21 17:57
Feb 23 '13 MIN @ CGY 0 0 0 -1 26 14:12
Feb 20 '13 LAK @ CGY 1 0 1 0 27 18:22
Feb 18 '13 CGY @ PHX 0 0 0 -2 30 22:18
Feb 17 '13 CGY @ DAL 0 0 0 -1 25 20:35
Feb 15 '13 STL @ CGY 0 0 0 -2 21 19:02
Feb 13 '13 DAL @ CGY 0 1 1 2 29 16:19
Feb 11 '13 MIN @ CGY 0 0 0 0 25 20:05
Feb 9 '13 CGY @ VAN 0 0 0 -1 23 19:32
Feb 7 '13 CGY @ CBJ 0 2 2 3 25 18:55
Feb 5 '13 CGY @ DET 0 0 0 2 24 20:18
Feb 2 '13 CHI @ CGY 0 0 0 0 26 19:01
Jan 31 '13 COL @ CGY 0 0 0 0 26 20:02
Jan 26 '13 EDM @ CGY 0 0 0 0 22 14:43
Jan 23 '13 CGY @ VAN 0 0 0 0 20 15:43
Jan 21 '13 ANA @ CGY 0 1 1 0 20 14:05
Mean           18:01

I gathered the ice times from NHL.com, so the sequence moves from the bottom up in these tables.

Brodie's average ice time through the first 23 games of the season was just over 18 minutes. His high water mark was 22:47 on March 9 versus the Kings. He crested 20 minutes 7 times in 23 games (30%) and 22 minutes twice.

Second Half

Game G A P +/- Shifts TOI
Apr 26 '13 CGY @ CHI 0 0 0 -1 22 16:52
Apr 25 '13 CGY @ STL 0 0 0 1 27 24:38
Apr 23 '13 CGY @ NSH 1 0 1 -1 25 19:37
Apr 21 '13 CGY @ MIN 0 2 2 0 34 27:59
Apr 19 '13 ANA @ CGY 0 0 0 2 29 23:33
Apr 17 '13 DET @ CGY 0 0 0 2 30 25:02
Apr 15 '13 MIN @ CGY 0 0 0 -1 25 22:21
Apr 13 '13 CGY @ EDM 0 2 2 0 29 22:22
Apr 12 '13 PHX @ CGY 0 1 1 0 34 24:08
Apr 10 '13 VAN @ CGY 0 0 0 0 29 26:00
Apr 8 '13 CGY @ COL 0 0 0 0 32 24:14
Apr 6 '13 CGY @ VAN 0 0 0 0 30 22:03
Apr 5 '13 CGY @ SJS 0 0 0 -1 31 26:27
Apr 3 '13 EDM @ CGY 0 0 0 -1 28 22:19
Apr 1 '13 CGY @ EDM 0 0 0 0 28 23:53
Mar 29 '13 CBJ @ CGY 0 0 0 -3 25 18:31
Mar 27 '13 COL @ CGY 0 0 0 1 25 21:26
Mar 26 '13 CGY @ CHI 0 0 0 0 27 21:12
Mar 24 '13 STL @ CGY 0 1 1 -1 31 23:15
Mar 22 '13 CGY @ CBJ 0 0 0 -2 28 18:42
Mar 21 '13 CGY @ NSH 0 0 0 -2 26 20:30
Mar 18 '13 CGY @ DAL 0 1 1 -1 24 19:02
Mar 15 '13 NSH @ CGY 0 0 0 -1 26 22:39
Mar 13 '13 DET @ CGY 0 0 0 2 26 21:36
Mean           22:26

The shift in the second half of the year is significant. Brodie's ice time obviously increased after the Flames dealt Jay Bouwmeester (April 1), but he was already on the ascent prior to the deal. In this 24 game segment, Brodie's average ice jumped to 22:26, a more than five minute bump over his first half - the biggest ice time increase on the Flames blueline in the wake of the Bouwmeester deal.

Twenty plus minutes a night was a far more regular occurence for Brodie in this sample: 19 of 24 or 79%. He broke 22 minutes 14 times. His segment (and season) high ice time was 27:59 (!), which he managed against Minnesota on April 21.

Discussion

The loss of Bouwmeester seems to be skewing Brodie's ice time, but the fact is the Flames are entering the season with more or less the exact same blueline (plus/minus a Kris Russell and Corey Sarich), so there's a good chance Brodie will be deployed in a similar manner moving forward. In addition, the kid didn't falter in the face of increased ice time and responsibilty - his underlying numbers including corsi and scoring chances continued to be above board even as he moved up the rotation. That he wasn't hopelessly overwhelmed means there's a good chance Brodie's ice will remain constant or climb as he develops over the next two seasons. Particularly if guys like Giordano and Wideman lose a step or are dealt at some point.

This is relevant to Brodie's contract debate because once a guy starts banking 22+ minutes a night, he's entering rarified air in the NHL. Last year, a 22:26/game ice time would have placed Brodie 51st in the league between Tobias Enstrom (22:31) and Alex Goligoski (22:23). Some other recognizable names within range were Victor Hedman (22:39), Slava Voynov (22:18) and Brent Seabrook (21:54). If he improves over the next two seasons and solidifies a top-2 position on the club, he only needs to bump his average ice time by about a minute to get inside the NHL's top-30 blueliners by that metric.

Here is that list of defenders from 2012-13. You'll notice almost none of them are a bargain outside of Justin Falk. Dennis Seidenberg may be the cheapest guy on the list outside of Falk at $3.25M/year. eyeballing things, my guess is the average price-tag is north of $4.5M.

Conclusion

Obviously there's also a chance Brodie doesn't maintain last year's performance level and his ice time falls, but all the arrows are pointing in the right direction: his underlying numbers (team best), his age (23) and the construction of the roster all suggest Brodie's ice time will, at minimum, reflect the second half of his 2012-13 season, if not rise as he continues to develop.

The good news if that happens is the Flames are getting a huge bargain at his new price point ($2.125M) over the next two seasons.

We'll assess the potential bad news in two years time when the cap is about $70M...

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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 Jeff Lebowski
August 30 2013, 12:28PM
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I know these may be difficult to answer but what exactly makes TJ good (skills-what does he do really well) and why does he 'make it' while other, similarly skilled, even better skilled guys don't?

Is it confidence? Is it physical discipline - eat right year round, be in shape year round? Is it just opportunity? Is it mental toughness- the guys that make it, never get in their own way - no self sabotage (doubt), ability to let go of mistakes, etc? Is it just reaching a comfort level with the league - awe factor gone, treated well by team mates, kind of falls in opportunity but given right circumstances (sheltered) etc?

Why did Dion start off promising then just fall off (did Dion just hear how great he was too often)? Does TJ risk the same happening to him?

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#3 Jibmeister
August 30 2013, 12:45PM
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Brent Seaborrok.

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#4 KingQuong
August 30 2013, 12:49PM
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@Jeff Lebowski

Confidence makes a huge difference like Backlund said when he started the season after playing in Europe he talked about how much confidence he had. Also Brodie see's the ice very well he's a playmaker so he knows whats going to happen where a lot of the time so i think its the high hockey iq and the confidence. He's also a pretty good skater.

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#6 suba steve
August 30 2013, 12:58PM
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It seems clear that the league has decided that the second contract is the one where they will be exerting the leverage that they have to pay lower salaries with these "bridge" deals. PK Suban got it this past season and I guess COL was doing the same with O'Reilly?

Pietrangelo and Kadri are currently getting the same treatment and Brodie came up against it and settled just recently. No offer sheets are floating around for these future (if not current) stars. Josi was an exception, but for now it seems like the owners are trying to make a much needed change. I wish them luck.

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#8 seve927
August 30 2013, 01:16PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

There's lots of good reasons to be wary of overpaying at the second contract I'd say. My contention with Brodie in particular is the team could have locked him in long-term at a much reduced rate compared to what they're going to have to give him in 2 years, based on some assumptions and projection, of course.

We'll see how it turns out.

What are you thinking he'll get on his next contract as compared to what they could have locked him up for now?

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#10 FireOnIce
August 30 2013, 01:30PM
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@Jeff Lebowski

Re: Neon Dion.

I had always heard that Dion got himself a good nose candy habit going and was a bit too much into the partying. Not sure how verifiable that is, but when you're 20-24 living in Calgary and as high-profile as Phaneuf, people see/hear stuff.

Mostly, I just don't think Phaneuf is that smart. Yeah, he scored a bunch, but his defensive play at all times was suspect. He usually chose the aggressive option, defensive responsibility and team-focus be damned.

All I can remember from his time in Calgary was either

1) Making huge open-ice hits that resulted in him being out of place 2) Him racing in with the puck, shooting (HIGH AND WIDE!), and then old man Langkow having to skate back and stop the 3-1 breakaway.

In terms of Brodie, I think he is leaps and bounds ahead of where Phaneuf was at this point. Brodie has more sense of being responsible in his own end than Phaneuf ever did. He takes shots and contributes and plays hard, but he doesn't choose the huge, concussion-inducing hit over stopping the puck from going into his net.

Brodie FTW.

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#11 FireOnIce
August 30 2013, 01:30PM
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Also, this:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v210/JesGolbez/kipper-dion-stripclub.jpg

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#12 beloch
August 30 2013, 01:33PM
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I'd be willing to bet that, on average, players on short contracts reflecting their worth accurately cost less than equivalent players with longer contracts made by a GM trying to get deals. For every player that outperforms his contract there's a Stajan or a Jokinen, and possibly a Babchuk.

I do think Brodie will be good, but I question whether trying to outsmart player agents really saves money on a consistent basis.

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#13 suba steve
August 30 2013, 01:40PM
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@beloch

That is it. MTL will cost themselves plenty on PK's next deal, but long-term, they will save if every player is treated similarly. The key is, they (and all teams) have to stick to the plan.

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#14 Parallex
August 30 2013, 02:33PM
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See here's the thing... I don't want the Flames gambling on 7 year contracts based on 1/4 of a full seasons worth of data right now.

I'd rather the Flames risk maybe having to pay Brodie 1 million-ish more later (relative to what Josi's cap hit will be) by signing the bridge deal (if he works out) then risk overpaying him by 3 million if he doesn't (difference between what Josi makes and what a third-pairing defenseman generally makes).

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#15 kittensandcookies
August 30 2013, 03:40PM
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FireOnIce wrote:

Also, this:

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v210/JesGolbez/kipper-dion-stripclub.jpg

Between Dion and Kipper, Kipper is the bad boy by far. I'm surprised he's still married.

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#16 kittensandcookies
August 30 2013, 03:43PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

I did a hypothetical here. Even if he's just a $4.5M defender after the bridge, the Flames are ahead if they lock him up long-term for 3-3.5M.

That's speculation...maybe the player didn't want to commit long-term either with an eye to getting paid in a few years.

Yeah I always thought it was Brodie that wanted the short term deal.

Considering that this team could be bad for a very long while, he may want to ply his trade elsewhere eventually.

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#17 ChinookArch
August 30 2013, 05:24PM
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My fear for Brodie for this season is that he may regress a bit. I wouldn't be that surprising or worrisome, Defensemen always seem to struggle in their 2nd or 3rd year in the NHL. Of course, if that does happen Feaster may have a bargain signing afterward, cause I think he's the real deal.

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#18 SmellOfVictory
August 31 2013, 08:13AM
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Jeff Lebowski wrote:

I know these may be difficult to answer but what exactly makes TJ good (skills-what does he do really well) and why does he 'make it' while other, similarly skilled, even better skilled guys don't?

Is it confidence? Is it physical discipline - eat right year round, be in shape year round? Is it just opportunity? Is it mental toughness- the guys that make it, never get in their own way - no self sabotage (doubt), ability to let go of mistakes, etc? Is it just reaching a comfort level with the league - awe factor gone, treated well by team mates, kind of falls in opportunity but given right circumstances (sheltered) etc?

Why did Dion start off promising then just fall off (did Dion just hear how great he was too often)? Does TJ risk the same happening to him?

Depends on the player, but vs Phaneuf, for example, Brodie is at least an equivalent passer (if not better), at least an equivalent skater (if not better), and ten times smarter from a hockey perspective. And Phaneuf falling off was just from Norris contender to #2-3 level dman (primarily due to lack of hockey sense). He just seemed to much worse because of his fat contract.

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