There is a common catch-phrase that states, “You’ve come a long way baby”, that couldn’t be more fitting for a prospect like TJ Brodie. Drafted by Calgary in the fourth round (114th overall) in 2008, he was seen as having the potential to be an offensive defenseman with upside. After an impressive showing in his first training camp with the Flames, the young D-Man only lasted three games before being returned to the Abbotsford Heat. Not allowing the demotion to discourage him, Brodie registered 5 goals and 34 points in 68 games; and was the Heat’s lone representative in the AHL All Star game.
The 2011-12 season would be a much different story. He would begin the season in Abbotsford once again, but would only last there for twelve games. Once called up to the parent club, there would be no looking back.
Brodie wasn’t exactly thrown to the wolves last season, but he earned his stripes along the way. Playing with the elder statesman Cory Sarich, he was given slightly sheltered minutes, starting in the offensive zone 51.9% of the time. However it is also noteworthy that Brodie boasted the best Corsi/60 rate (+3.34) of all the Flames defensive skaters; simply put, when he did start in his own zone, for the most part he was doing it the right way.
Back in April, Robert Vollman took a look back to review defensive projections. Brodie, over 71 games was projected to score 17 pts. He tallied 14 pts in 54 games, giving him a 0.26 ppg value; which surpassed his projected 0.24. Surpassing expectations is something many fans have come to admire about the young rear-guard.
*Reminder – The evaluators were asked to rank players, and we sorted the rankings via a simple point scale-number 15 on each list got one point, while number 1 on each list got 15. The criteria for who was included was pretty simple: players the Flames control who are 23 and under (excluding Mikael Backlund, since he’s already a bona fide NHLer).
Brodie’s biggest asset is his skating and puck handling. He is smooth, fast and agile, all attributes he uses to gain the advantage against his opponents and move the puck out of the Flames end and across the neutral zone. He demonstrates poise and patience with the puck, but has the presence of mind to move it out to the forwards with opportunity. With a decent shot that is pretty accurate there is little doubt that he is a player that is going to see ample opportunity to boost his offensive numbers on the Flames power-play.
Brodie’s absence from a power-play that was lackluster at best always puzzled me. If the saying is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, then what do you do for a system that is disorganized and flat out embarrassing; because to me, that’s broke. One way of answering that might to look at Brodie’s flaws in the NHL. At the time being, TJ isn’t as physically dominating as his defensive partner. At just 6-1 and 182 lbs, he’s not knocking guys around the boards to win battles for the puck. It’s going to take more effort which takes more of a toll on his stamina.
Even though Brodie never appeared to be over his head in game situations (for the most part), the Flames might have just erred on the side of caution with over-loading his ice time. He was already averaging 14+ minutes per night; tacking on the added power-play minutes may have been seen as mismanaging his time-on-ice.
One area that TJ definitely showed signs of improvement over the course of his season was in his focus. As the season went on, Brodie seemed to refine his concentration in the game, making him more effective and useful. When players and specifically other defensemen starting dropping like flies with injuries, Brodie was a versatile option that the Flames had confidence in to move around to fill in the gaps.
I see Brodie increasing his role and his responsibilities in the next season. If the Flames do indeed shed themselves of the likes of Scott Hannan, Cory Sarich (and Jay Bouwmeester if the rumours hold true), it won’t be long before a player like Brodie is seen to share a leadership role in the near future. It seems a little absurd right now, but not out of the question over the next few years.
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