Kent posed a question to me the other day in relation to using Oliver Ekman-Larsson as a comparable to TJ Brodie. As you all know, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is one of the better young defenseman in the entire NHL and would be a top-pairing player on just about every team. He also has the contract that comes along with that, with a $5.5 million dollar cap hit over the next 6 years.
However, of Ekman-Larsson’s cap hit comparables (defenseman within +/-750k of Ekman-Larsson’s cap hit) the only player I’d even consider taking over him is Duncan Keith, who had his true value artificially lessened due to cheat years at the end of his contract.
So, with that in mind, is Oliver Ekman-Larsson a comparable to Brodie? If he is, in what ways and should that affect our view of Brodie’s potential contract? If he isn’t, can we come up with a reasonable estimate using Ekman-Larsson’s data to scale down Brodie’s contract?
Comparing Via NHLE
|NHLE||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||TJ Brodie|
Brodie has been used in different situations than Ekman-Larsson has: namely, Brodie’s time on the PP had been insignificant until the last 10 games of 2013, whereas with Ekman-Larsson gets a ton of PP time. For example, In 2013, OEL got about a minute and a half more per game on the man advantage (3:40/game vs 2:01/game).
Brodie has bounced around different leagues over the past three years due to lockouts and such, but Ekman-Larsson has played pretty much all of his games in the NHL. Scoring-wise, I believe Brodie can probably get up to between 30 and 35 points next year assuming added PP time, and Ekman-Larsson is unlikely to repeat his 1022 PDO, so he could (and likely will) drop back a little in terms of point production. It’s not unrealistic to assume that they’ll be close next year, but for now Larsson has the superior track record in terms of putting points on the board, which skews most contract talks significantly.
I would prefer to compare this again after next season after both guys played a full NHL season and played similar roles. However, it’s possible that the above doesn’t come to fruition and Brodie maxes out at a 25-30 point-per-year player, whereas Ekman-Larsson’s ceiling when it comes to points is significantly higher than that mark.
Comparing Via Adjusted Corsi
|Adjusted Corsi||Oliver Ekman-Larsson||TJ Brodie|
Here we have the Adjusted Corsi, which corrects for factors like zone starts as well as the quality of teammates and opposition for each player. (Click here if you need a primer on Adjusted Corsi). This is a significant consideration because OEL has played in tougher circumstances (particularly quality of compeition) over the last two seasons relative to Brodie, so a straight-up comparison of their underlying numbers is problematic.
As you can see, with the exception of Brodie’s 3-game stint in 2011, he has outperformed OEL when it comes to generating shot attempts while on the ice. This is really impressive – Ekman-Larsson is really, really good and this is telling us that at least by this measure Brodie’s impact on the team when he was on the ice last year equalled out to about 5.5 shot attempts per game better than Ekman-Larsson. That said, keep in mind OEL is just 22 years old, having leapt straight into the league at 19-20, so he’s a bit ahead of the curve in terms of development. Also, our regression equation which figures out the adjusted corsi for each player may not be weighting factors like quality of opposition perfectly. Until Brodie actually faces top line competition consistently and puts up good possession rates, we can’t be sure he is OEL’s equal or better in this regard.
In addition, since we only have about 100 games worth of data on the TJ Brodie side of the equation, we can’t say definitively that his results so far are truly indicative of his real talent level. Brodie also played some odd minutes this year, which makes it difficult to truly gauge his performance.
There’s cautionary tales galore when it comes to bridge contracts for young defensemen – PK Subban, Karl Alzner, Ryan Suter, Shea Weber… the list goes on and on. There’s also cautionary tales when the subject shifts to overpaying young defensemen (hello, Tyler Myers). But in Brodie’s case, it would be really hard to overpay him given his leverage in talks (couldn’t ask for much more than $3M and even that’s a reach), especially if he keeps this pace up. Even if he falls back a little – committing to him long-term is somewhat risky but comes with a high attendant reward because of what he’s already displayed at the NHL level.
I don’t believe Brodie is worthy of a Ekman-Larsson like payday, but the numbers above suggest the comparison is potentially apt, at least from a possession/defensive stand-point. If we assume a PPG of about .35 for Brodie moving forward compared to Ekman-Larsson’s ~.55 PPG, that’ll bring the value of the contract down by a significant amount. Anecdotally, it’s a lot easier to continue high-level defensive play than it is offensive play, in part because defenders are even more dependent on luck and circumstances for output than forwards. If you’re paying TJ Brodie for his defensive capabilities, then you’re getting a good deal likely for the entire duration of the contract and any steps forward he takes offensively is a bonus. However, if the Flames go with the bridge option and Brodie plays top-3 minutes and scores anywhere from 35-45 points in a season, his pricetag will no doubt blossom north of $4M.
What’s notable about Brodie from a Flames perspective is no recent home grown defensive prospect has been able to come into the league and put up these sorts of results at such an early age outside of Dion Phaneuf (who also scored a bunch, of course). Later this summer, we will look at other defenders who have appeared in 100 or more games by about age 23 and see how they fared offensively and possession-wise, which will help us contextualize Brodie’s results even further.