Reasonable Expectations: T.J. Brodie

Three years ago, T.J. Brodie was a curious tale.

Calgary’s fourth round selection in 2008 – taken after the club had already selected Greg Nemisz, Mitch Wahl, Lance Bouma and Nick Larson – Brodie turned pro in 2010-11 and quietly (and rapidly) crept up the team’s internal rankings. Now he’s just 24 years old and already the team’s best non-Giordano defenseman. And Giordano’s nearly 31 years old and near his career peak, while Brodie still has plenty of room to grow.

But how much growth should we expect from #7 in 2014-15?

Season       Corsi %              PDO          
OZS%
2010-11 52.8% 88.2 47.1%
2011-12 51.6% 100.9 51.9%
2012-13 50.4% 96.8 47.9%
2013-14 51.5% 99.0 41.9%

 

In 2010-11, Brodie spent three games in the NHL. He looked out of place and was quickly shunted down to Abbotsford to shore up his defensive game (playing primarily with Joe Piskula). In 2011-12, he was much better and split time between the AHL and NHL, but he was shielded in the NHL, particularly evident by his zone starts. Bob Hartley seemed to utterly fall in love with Brodie, and he quickly rose from a healthy scratch early in 2012-13 to being on the top pairing after Jay Bouwmeester was traded away.

What a difference a few years can make, especially for a young hockey player.

BRODIE’S 2013-14 NUMBERS

T.J. Brodie was given the tough minutes this year. After being moved up and down the pairings in Bob Hartley’s first year as coach during the lock-out year – he played with Dennis Wideman most of all, but also with Jay Bouwmeester quite a bit – he was parked on the top pairing with Mark Giordano for the majority of the season.

As a result, he was BURIED in every way possible. Quality of opposition? Sky-high. Zone starts? Lots in the defensive zone. Tough minutes? Tons of ’em! In short: T.J. Brodie spent his fourth year as a pro hockey player stacked up against the best players on every team in the NHL, while toiling on the first pairing of one of the worst teams in the league.

And he did pretty damn well at that job.

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Brodie was one of a handful of Flames regulars that moved the dial puck possession-wise to a non-trivial degree. The other returnees that are members of this club are Mark Giordano and Mikael Backlund. When all three of these fellas play together, the puck goes towards the other team’s net. When they don’t, things get hairy in a hurry for the Flames.

Looking at Brodie’s numbers with different players – he played 100+ even-strength minutes with 13 forwards and 3 defensemen – there’s a common thread. He made everyone better. Everyone, with the exception of Curtis Glencross (which really speaks to how weird his year was) had a better CorsiFor% with Brodie than without him. And that’s with insanely skewed zone starts and tough competition. That’s nuts.

Ignoring fancy stats, Brodie’s probably got the best on-ice vision on the team, though Johnny Gaudreau could give him a run for his money now. And that combined with his excellent passing ability sprung basically every Flames forward with nice break-away opportunities. Heck, I’d argue that Brodie’s cross-ice outlet passes are the prettiest thing in hockey right now.

Now, Brodie’s not perfect. He’s arguably a worse defensive player than Giordano (though the captain may lack Brodie’s dynamic offensive moments). Brodie can get caught flat-footed, and Calgary’s April 1 loss to Toronto showcased a few of his defensive flaws. Brodie got caught pinching on one Leafs goal, leading to a break-away the other way when the puck too a bounce, and later on he got caught with a gap in coverage, allowing another Leafs goal. Granted, he’s 24 and isn’t a finished product, but he got room for improvement on the defensive side.

Either way, he’s still really really good. And he’s 24, so he’s likely to get better still.

2014-15 EXPECTATIONS

If you liked T.J. Brodie facing the NHL’s best players in 2013-14, be prepared for a whole lot more of it. Expect the pairing of Brodie and Mark Giordano to take on the world in 2014-15.

Now, Brodie had “just” 31 points in 2013-14, but a lot of that was because he didn’t get a ton of ice-time on the power-play compared to the other defensemen.

PP TOI/G
PP Points
Giordano 3:26 20
Russell 2:57 12
Brodie 1:46 7
Wideman 3:07 4

Now, a lot of this was likely designed to balance special teams time a bit. In order, Butler, Giordano, Smid and Brodie were the main PK defenders, so putting Brodie on both secondary units made sense to keep him fresh for the late stages of the game. But with his production relatively higher with less time – and the fact that he’s such a good passer – you may see Hartley give him extra PP time this year, if only to bolster what was the NHL’s 24th-best power-play last season.

If Brodie’s used similarly as last year, just because of his growing confidence in his offensive talents – Hartley noted multiple times last year that he doesn’t think Brodie knows how good he can be – Brodie’s production will increase a bit. He’ll still have occasional brain-farts with the puck, particularly given he may be tempted to take more chances.

But hey, it’s a rebuild. They won’t know how good Brodie can be if they don’t give him free reign to take some risks every now and then.

I’d peg the scoring range for Brodie as between 35 and 40 points. If he gets a lot more power-play time, that range could creep up a bit. He won’t out-score Mark Giordano – if he gets a fully healthy season in, the captain could be flirting with the league’s elite if he keeps up last year’s play – but I’d expect the gap to be bridged a bit.

That may be the benefit of the Brodie/Giordano pairing: Giordano’s an all-around good defenseman with an impeccable work ethic, which will only serve to push Brodie to work harder and play better. It’s probably only a matter of time before Brodie surpasses Giordano. It might not happen this year. But then again, we also didn’t think Brodie would progress as quickly as he has to this point either.

In summation: Mr. Treliving, sign him to a lengthy extension now, while he’s still (relatively) cheap.

  • Burnward

    This is the year the rest of the NHL realizes how good this kid is.

    Also thinking. What if they chop up the Brodie/Gio pairing this year? One of those two on the ice for 45 minutes a game?

    Yes please.

  • Parallex

    If Brodie continues to play with Gio and gets more PP time I would hope he could be over 45pts. I am wondering when he will be ready to carry another young defender like either Spoon or Sieloff rather than playing with Gio. I would love to see some of the preseason him playing with either Spoon or Sieloff and Gio playing with the other and Russell playing with with either Engs or Smid and Wides with the other, Cundari and the recent AHL guy(forgot his name at the moment)split and playing with some of the kids.

  • Parallex

    It’s hard to come up with a reasonable expectation for TJ Brodie, I think Brodie and Giordano are the principle reason that the Flames didn’t draft #1 overall (I think we end up finishing 29th overall without them being as good as they were and thus win the lotto). It’s hard to project improvement because he was just so great… hell it’s hard to even say “just do what you did last year” because he was that damn good last year. Still I’d feel odd not expecting improvement from a 24yo defenseman.

    Reasonable Expectations: Be as good as you were last year with your Giordano WOWY being a bit less lopsided (Preview: Giordano’s reasonable expectation will be “Be as good as you were last year with your Brodie WOWY being a bit less lopsided).

  • My expectations are that he pick up his pen and get his signature on a
    5 -8 yr lucrative contract. If the Flames don’t offer or chose to waffle like they are on the Buoma offer than BT/BB you get what you deserve!!

  • Jeff Lebowski

    I don’t really think people criticize players fairly. He can get flat footed? You mean stopping is a weakness? No – it’s a mistake corrected with experience. Is Brodie incapable of knowing how to skate? Ludicrous.

    Mistakes happen to the best players – it’s not a weakness in their game. It’s error in judgment in reading a play that is unfolding to irregular patterns at high speeds.

    This is why experience is crucial when comparing players. Players learn – they are not finished products at 18, 28 or 38

    A weakness is lack of strength, a poor shot, injury prone ligament.

    Mistakes are miscalculations. If a player continues to repeat these miscalculations then their weakness may be intellectual. Or it might be medical.

    My expectation is that people stop looking at mistakes and calling them weaknesses. Its just facile judgment and labeling. Not real analysis – root cause.

    When does hockey start?

  • BurningSensation

    The question of whether to break Gio-Brodie up intrigues me. I am very curious if they can duplicate their performance while with lesser beings as defense partners.

    Would an Engelland-Brodie pairing give TJ permission to be Mike Green offensively? (that would be awesome)

    Or would Brodie be wiped out having to carry a boat anchor around? (the far more likely scenario)

    Do you break the kiddies (Seiloff and Wotherspoon) in by giving them time with Gio or Brodie? (Yes. A 1000x, Yes)

    As I see it, if in a few months the Flames still have a #1 pairing, and several 3rd pairings and if neither Seiloff nor Wotherspoon have started pushing into that gap, I suspect the Flames will deal for a blue liner.

  • JMK

    @ Burning Sensation

    Will we see a lot of Sieloff this year?? Is he that far along development wise to get a lot of NHL games this year. He’s hardly even played AHL.

  • Its interesting how good Brodie has grown this year and it truly seems like he will become a true #1 defender. This brings up an interesting point. Say Calgary finishes out of the top two and miss out on McEichel, what should the flames target? should the go after a Noah Hanifin or Oliver Kylington who is also projected to become an amazing defenceman so that he could eventually play with Brodie, or do they go with a forward, feeling that are comfortable with the defence prospects they have?

    • piscera.infada

      Both of those are great bets (give me Hanifin) at this point. However, it’s nearly impossible to label at this point. 1) We have no idea where the Flames will finish, bottom-2 or 5,6,7th pick – really, any of those are possible. 2) We don’t know if either of those, or someone else will emerge this year. Look for a player like Mat Barzal to cement himself in that range as well. Although he’s a centre, he’s a very skill right-hand shot – something else the Flames desperately need.

      • Jeff Lebowski

        Barzal is interesting. I’m pretty sure he’s played RW before too.

        I still think the Flames will end up with him somehow, as much as I’m hoping for Hanifin (with Kylington drawing some of my interest as well).

  • Jeff Lebowski

    Also, wrt Brodie:

    He has had to erase the teachings of Brent’s no risk system.

    This effect is real and acute: see Bouwmeester before, during and after his Calgary tenure.

    TJ leads the attack sometimes. He is doing that more and more because of Hartley’s urgings.

    Think back to Brent. When did you see d even pinching?

    There is tons more in TJ’s game. He is being unleashed now.

    I know people love him but I truly believe we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. The utter shame is that it has taken this long to break the shackles.

    I look at that Haydn Fleury kid: his offense was limited in junior. I believe he is going to turn heads once free too. Could be wrong.

  • Burnward

    I decided to look at the reasonable expectations reports we have had the opportunity to read so far this offseason. For those who have not looked at them this would be my summary(apologizes to the writers if I misunderstood any of the bold predictions as some were not as clear as others)

    Brodie: improvement somewhere between 35-40 points

    Jones:??? health issues 20-30 points

    Stajan: status quo 30 points

    Bollig: depth help 15 points

    Colbourne: slight improvement 30+ points

    Monahan: slight improvement 40+ points

    Raymond: status quo different team/differnet style 40+ points

    Glenx: health issues 40+ points

    Hudler: staus quo 50+ points

    Backs: significant improvement 50+ points

    Did I miss anyone on which a reasonable expectations story was done?