Ryan recently chose Matt Stajan as the sentimental MVP of the Flames first round. It’s not a bad choice – Stajan did in fact have an excellent series, despite playing a pretty tough role. Nevertheless, I was going through the numbers today and I think another skater bears an honourable mention: TJ Brodie.
The youngest regular defender on the Flames blueline is also it’s best in the absence of Captain Mark Giordano. Aside from his four points in six games, Brodie provided a steady, stabling influence on the back-end that was likely one of the key reasons the Flames were able to complete the upset.
Via War on Ice, here’s a series of graphs that illustrates just how good Brodie was against the Canucks.
Quick primer on these usage charts: the colour of the bubble represents relative possession rate (blue = higher, red = lower). The Y-axis is quality of opposition and the X-axis is % of offensive zone to defensive zone starts. Which means, the higher up and further left a player is, the more difficult his assignment.
This is the Flames top-4 rotation. The difference in quality of competition between all the players looks severe, but that’s only because of the data range on the graph. In actuality, they all played about the same level of bad guys.
The difference in zone starts is bigger though. Like the regular season, Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell started more often in the offensive zone, while Brodie and (especially) Deryk Engelland saw more defensive zone draws.
As you can see, Brodie is the only blue dot on the map. Meaning, he’s the only defender with a better relative possession rate than the team. Get used to seeing that blue bubble.
This is the same graph, except the bubble colour is determined by on-ice scoring chance differential. Once again, Brodie remains in the positive.
I should stop here to remind you his most frequent partner was Deryk Engelland, the guy with the persistently dark red circle (who, to be fair, was playing way over his head in the series).
Finally, the goal differential with each player on the ice. Wideman edges into blue bubble territory, but still there’s Brodie’s unwavering bright blue orb in the middle of the screen.
The Brodie Effect
One final graph to illustrate Brodie’s influence.
Over the last two seasons, Mark Giordano has been considered a Norris trophy caliber defenseman. And while it’s true that Giordano has been a quality blueliner for years, it’s not a coincidence that he took another step forward when Brodie became his regular partner.
To wit, each season of Mark Giordano’s seasons plotted on a usage chart:
Flames fans have a lot of reasons to be excited about guys like Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett. But they shouldn’t forget about the incredible 24 year old talent who is emerging as a star on the blueline.