Well, if the Flames’ season wasn’t over already, it might be now.
While killing a penalty in the second period, T.J. Brodie blocked a shot from Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Justin Faulk. It hit him in the leg, leaving Brodie unable to stand back up until play was whistled down. He remained on the bench for some time afterwards, including testing things out during stoppages in play and skating one 23-second shift before he went down the tunnel – and didn’t return to the game.
Brodie’s injury may or may not be long term, but we know he’s for sure out of this game, and there’s good reason to be concerned about his status – although the Flames were leading 4-1 at the time of Brodie’s absence being declared official, so there was no need to rush him in the moment.
When talking about Flames MVPs for this season, you have a choice between two players: Johnny Gaudreau, and Brodie. Brodie has been an absolute rock on the backend, averaging 25:27, a full minute more than anybody else, as the team’s number one defenceman. He’s scored four goals and 25 points through 39 games this season, which, prior to this game, placed him fourth in Flames scoring.
His scoring is a secondary value, however; where Brodie really stands out is his ability to play huge minutes, and play them well. No Flames defenceman plays in tougher circumstances, with frequent defensive zone starts (-3.91 relative to the rest of his team) and playing against other teams’ top players; and yet, his corsi for is 50.32% – one of just four Flames regulars to be a positive possession player.
And let’s not forget the Flames played their first nine games of the season without Brodie. They won two games over that time, both in overtime. Simply put, they were a disaster without him.
This isn’t like last season when the Flames lost Mark Giordano right before the trade deadline. Then, the Flames were still prime for a playoff spot. This season, though, Calgary is sixth in the Pacific Division – the worst division in the NHL this year – and still eight points out of a playoff spot. They were going to be in tough to make the playoffs even with Brodie; without their best player, that dream is much further away.
There is a silver lining, though: another kid will get a chance to prove his stuff in Brodie’s absence, should it be bad enough a recall is necessary. Jakub Nakladal was already brought up to deal with Dennis Wideman’s suspension, but this could be a last chance for Tyler Wotherspoon, or another chance for Brett Kulak, as well. Kulak got his first chance in the NHL at the start of this season in part due to Brodie’s injury already.
And let’s not forget, this is still a rebuilding team, and youth is paramount. We already know what we have in Brodie. We already know he’s irreplaceable. At least this would give the Flames an extended look at a kid.