Why the Troy Brouwer signing looks bad for the Flames

Despite being up tight against the cap, the Flames made a relatively big splash in the free agent market. They didn’t sign one of the most expensive contracts of the day – with some of the dollars and term being tossed around, far from it – but signing Troy Brouwer to a four-year, $18 million deal is definitely notable.

Brouwer is big. He’s a right winger. He has veteran experience. These all fit Calgary’s needs.

That’s about where it ends, though.

Brouwer in St. Louis

Brouwer spent the 2015-16 season in St. Louis after the Washington Capitals traded him for T.J. Oshie.

Season GP G A P ATOI 5v5 CF 5v5 OZS
2015-16 82 18 21 39 16:00 49.56% 26.71

He played middle six minutes and had modest production for them. If the Flames are going to put him on a line with Sean Monahan or Sam Bennett, as is rumoured, then an uptick in ice time and uptick in linemates could see an increase in production.

Speaking of linemates, let’s take a look at how Brouwer fared with who he played with in St. Louis. Via Corsica:

troy brouwer blues wowy

Almost all of Brouwer’s most common linemates were better away from him. Jay Bouwmeester is the lone exception; Brouwer was marginally better away from him than vice versa. But Brouwer and Bouwmeester still sunk each other, as did Brouwer and Alex Steen.

On his own, Brouwer sunk Paul Stastny, big time. Colton Parayko had to do major work to drag him up, as did Joel Edmundson. He brought Kevin Shattenkirk down, and suffered away from Robby Fabbri.

Considering how Stastny and Fabbri were two of his most common linemates, that’s a really bad look for Brouwer. David Backes was his other most common linemate, but they appeared to mesh together well enough (although Backes was better away from him, too).

Via OwnThePuck, we can get a general impression of what kind of fit Brouwer was with the Blues:

brouwer stl otp

His linemates were better away from him. His offence was bottom six caliber. His possession was bottom six caliber. He is not getting paid bottom six money for the next four seasons.

So far, based on just last season, the Brouwer signing isn’t looking too good. But he only spent the one season with the Blues; maybe it just wasn’t as great a fit.

Brouwer in Washington

Brouwer played four seasons with the Washington Capitals after they traded the 26th overall pick in the 2011 draft for him. He was 26 years old when he started in DC; his last season there was his 29-year-old season. That’s going to give us a solid look at him, so let’s dive in.

Season GP G A P ATOI 5v5 CF 5v5 OZS
2011-12 82 18 15 33 17:11 48.40% 29.60%
2012-13 47 19 14 33 18:32 47.53% 25.50%
2013-14 82 25 18 43 18:51 47.82% 30.38%
2014-15 82 21 22 43 17:31 50.83% 35.01%

The first thing that jumps out to me: Brouwer got bigger minutes in Washington. Despite that, his point scoring didn’t exactly see an increase. That didn’t come until he started getting more offensive zone starts.

The second thing that jumps out to me: his corsi numbers have never been particularly great. He has had one year over 50%.

Only once in the past five seasons has Brouwer been a positive corsi rel player: in 2013-14, he was a +0.11% CFrel guy at 5v5. Every single other year, he has been negative relative to his team. (I know this is the Washington section, but his worst CFrel numbers came last season: -3.32%.)

Let’s take a look at just how Brouwer fared with his linemates over four seasons with the Capitals:

troy brouwer capitals wowy

It’s not much more flattering than his portrait with the Blues. Once again, almost all of his teammates was better away from Brouwer than with him, and this is a four year sample we’re looking at. No more excuses.

Brouwer collaborated with Eric Fehr and Mike Green to all boost each other, but Fehr and Green were still better away from Brouwer than Brouwer was away from them.

He brought down John Carlson and Karl Alzner. He also brought down Brooks Laich and Jay Beagle, but was better away from them. He worked relatively well with Marcus Johansson and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

But the main talk is Brouwer playing on the top lines with the Flames’ young, budding stars. Questioning how well that’s going to turn out doesn’t have to be a hypothetical, because he lived it with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, two of the best forwards in the entire game.

And he brought them both down. Both superstar, high-scoring forwards fared better when Brouwer wasn’t on their line.

Let’s take an in-depth look at his 2014-15 season:

brouwer wsh otp

This is more flattering than his 2015-16 season. His production is still at bottom six levels, but Brouwer saw a massive boost in his shot suppression. It wasn’t that high throughout his tenure in Washington. It did steadily increase as he progressed, though – so it might be something to look forward to in Calgary.

Was this the best use of Calgary’s money?

The Flames are up tight against the cap; more so after today. Presumably until Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau sign their extensions, Brouwer is now the highest paid Flames forward with a $4.5 million cap hit for the next four seasons. 

He’s a big, veteran right winger. That alone is a fit. It does give him a leg up over, say, Joe Colborne, who signed a two-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche for a $2.5 million annual average value. Colborne was big, and he could play right wing, but he doesn’t have quite the veteran expertise Brouwer does, and he was a left shot, compared to Brouwer’s right.

Colborne is also five years younger, signed for two years fewer, and at $2 million cheaper per year. Hell, say what you will about when most of Colborne’s points came, or the Backlund Bump – his career high is higher than Brouwer’s.

brouwer vs colborne

Colborne is significantly better in almost every single stat. The shot generation is on par, but that’s about it.

If the Flames were going to spend this money no matter what, they probably would have been better off just giving Colborne what he was asking for.

What this means

Signing Brouwer indicates the Flames want to win now. This isn’t a move a team makes when they’re still rebuilding; Brouwer’s reputation as a player with size who’s gone deep into the playoffs multiple times doesn’t allow for that.

The only problem is, are the Flames actually going to be a better team with Brouwer? He fills a positional need, but does he fill it particularly well? Not only that, but he’s getting older, and he’s not going to get any cheaper.

It’s easy to say that you have to pay to get players on July 1; in that case, maybe just… don’t go out on July 1? It’s easy to say Brouwer’s deal is maybe a year too long; it was just as easy to say that about Mason Raymond. It’s still just as easy to say that about Matt Stajan, Brandon Bollig, Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, Deryk Engelland. These things add up. Just because the Flames only have five players committed to Brouwer’s final season doesn’t mean they won’t add up.

And it’s $4.5 million. With Monahan and Gaudreau still to re-sign. With the defence likely needing some bolstering. With three more forwards to bring in to create a full lineup. It isn’t just going to be tight; there’s going to have to be a trade, at this rate.

My initial impression of this signing was “hm.” Now that I’ve spent a bit more time looking into it, I really, really don’t like it.

We’ll see what happens when Brouwer hits the ice. But the fact he couldn’t make it work with Ovechkin and Backstrom is a massive red flag for me – and at $4.5 million, it’s not a good one to have sitting on your cap for the next four seasons.

  • Ricky

    Colborne was a big body who almost never played a physical game. The second half of last year after the Flames were eliminated from the playoffs is when he went on a tear. Big deal, what matters is coming through in the clutch. Brouwer has won a Stanley Cup and in my opinion was a very strong player for St. Louis in the playoffs. I consider his game to be similar to Ryan Kesler, he can get under your skin and he is physical. Anaheim totally destroyed us physically last year going after and trying to injure Gaudreau in particular with no response from the Flames. The addition of Brouwer and Chiasson helps significantly in the toughness area. You can’t keep allowing the opposition to abuse out star players and I like the direction that Treliving is going in. Bear in mind that his good moves far outweigh the bad ones. If Wideman hadn’t pulled off his stupid stunt last year I m positive that Treliving would have been able to trade him at the deadline. Wideman has made it very difficult to move him and his salary unfortunately but if anyone can do the right move with Wideman then I have 100% faith in Treliving. Thank goodness that we don’t have a GM who trades Iginla and Boumeester for basically literally nothing and they are both still very productive players in the league. Anyway, that is my opinion on a few things. Go Flames Go!!

  • Ricky

    Colborne was a big body who almost never played a physical game. The second half of last year after the Flames were eliminated from the playoffs is when he went on a tear. Big deal, what matters is coming through in the clutch. Brouwer has won a Stanley Cup and in my opinion was a very strong player for St. Louis in the playoffs. I consider his game to be similar to Ryan Kesler, he can get under your skin and he is physical. Anaheim totally destroyed us physically last year going after and trying to injure Gaudreau in particular with no response from the Flames. The addition of Brouwer and Chiasson helps significantly in the toughness area. You can’t keep allowing the opposition to abuse out star players and I like the direction that Treliving is going in. Bear in mind that his good moves far outweigh the bad ones. If Wideman hadn’t pulled off his stupid stunt last year I m positive that Treliving would have been able to trade him at the deadline. Wideman has made it very difficult to move him and his salary unfortunately but if anyone can do the right move with Wideman then I have 100% faith in Treliving. Thank goodness that we don’t have a GM who trades Iginla and Boumeester for basically literally nothing and they are both still very productive players in the league. Anyway, that is my opinion on a few things. Go Flames Go!!

  • everton fc

    Brouwer is far superior to Colborne. Shinkaruk will be far superior to Colborne, though a different type of player. Colborne played a softer game than the organization needs these days. Signing him at 2.5mill would have been okay w/me. I like Brouwer, and he’ll do well here. But we overpaid.

    Watch Vanek score 25 goals in the Motor City. And for 2.6mill. Everyone gave Kessel the thumbs down here, last year. He hoisted the Cup. Vanek scores goals. From the right wing.

    If we somehow could have had both….

    Alas, welcome to Calgary, Troy Brouwer. They loved you in D.C. They loved you in St. Louis. We’ll get behind you here.

    • cberg

      Not sure why you’re boosting Vanek, who’s done little if anything the past two years except cash in on his laurels (i.e. playing with Tavares). Brouwer is likely to get you ~20 goals too, and adds much more than that as well as showing up big time when it most counts.

    • Baalzamon

      Everyone gave Kessel the thumbs down here, last year.

      Because of the cost of acquisition and the cap hit. It had nothing to do with him specifically.

      People were invariably thumbs down wrt acquiring Stamkos too. For the same reasons.

  • everton fc

    Are the Flames ever mentioned in the same sentence as Jimmy Vesey?

    Brouwer is a better player all day than Colborne, Martin, Weise… He’ll do fine here. Albeit at a high cap hit.

  • Truculence

    One plus is that despite being burdened with only 26.71 OZS he faced some of the toughest quality of competition and still came out almost even.

    Part of the reason his wowy shows him dragging other Blues down in possession when he plays with them might be because they are asked to start more often in the defensive zone with him against high QOC players. In other words, they might be getting higher Ozone starts apart from him.

    A little more context is needed, but I think this makes the team better for the next couple of years, since, given his career averages, he can easily match Colborne’s unusually high production from last year while getting more d-zone starts if necessary. Plus he is a pretty physical player -an attribute that cannot be discounted in the Pacific.

    A little too much term, imo, but not all that bad of a signing that Ari makes it out to be.

  • Juan Valdez

    I don’t understand the logic behind needing to overpay for UFAs. The only reason players reach free agency is because their former teams felt they were replaceable and / or not worth their asking price.

    • FeyWest

      It’s not necessarily wanting to overpay though, the “Need” is because there are multiple teams bidding on the same players. Usually because they are scouted to having qualities that fit their current model and are thought to being players that will upgrade the current iteration of the team.

    • jakethesnail

      How about the reason of being up against the cap with the player realizing that going to Free Agency will get him a better contract, or the team wants to go younger and their best prospect is at that position, or they have more urgent needs at another position…..

  • JKG

    I like the work ethic and character he brings, he’s a major upgrade from Colborne, and can help Gio mentor the kids. Having positive peer role models goes a hell of a lot further than people give it credit for.

  • Danomitee

    I can’t even count how many times our goalies were bumped last year with limited resistance from our team. We needed to get tougher, plain and simple. Colborne is soft, his stats were inflated during meaningless games. Johnny and Mony are far from physical players, and lets not forget we play in the most physical division in hockey.

    Brouwer provides the physicality, can still pot around 40 points probably for the entire duration of his contract and immense leadership amongst the forward ranks that we are in dire need of. Stajan provides some leadership, but he’s not going to help us on the scoreboard. Every big name signing today was for to much money, and all the fans of those teams stress the same concern. This was a reasonable signing, and Ari this article was an emotional response not an educated one. Advanced stats are great, but they can’t track everything.

  • The Fall

    JoCo nets 40 points while shooting at 19%. Brouwer is good for 40 with tougher starts and competition. JoCo has yet to play a full season healthy. Brouwer hasn’t missed a game in three years.

    8 goals in 20 playoff games ain’t too bad either.

  • Dan the Drunk

    At the press conference Treliving mentioned what these new signing can bring to game time as well as team practices. I think that was important to hear.

    Last years team began the season as an overly confident group thinking they’d make the playoffs, but didn’t have the same drive to win games at the last minute as two years ago. Last years team almost set the team record for losses in a regular season.

    I think the level head that Brouwer will bring during travel nights or off days is greater than that which Colborne could offer; remember the post Superbowl hangover? Maybe management felt a stronger peer presence would help a team with a bunch of young talent (*especially if they’re considering throwing in some fresh faces from the draft or farm).

    Signing a guy like Brouwer who’s played 98 playoff games in his eight season career (five seasons making it to the second round or better) can bring intangibles that won’t be marked by possession intel. Maybe he was signed for his size, his handedness, but I think it’s also his drive and experience, and it was as strong of a move as Treliving could make at this time.

  • brodiegio4life

    I really don’t agree in saying that signing Brouwer means they want to win now… no they want to fill a major need in their lineup right now and be competitive right now… you make it seem like treliving has givin up on the rebuild by signing Brouwer calm down

    • Stu Cazz

      That’s really ridiculous …what team does not want to win now. Rebuild has been going on for 3+ years…get over it…let’s win now…playoffs are the goal…nothing less!

  • Waldo

    If you are going to go “in depth” on brouwer, I think you should atleast discuss how the player is being used….

    Why does he have a 49.5% Corsi? Because he started in his D zone more than most of his teammates, actually only 3 flames players have more D zone starts than Brouwer did last year and he still managed decent production.

    Brouwer was used in a shut down role playing against the opponents best competition, starting in is own zone and still managed a 50% corsi, thats actually fairly impressive if you ask me.

    Here is where you can take a real in depth look at the usage of Brouwer:

    http://www.hockeyabstract.com/playerusagecharts

  • Victoria Flames Fan

    What I love is how class our organization is – phoning Troy and Chad’s (new) wives… showing a lot of enthusiasm… looking after the personal part of thing… that’s why I think we are on the way to a winning franchise. I live on the West Coast now and have some friends very closely affiliated with the Canucks organization and I am coming to realize what a different culture we have in Cowtown (my hometown). I am very excited that Troy Brouwer and Chad Johnson are a part of our organization (and Alex Chaisson too).

  • Styxx

    Apparently Tre is moving to a “win now” philosophy rather than patiently developing our talent.

    We have seven(!!) 1st & 2nd rounders plus other worthy prospects, all of whom are Draft +2,3,4 years who have no NHL playing experience.

    Instead of developing the kids we just gave their time to grandpa.

    • freethe flames

      Where does development happen? Much of it happens in the AHL. Which of our forward prospects has shown they are ready for the show? Shinkaruk is the closest and we traded to get him. I am still hopeful that Poirier has a bounce back year but I’m not ready to pencil him on the NHL squad. The guys that are taking time away from the prospects are Stajan and Bollig.

  • Parallex

    Yeah, this isn’t a good deal. It’s way to much for a middle rotation guy like him on the bad side of 30 that doesn’t move the needle in terms of puck possession.

    Everyone meet your new Stajan… except with expectations!

  • smatic10

    I’m really glad a lot of people can see the positives in the Bowzer signing, of which there are several. Tree addressed a major need with this. A RWer with size, decent skating, physicality, leadership skills, and a little scoring touch? Yea, that’s what we got. They don’t grow on trees, and other then Brouwer, there were none available. Is it an overpay? Yes. But not by much. Also, there were a few ridiculous contracts handed out today, I don’t think this one falls under that category.

    Also can someone explain to me why everyone has a sudden Colborne obsession? Have you guys not seen him the last three years? Yes he had a decent season but most of those points were generated in the second half. He isn’t the greatest skater and he’s no defensive specialist. He isn’t even a phenomenal face-off taker and he’s not physical enough. You can clearly tell he isn’t about to develop into some game breaking forward. He was a great locker room guy and great with the fans. But signing him to a Brouwer contract would have been HORRENDOUS. I give Tree credit for realizing we needed an improvement in this area and he was ultimately fine with Colborne being a casualty because of it.

    So all haters of this signing, get over it. We are CLEARLY a better team now than we were before July 1st.

  • RedMan

    over the last year or two, Hartley gave Colborne a ton of cherry minutes – minutes that should have been given to someone else. Especially the power-play minutes he was gifted even when he didn’t do anything with them.

    those PP minutes should have belonged to Bennett, Frolik and Hamilton, but for some reason Hartley gave them to Joe. This preferential treatment gave Joe the chance to hone his game enough to become a regular NHL’er, but at the expense of a decent power play and development time for Bennett, and at the expenseof games won. this stubborness on Hatley’s part was a boon for Joe, who may owe his career to it, but it also may have cost Hartley his job.

    now we hear how good Joe was? and how bad Brouwer is? what a joke.

    Brouwer got burried in d-zone starts – any comparison or evaluation needs to take this into consideration. without factoring in his tough starts and tough competition, the “stats” are useless.

    Plus, when the season starts to round out and the playoff push makes the skating much tougher and games much more physical, we will be very glad to have Brouwer instead of Joe.

    It is not likely Joe will ever have another year like he had, because he will not likely have a coach who gives him cherry minutes and cherry linemates and cherry power play time that belongs to genuine top 6 players.

  • slapshot444

    How about an article on how this signing is one of the better ones signed on July 1st. Its all about term, and role expectation. Production stats become less meaningful when a player is asked to do a specific job. In this case Troy will play down a line, play with younger developing players, and proving them space on the ice so they can develop and focus on their game a bit more.
    Past Corsi stats are now less meaningful. What’s more important is can Troy do the job he’s asked to while still maintaining a reasonable points production. Its a catch 22 if he’s successful at his job then his line will play well, but he will be handicapped with younger developing players.
    BT is building for the future, we are not winning the cup next year, although we might make the playoffs now that some one will be stopping the puck.
    Listen again to the radio interview, its not about past and future Corsi, its about developing a team,, thats how you win.

  • MattyFranchise

    First off, I didn’t want Colborne on the Flames. I just want to get that out of the way right now.

    Secondly, Brouwer’s value is not in his possession stats, because they are just slightly below average, but in his versatility. He can be a top line player or a fourth line plug and he spent a significant amount of time playing all three forward positions last season.

    My concern is his contract, not his ability. This is a bad contract. Will he help the Flames? Most likely. But BT done goofed on this one. Too much money, too much term.