In preseason last year, T.J. Brodie suffered a broken hand in the first game. His absence sent ripples throughout the entire Flames lineup, resulting in a disastrous October without one of their top defencemen that pretty much had them out of playoff contention immediately.
Brodie’s preseason is over. Brodie is perfectly fine. This is excellent news: because while his goalscoring isn’t as pronounced as some other defenders on the Flames, he’s still one of the core members of this team, and a player Calgary will have a very difficult time finding success without.
The season before
Brodie recovered from his broken hand, stepped into the lineup, and was one of the best players on the Flames immediately, despite being about a month behind everyone else. He played 70 games in 2015-16, scoring just six goals but setting a career high with 45 points.
He also had only 79 shots on net: very low totals, even for him. In 2014-15, he set a career high in goals with 11; he also had 133 shots on net for about 1.6 shots per game. In 2015-16, he only had about 1.1 shots per game. He had similar shooting percentages both years – dropping from 8.3% in 2014-15 to 7.6% in 2015-16 – but really, shooting just seems to be the one thing missing from his game. That’s it.
Brodie averaged 25:15 a game, leading the Flames in ice time while being 11th out of all defencemen league-wide. He played 181:48 on the penalty kill, second on the Flames behind just Mark Giordano; on the powerplay, however, he played just 162:44 – nearly 100 fewer minutes than Giordano, and behind Dougie Hamilton, as well.
That’s likely the correct usage for him, as he was third in defencemen powerplay scoring, and Giordano and Hamilton are both more offensively inclined. Really, it all comes back to Brodie needing to shoot more.
Here’s the rest of the story, via Own The Puck. Brodie may not score goals, but he does create offence. He scored .64 points per game last season, tied for 13th among all regular defencemen with Duncan Keith. (We’ll come back to that soon.)
And then, there’s that one other thing about being a defenceman: the defence. Brodie is elite at shot suppression. And he does it from the toughest circumstances, too. Via Corsica:
He faced the toughest competition of anyone on the Flames, alongside Giordano, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau. He also had not-great zone starts to work with: among the worst any defenders on the Flames had. (All the players further to the left, who started in the defensive zone more often, are of the bottom six forward variety.)
And in spite of all of that, he was one of the most successful Flames. His 49.47% 5v5 CF was sixth amongst all Flames to play at least a quarter of the season. Everyone ahead of him, except for Giordano, had easier playing conditions.
It isn’t a stretch at all to expect Brodie to take on some of the toughest minutes for the Flames, playing a ton in all situations while helping move the puck up the ice, and racking up assists all the while. He’s been doing that for some time now, and his offensive production has creeped up year after year.
Speaking of that, he’s actually continued to follow very similar numbers to Keith, who we mentioned earlier.
|T.J. Brodie||Duncan Keith|
Keeping in mind Brodie entered the NHL a year younger than Keith, points-wise, they’ve mostly kept up year-to-year. That doesn’t mean 26-year-old Brodie is going to do what 26-year-old Keith did – he’s probably not going to approach 70 points, especially when his shooting numbers have consistently paled in comparison – but even 27-year-old Keith couldn’t replicate 26-year-old Keith’s success.
But 25-year-old Brodie’s numbers do leave some room for improvement. His points per game were great; if he can hit .64 again over the course of a full season, he’ll score 53 points. If he can get his shooting numbers back up to where they were, though, then that could mean 135 shots on net; if he maintains his shooting percentage from this past season, then that’s 10 goals for the year.
We’ll see how the new systems affect Brodie as they’re implemented into meaningful games, and we’ll see if he’ll rebound and try to put more pucks on net. But even if he doesn’t, a healthy season could see 55 points out of him – and that’s from a defenceman playing in tough circumstances not particularly known for his offence.
The ultimate realistic expectation for Brodie this year? He’s going to be really, really good. As he usually is.