Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports
When the Calgary Flames signed Troy Brouwer, the intention was obvious: acquire a veteran right winger who can score. Jiri Hudler, he is not; Hudler actually had more points in 2015-16, even though that season was regarded as not as great for him.
But Brouwer provides a much more physical presence. He hits, he mucks it up in the crease, he’s like five inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. It was time to move on, and the Flames found the player they wanted to do just that with.
Brouwer will be a Flame for the next four years, assuming no trades or expansion draft shenanigans. He’ll be one of the higher-paid forwards on the team throughout that time. Let’s just focus in on year one for now.
The season before
Brouwer only spent one year in St. Louis, acquired in exchange for T.J. Oshie. There, he scored 18 goals and 39 points, playing mostly with Paul Stastny, David Backes, and Robby Fabbri. The cool thing about this in particular is that he spent a lot of time alongside Fabbri, a rookie centre who put up 37 points last season and hey there’s some matchup with Sam Bennett there, isn’t there?
The last time Brouwer failed to come anywhere near the 20-goal mark was his own rookie season in 2008-09, when he scored 10; since then, he’s ranged from 17-25 goals a year. He scored 26 points as a rookie; after then, his worst years were two 33-point years for the Washington Capitals, though it has to be noted that one of them came during the lockout season. Otherwise, his lowest totals have been 36 or 39 points.
So would it be fair to expect 20 goals and 40 points out of Brouwer this year? Probably.
Brouwer averaged 16:59 in ice time for the Blues last season, which was sixth out of all forwards on the team. His .48 points per game was seventh among regular Blues forwards. He played 147:48 on the powerplay, fifth among all Blues forwards; he scored 10 points on the man advantage, also fifth among all Blues forwards. (Though seven of those points were goals – third amongst the Blues forward group.) On the penalty kill, he was the third-most used forward, with 122:21 in ice time.
In short: last year, in St. Louis, Brouwer was on the fringe of being a top six forward, but he was used frequently in all situations and scored enough to justify it. However, via Own The Puck, the fancier numbers aren’t kind to him at all, and suggest that with the Blues he was more of a glorified third liner than anything else.
The Flames really don’t have much in the way of wingers. They have Johnny Gaudreau, they have Michael Frolik, they have Matthew Tkachuk, apparently, who’s 18 years old and might not even play the full year in the NHL. Then there’s the hope Hunter Shinkaruk or Micheal Ferland do something positive and stick and… that’s pretty much it.
So Brouwer is, by default, one of the Flames’ top wingers. He’ll get a lot of ice time in all situations, so expecting at least 40 points out of him is entirely justifiable. The most he’s ever averaged in a season was 18:51 a game in 2013-14, when he scored his career high of 43 points for the first time; wanting that much out of him again is entirely realistic.
Then there’s this factoid: last season, the Blues used him primarily in a defensive capacity. Via Corsica:
Brouwer wasn’t as great at the whole defensive thing as a couple of his teammates around the area – both David Backes and Patrik Berglund put up better possession numbers in pretty similar circumstances – but Brouwer probably won’t be used in a defensive role this season.
With two kids in Tkachuk and Bennett likely starting on his line, Brouwer should be the beneficiary of more offensive zone starts. Perhaps the 2014-15 season is a good one to look at for him, when he had an OZS of 35.01%. That was his second 43-point year, not to mention a 50.83% 5v5 CF season (albeit -0.61 CF% rel).
If the Flames get the 2014-15 version of Brouwer, they’ll probably be happy with him for the 2016-17 season. After that will remain to be seen; after all, he’s 31 years old already, and time eventually slows us all down. But for this season, at least, we should expect a competent top six winger that will help along some of the kids.
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