Comparing the Flames’ two RW UFA signings: Troy Brouwer vs. Kris Versteeg

The Flames had a number of needs heading into this past summer. Some young players needed new contracts; they needed to get goalies under contract, period; and the only player of note who could play the right side was Michael Frolik.

The various contracts were signed. Alex Chiasson was acquired for Patrick Sieloff, somebody who probably isn’t going to be an NHL regular any time… ever, really. And Troy Brouwer was picked up on July 1, too.

And then, one day before the season started, so was Kris Versteeg.

Two very different UFA signings

Brouwer and Versteeg have a handful of things in common. They’re both over 30 years old (Brouwer a year older). They’re both right shots, right wings. They’re both NHL veterans of hundreds of games; Brouwer has played 640, while Versteeg, 567. Both have over 300 points to their names. Both were late round draft picks; both have played for multiple teams; both have won at least one Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, if that means anything.

After that, though, they’re completely different. Brouwer is bigger; he’s taller than Versteeg by about four inches and heavier by some 40-ish pounds. Versteeg is the better scorer; he’s a career .566 point per game player, while Brouwer is at .475.

The most striking difference, though, is their contracts.

Brouwer was sought after immediately, and the Flames signed him to a four-year, $18 million deal as soon as free agency opened. Versteeg, meanwhile, was on his way to Switzerland to play before insurance fell through; he then had to fight to prove he was still worthy of an NHL team by playing with the Edmonton Oilers during the preseason on a professional tryout. He was finally rewarded with a one-year, $950k contract in Calgary the day before the season actually started.

The bigger, enduringly healthy player got the big contract as soon as possible; the smaller, shifty-but-sometimes-hurt player got a small contract at the last minute.

Barring what would be a surprising lack of faith either via trade or expansion draft exposure, Brouwer should be here after this season. We have no idea what Versteeg’s fate will be.

Who was the better signing?

… Versteeg.

There aren’t that many players you want to commit money and term to. Pretty much just the young stars on any team – talented players you want to lock up for much of their careers, and who still have several years ahead of them – and that’s about it. In this case, we’re talking about two players whose best years are likely behind them (and if not now, will be soon). In most cases, the cheaper deal is the better contract.

That holds true for this case. We aren’t comparing a first liner to a fourth liner here; we’re talking about two veterans who have played notable roles for different teams for years now.

And that’s just off the ice. When we consider points, Versteeg has two fewer than Brouwer – in 10 fewer games played. While Brouwer is a .37 point per game player this season, Versteeg is a .47 guy; if they keep this up, Brouwer will finish the season with 30 points (which would be his lowest total since the 2008-09 season), while Versteeg would finish with 34. 

However, in the interest of fairness, Brouwer is shooting a little under his career average, while Versteeg is way over. 

Brouwer does receive more ice time, but honestly, that begs the question of why he isn’t scoring more than anything else.

But then, it’s also probably worth noting that six of Brouwer’s points came in the first eight games of the season; the longest stretch he’s gone so far this year without scoring is six games, and even then, it’s only been broken up by a point here and there. Versteeg, meanwhile, is presently on a streak; however, his longest stretch of pointlessness has been four games, and he hasn’t been held off the scoreboard as much as Brouwer has (even when you adjust for his missed games).

Then, there’s the fancier stuff. Brouwer and Versteeg have fairly similar usage – Brouwer’s OZS is 36.00%, while Versteeg’s is 33.16% – and yet, Versteeg has the noticeably better corsi (48.17% to Brouwer’s 46.21%). There isn’t much difference between the two at all – even their quality of teammate and competition are pretty similar – but the edge does go to Versteeg.

Brouwer is Versteeg’s most common linemate. Together, over 114:44 5v5 minutes, they are a 45.5% CF pairing. Versteeg away from Brouwer is 52.0% CF; Brouwer away from Versteeg is 45.7% CF. And their zone starts remain pretty consistent whether they’re together or not, so it’s not as though Versteeg is being sheltered where Brouwer isn’t; they both are.

In summation

These two had polar opposite signings: one for big money as soon as he was available; one a castoff for very little on the last day.

And yet, it’s the latter who has the edge. He scores more. He has a better on-ice performance. And he’s substantially cheaper.

Brouwer’s areas of strength come from having an outstanding record of health (Versteeg has already missed 10 games this season and missed much of the 2013 lockout season; since making the NHL, Brouwer has only ever really missed a game here and there) and much, much more physical (60 hits to Versteeg’s two).

Which do you prefer?

  • EhPierre

    Right now, it’ll be Versteeg with the slight edge simply because of his offensive skillset and his much cheaper contract. Given the playoffs, if/when we make it, Brouwer by a landslide. He’ll show you why he was heavily coveted in FA

    • MontanaMan

      And leadership. Outside of Gio, the Flames are very young in the leadership department and future captains or alternates of this team need good examples, like Gio and Brouwer. As to who the better signing, it remains to be seen as the two bring different games. Did the Flames overpay for Brouwer? Yes, but most teams do for veteran FA’s, particularly in the Canadian market.

        • Stan

          Not that I think this should really move the needle either way, but I definitely have heard that Brouwer is really vocal in the room and will sometimes say the tough thing that needs to be said, but nobody wants to hear. Haven’t heard the same about Versteeg. In fact, I read somewhere when he was signed that he had been trouble in previous locker rooms. No idea where that came from tho.

        • SmellOfVictory

          I’m not MontanaMan, but both have polar opposite reputations (whether they’re accurate or not, we can’t confirm). Versteeg has a reputation around Lethbridge of being a jerk, which one might extrapolate to “bad lockerroom leader” (granted him being a jerk off ice may not mean he’s bad in the lockerroom). Brouwer has been claimed to be a great leader by many in the NHL, in particular Treliving, citing his leadership is one of the reasons he was signed.

      • DoubleDIon

        Leadership is subjective. From the outside looking in I would agree with you that he appears to be a good leader. I can’t say he appears to be any more of a leader than Engelland, Versteeg or Stajan though. I definitely wouldn’t give additional cash or term for his leadership abilities.

      • Leadership doesn’t need to cost 4.5m either. Nice dressing room guys are great but you don’t pay premium for them. Would you put premium gas in your honda civic? no. So why pay premium for dressing room guys? it’s just bad management. Paying premium for talent is good management, like putting premium in your audi or mercedes.

        How many good dressing room guys are out there for a lot cheaper… Versteeg is a perfect example of why you don’t gotta pay ridiculous UFA prices for it.

  • Dan the flames fan

    Two very different players. Brouwer is more crash and bang, much like Pepinski back in the day. Versteeg is a smoother playmaker. Both players are needed in any contending team. If we continue playing as we have, we can likely be that contending team.

    Having said that, Mony and Versteeg seems to have built some chemistry with Versteeg, but can Versteeg switch to the right side when JH returns, and continue the same trend? It’s not perfect because we lose some grit, but V reminds me of Hudler and his game. I would prefer Brouwer on Stajan’s RW playing with Bennett on the left, (until Bennett stabilizes his game). Chaisson has not stood out or stepped up much. He exists on the team, and that’s about it.

    Versteeg could also replace Tkachuk on the Backlund line, and move him up with Mony on the RW. Both have played RW with some success. It’s only to be determined who would fit better.

    Do we need them both? At present, I would say yes.

  • flamesburn89

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Versteeg. He’s a capable middle six guy that can put up points and not be a liability on the ice.

    And obviously the signing becomes instantly better when you consider that the Flames nabbed him from the Oilers.

    • WildfireOne

      And I’m hoping that he’s wearing gloves that give more protection than a pair of work gloves.

      Hell, he should be equipped, on both mitts, with the hockey equivalent of that mecha-arm that Patriots tight end Gronkowski sports…

    • The Sultan

      Great to see him back — not looking forward to all the cheap shots from Getzlaf, Perry, Kessler or Bieska. Honestly Anaheim in the worst for playing dirty.

  • Newbietwo

    To be honest when we signed Brouwer initially I felt positive about it and expected he be better on the boards in the O zone and more of a grinder..

    Turns out he plays a more power forward role.. the problem has been that he has for a number of games I would say half this season been playing with Monahan who has completely lost his ability to generate offence.. Brouwer isn’t a playmaker and thus he needs a play maker either in centre or left wing thus his drop off this season is only partly on him as he has not been set up to succeed

    It is now clear Monahan has been gifted entry to the NHL by a team desperate at the time and in the wrong way he excelled.. Monahan fails to drive the play, isn’t gritty enough, lacks defensively and isn’t very good along the boards and puck maintenance.. that sucks as it will now take Monahan two seasons to learn those areas playing in the NHL earning $6 million plus but he will learn.

    Versteeg has shown it completely obvious how a team needs 2-3 playmakers offensively and so it brings us back to the setup of this team.. we don’t have a single playmaking centre.. Bennet ought to become one however he is coached to play more two way.. Monahan doesn’t drive play so he isn’t, Backlund is a shut down centre and so is Stajan.. This will not help you offensively and will bring back the obvious ten games at a time

  • Derzie

    Too much injury time for Versteeg to compare them yet. It’s clear he has more skill but overall comparison should include many games and both ends of the ice, including special teams.

    • Lucky 13

      Agreed. Can we not say that both are complimentary players?

      Versteeg is definitely more gifted offensively that’s a no brainer. Also doesn’t hurt us defensively as he’s a great two way player.

      Brouwer is streaky in scoring, but we already knew that about him, doesn’t have the foot speed compared to Versteeg, but do you expect him to with 40 extra pounds?

      But he can be a punishing player on the boards and plays all special teams.He compliments offensive players , not competing with them.

      Both are great signings.

  • Guest

    Brouwer has been a huge disappointment for the money. So far the guy has been a marginally better Bouma. He’s far behind Ferland in all aspects of the game (except age and salary). I think he’s a weak to average penalty killer – not quick enough, and so far has been invisible on the PP. For the guy brought in to be Hudler’s replacement, he’s looked decidedly average.

    If he doesn’t improve materially this year I would be tempted to leave him unprotected – that cap money can be put to better use.

    Versteeg has been fine. For 1mm annually you would resign that all day every day.