Troy Brouwer’s first season in Calgary has not played out as management hoped. With a mere 25 points in 74 games in the regular season – tied for 11th in team scoring – he hasn’t come close to the 40-point range he’d consistently hit the past three seasons, and that’s while being fed beneficial zone starts and quality linemates.
Oh – and powerplay time. Lots and lots of powerplay time.
While we’re at it, that guy he’s tied in points with? That’d be Micheal Ferland – who has 25 points in 76 games. Two more contests, same number of points: only with less time, slightly less beneficial zone starts and significantly lower quality linemates until he was finally placed on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
Oh – and barely any powerplay time. Not much of that at all.
So that’s our focus right now: a regular season comparison between Brouwer, the supposedly stalwart veteran with the big contract, and Ferland, the kid still figuring out where he fits in the lineup who’s due for a raise.
At the end of Game 1, Ferland barely played in the final nine minutes: a crucial time during which the Flames, down by a goal, were trying to tie the game. The issue isn’t that Ferland was held off the ice at the end of the game, the issue is why. During that time, the Flames had to kill Dougie Hamilton’s third penalty of the night, and then they had two overlapping powerplays of their own – and three stray penalty killing seconds aside, Ferland didn’t get any special teams time.
Brouwer had long been a staple of the man advantage’s first unit throughout the regular season, to underwhelming results; Ferland had seemed to replace him after the Flames had clinched a playoff spot, but evidently, that replacement hasn’t stuck.
Just how bad is this? To compare, here’s a side-by-side glimpse of Brouwer and Ferland’s experiences on the powerplay through the 2016-17 regular season, minding that Brouwer played 178:45 on the man advantage, while Ferland hit just 35:27. I’ve included Sean Monahan’s numbers for context as well: he led the Flames in powerplay ice time with 247:59 played.
Because Ferland has played so little on the man advantage, sample size may be skewing some of his numbers here. For example: he has almost as many points per time on ice as Brouwer had shots, which looks horrific – until you bring Monahan’s numbers into the fold, and realize that scoring at the clip Ferland did isn’t too likely to last over extended powerplay time.
Individual shots, though? Brouwer’s point production may come close to Monahan’s, but the amount he actually creates on the man advantage is seriously lacking. Some of that may come from being designated the net-front presence – and that’s a fair excuse – but fact is, it’s really difficult to see just what, exactly, he’s adding to the powerplay, both from the eye test and from the numbers. (It’s also entirely possible Monahan’s own numbers have suffered due to playing with Brouwer; Monahan is clearly the more productive player, no matter what the strength of play.)
And quite simply, Ferland looks like he has much more to show. At the very minimum, he has more potential. And the Flames are wasting it. We’ll never know if the numbers he put up over limited ice time are for real or not if the Flames refuse to put it to the test.
This is just yet another case of the team refusing to try a younger player over an established veteran. It’s been going on all season, from Brett Kulak only appearing in a quarter of the games, to Hunter Shinkaruk’s contributions being limited to the fourth line, to waiting until the last possible moment to finally give Rasmus Andersson his NHL debut.
Only this time, it’s more meaningful: because this time, we’re talking about an established NHLer who is already playing on what many would call the first line. And he’s not being given the opportunity that would be in the team’s best interests, and it’s costing them in the playoffs.