T.J. Brodie is a top pairing defenceman.
Or at least, that’s what it’s been easy to see him as. For most of his time in the NHL, he’s been partnered with Mark Giordano. It was once those two came together than both looked like full-fledged top pairing defenceman – something they hadn’t necessarily on their own before. They legitimately boosted one another’s games, and were often a rare shine of positivity in what was mostly a desolate roster trying to trudge its way through a rebuild.
With a new coach, they were split up this past season. Giordano ended up with another top pairing-caliber defenceman in Dougie Hamilton; Brodie did not, and it understandably hurt him.
2016-17 season summary
The biggest theme of Brodie’s season was who he played with. Separated from Giordano, most of his time was spent with Dennis Wideman; this switched to Michael Stone once the Flames decided they were done with Wideman and had found someone they deemed a suitable replacement for him. Still, neither was as good as playing with Giordano – to approximately nobody’s surprise – and Brodie’s overall play suffered for it.
His offensive totals were still decent. He matched his goal total from the past season – six – on roughly the same number of shots: 78. Brodie has never been a high volume shooter; however, he had 12 more games this past season to reach those numbers than he did in 2015-16, which does point to a weaker season overall. It could also be an indication of Glen Gulutzan’s system allowing for a less active defence, or Brodie himself trying to play things safer considering his lower quality caliber of partner throughout the year; either way, though, shooting just under a shot per game as a top four defenceman is less than ideal.
He had 36 points total, ending a streak of two 40+ point seasons, but still scoring more than he did in 2013-14. This put him ninth in team scoring, and just three points shy of Giordano.
Brodie averaged 23:34 a game – a drop from the 25:15 he averaged in 2015-16, but still tied with Giordano for first on the team. He had extensive powerplay time, and playing on the first unit gave him 227:03 minutes total – third on the Flames – which makes his lacklustre offensive totals from this season all the more disappointing. Twelve of his 36 points came on the powerplay, so if there’s any silver lining to be gleamed there, it’s that at least he wasn’t completely reliant on the man advantage to score.
Brodie was also third in penalty kill time with 191:21 played, and even put up two points shorthanded. He was relied upon in all situations, and was very easily among the team’s top three defenceman, just without the quality of partner to show for a better performance.
His four assists over the Flames’ four playoff games had him among their highest scorers in the postseason.
Compared to last season
Corsica’s rolling chart from Brodie’s previous season to this one does a great job highlighting the differences between the two years from a strictly corsi perspective.
While 2015-16 was steady, if underwhelming at times, 2016-17 had much more intense highs and lows. The highs in particular are extremely high, and are in fact not triggered by the arrival of Stone, but by the Flames’ own vast improvements once the calendar flipped to 2017. He rode the wave alongside Stone for a bit before things returned to something a bit more manageable, considering the season as a whole.
Brodie’s overall 5v5 corsi for this season was 49.61% – just on the cusp of being a positive proxy possession player, and 12th on the Flames. Four defenceman were better than him: the top Giordano-Hamilton pairing, Brett Kulak, and Wideman, just barely. In 2015-16, he was a 49.47% CF guy, so there was actually slight improvement on his part, in all likelihood due to Gulutzan’s superior systems.
Most common teammates
It’s impossible to look at Brodie’s season without considering who he played alongside, so let’s get right into it:
For the most part, Brodie was a steady teammate. The 3M line was noticeably better away from him, but that’s about; he’s otherwise level, with some minor fluctuations, with everybody else. Brodie’s presence didn’t harm anybody whatsoever.
He greatly brought Stone’s performance up, but recall Stone was a part of a not-too-great Coyotes team prior to joining the Flames. Other than that, Troy Brouwer brought him down, which isn’t surprising to see at this point.
Brodie is possibly the least inoffensive player on the entire team.
I mean that in a couple of ways. First off, he was on the team’s top powerplay unit and couldn’t even average a shot a game throughout the entire season. That’s unideal. Brodie was still easily in top three defenceman scoring on the Flames this past season, but there’s very obvious room for improvement, especially if he’s going to be given such opportunities. (He probably shouldn’t; he should be on the second powerplay unit and first penalty kill unit, rather than vice versa.)
He’s also just a solid teammate in general. It’s hard to find his presence disagreeable, and possession-wise, he was consistent from season to season. So imagine just how much better he may perform in 2017-18 if he maintains his play under Gulutzan’s improved systems, all the while having a defence partner who actually belongs in the top four.
Brodie’s scoring may not be elite – but his overall caliber of play should make for a formidable second pairing, if the Flames can find the perfect match for him.
|#1 – Brian Elliott||#5 – Mark Giordano|
|#6 – Dennis Wideman|