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FlamesNation Mailbag: Why is Brouwer?

I’ve received a question with some variation on “why is Brouwer…” every week. You may not be able to say this about every Flames game, but at least there’s some consistency with this team.

Garnet Hathaway has had a couple of good games since being recalled, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here.

Hathaway was fortunate enough to jump on the Flames’ hottest line at the right time and is reaping the benefits. There’s nothing wrong with that for the time being, but it’s not something to bet on long term. His NHL career isn’t that long, but previous results indicate that he’s a fourth liner. Twenty-six-year-olds rarely ever change from “energy guy” to “top nine offensive weapon” in one offseason and Hathaway is likely not the exception. You can look at his AHL numbers for optimism (inflated by 27% shooting) but he’s likely never going to do that in the NHL.

Of course, we can always stay optimistic. In a small sample size, he’s been in the black for possession numbers and has a goal and two primary assists. He’s playing next to a team peppered with first round picks, but he’s at least looking like someone who can play along. We can hope he can keep it up, but previous numbers suggest that he’s riding the high of the wave. There’s the argument that he was miscast last year on the fourth line, so we’ll see how much water it holds.

Who knows how long Jaromir Jagr is out for, but I’d bet by the time he comes back, the real Hathaway will have entered the building. We’ll see if he’s good or bad.

PP time is easy – he’s a right-handed shot in an organization that sorely lacks right-handed shots. I know Glen Gulutzan’s infatuation with righty-lefty balance is frustrating, but it is not without reason and you especially need one on the powerplay, lest you want to shut yourself out of one side of the ice. Is it a good decision? Nah, there’s plenty of others that can probably do better, even on the off-wing.

The PK? I’m not so sure. Handedness has a bigger impact on defence than offence, which could be a factor. He also has had a history as a PKer, which probably plays into their decision (and, to answer every “why is Brouwer…” question, getting paid $4.5M for three more years probably also factors in somewhere). But from every other angle, they could really do better. There’s faster and smarter guys on the roster who can probably do much better than he can.

Mike Smith, if anything, has been a workhorse his entire career. He’s played in 50+ games three times this decade (four times, including the lockout where he played in 34 of 48). He can certainly play in those games, yes.

Can he handle it? That’s something that remains to be seen. Smith has peaks and valleys with regards to GSAA throughout his career:

We’ve already seen a period of Bad Mike Smith this season. He put up a .916 in his first 12 games of the season, and then stumbled out with a .901 in his next 12 games. He’s been up and down throughout his career, and has the potential to suddenly lose his form at some point (stay tuned for January).

So if Smith falls off a map, can David Rittich pick up the slack? Less likely. Sorry it’s not a fancy chart, but here’s what he’s looked liked in the AHL when he had the opportunity to make multiple starts in a row.

That’s a pretty good streak! So, what’s the problem?

Oh, an equally bad one.

It’s just two samples of games, but it’s all we have to work with. Rittich’s issue is that he will slide in and out of hot and cold streaks. That’s not necessarily a quality you want to have in a starter. If Smith is off his game, Rittich isn’t a sure bet to take the pressure off.

Rittich has been pretty good in his two NHL starts. Is that a guarantee that he’s going to keep it up? Not at all. It’s probably not a safe bet to hand the net over to him when the going gets tough, because his AHL numbers suggest he’s not necessarily going to be a solution. If you need a guy to win you a game every two weeks, you have one. If you need a guy to fill in for a disappointing starter, you’re probably going to get disappointed again.

(You also certainly have to wonder if playing the 35-year-old goalie in 60-70+ games is a good idea, given what’s happening to Cam Talbot this year. That’s a can of worms for later, though.)

Adam Fox, Dillon Dube, Adam Ruzicka (although the Slovakia roster has not yet been released) and Juuso Valimaki are locks. Linus Lindstrom and Eetu Tuulola have their shots, but we’ll have to wait and see.

That also answers the most interesting section. The four locks are locks because they’re some of the bigger names their country can offer, they have previous experience at the tournament (minus Ruzicka, who was only at the U18 WJC), are all on teams that have the potential to go deep (again, minus Ruzicka), and all four will have top billing on their teams. No offense to Lindstrom and Tuulola, but they’re likely to be depth guys on not particularly deep squads. It will be cool to see them live and among their peers, but it’s just not the same as the other four.

You probably will have to try hard to watch a game where a Flames prospect isn’t making an impact though, and that’s a great thing.

Hopefully? I never thought he would even make the team in the first place. I can’t remember the last time he played a game, so I think that’s a good sign.

  • Atomic Clown

    Sorely missing a right hand shot in the top 9. None of the more promising prospects in the AHL are right handed. At some point, BT will have to pull the trigger on a top 6/9 right handed forward. Preferably a sniper, as opposed to a playmaker/power forward. Biggest issue on the flames PP is lack of players that can shoot. Monahan, Hamilton, and the list ends

    • Skylardog

      This was always my argument against bringing in Jagr. We badly needed a top 9 scoring winger, and Jagr no longer fits that bill. What signing Jagr did, was eat a million of cap space, making it difficult to go out and get that winger without trading away an NHL asset, as we would need to free up cap space to fit a decent scoring NHL quality RW within the cap.

      Jagr has had great value in coaching some of the younger players, (and we did need a coach), but with him missing so many games, and there now being questions as to his spot when he returns, would it not have been better to have just paid him as a consultant or as an assistant coach, and gone out and picked up the much needed scoring winger?

      • McRib

        If I was GM, I would look to trade Michael Stone for a young RWer with some upside. Rasmus Andersson could easily slot in, in his place instead. It’s time to use some of our defensive depth to our advantage. I think this is more likely to happen next year, because I don’t think Treliving is going to be this aggressive this year. I think we will get a Troy Brouwer buyout this summer, as it’s a lot easier to buyout two years than three.

          • Bawcos

            Agreed (kinda). I get the insurance policy and the PK aspect. But why not a 1 or 2 year deal given their young talent and that Tkachuck will need a post ELC deal in that 3rd year. I think trading either Stone or Hamonic at the draft is a priority, though (internally) hard to do.

      • PrairieStew

        There is currently $2.3 M cap space, plus potentially another $1.7 in Versteeg LTIR space. We are one third in to the season – so that means you could bring in a $6M contract without going over – slightly more if you send a guy down to the minors. Jagr will probably never be a coach – he’s a show you kind of guy – not a teacher

      • HOCKEY83

        I agree Jagr should have never been a player on this team in Calgary but the experience value alone to the young players is worth the mil. I’ve haven’t heard anything other than he’ll be back on the third line with Janks and Bennett as soon as he’s healthy again so what source is reporting his spot in question. Believe me I really hope that’s the case. On the ice he is a detriment to this team. As a consultant worth every penny.

  • JMK

    Elite prospects shows Ruzicka played 5 games and scored a goal in last year’s WJC.

    Also, I don’t understand why Calgary needs a right handed shot for the PP. I get wanting one on the point like Versteeg but Brouwer just sits in front of the goalie. This is coming from someone who never played hockey though, is handedness really that important for net presence?

    • Atomic Clown

      It’s about getting off shots quicker, and easier. Think Ovi in his usual spot by the faceoff circle to the left of the goalie. Way easier to get a one timer off from there when you’re right handed vs being left handed. Stamkos is nearly identical in terms of his PP production. If the right handed shooter is playing on the other side, his strong wing, then carrying the puck up along the boards is easier, as his body is in the way of the defender and the puck, vs a left handed shooter carrying the puck on his backhand, which offers you less control, or on the forehand and risk a pokecheck. It just throws the goalie off as well in general if you keep switching players with different handedness in the slot. Last point, the PP when Iggy and Phaneuf were both on the flames was lethal because both were excellent shooters, and they could pass the puck between them and either one could let it rip

      • Crazy Flames

        The GGs RHS argument goes out the window when all Brouwer does is stands in front of the goalie or gives it away if he happens to get the puck. I agree with the idea of having a RHS forward out on the PP, but the Flames don’t have any good options.

        I really feel they should put Dougie out on the first PP. Stone on the second PP with Gio. Alternate between Brodie and Jankowski as the one LHS on the blueline.

        Johnny Sean Ferland
        Hamilton Jankowski/Brodie

        Tkachuk Backlund Jagr/Bennett
        Gio Stone

    • EhPierre

      Like Atomic stated, you want a righthanded shot to get the puck off quicker. Problem is, with Brouwer, all he does is sits in front of the net which isn’t a bad thing since he’s a large body, hard to move, and has a decent hand-eye. My problem with him is that all he does is sits in front of the goalie.

      He never moves around the ice during the PP so because of this, the 5v4 advantage ends up being a 4v4 with Brouwer infront of the goalie which makes our PP a lot easier to defend against. When Ferland is on the PP he skates around from being in front of the goalie to being in the slot to being somewhere near the boards. Having a floater makes our PP much harder to defend against compared to when Brouwer is on and its essentially a 4v4 PP.

      • deantheraven

        He doesn’t move around much ’cause he knows the other guys are better at that and his job is to be traffic. But it’s not enough. Ferls and Chucky and even Jankowski can drive traffic and work the cycle and would all replace Brouwer on an effective PP unit.

    • deantheraven

      I had the same thought when I watched the EDM game. Our D will have to step it up, and having at east one ‘functionally tough’ forward on each of the lines will be absolutely necessary.
      All they’d have to do is sit Brouwer once and his replacement would bring it…
      Hathaway can stay on the 3rd while Jags get his feet under him on the 4th line when he comes back. He’ll make that line better, and if Jagr starts to shine his way up the line up, nobody, including Hathaway, is going to argue if they get swapped.

  • redricardo

    How come shots are so skewed to lefty’s? In the real world, majority of people are right handed. Out of all my friends I can think of two left handed people. But on the Flames, everyone is a lefty. What gives?

    • EhPierre

      Majority of hockey players are left handed. That’s the reason why right handed players, especially defenders are at a premium. I’m right handed and used to be a righty but switched and became a lefty. It’s just much more comfortable playing as a lefty.

    • Aadvarkian Abakeneezer

      You answered your own question. It’s easier to use your dominant hand on top to control the stick. Plus if you’re right handed, chances are you also have a dominant right leg. Easier to push into a shot with your dominant leg if the stick is on the opposite side.

    • trox

      A hockey stick is (usually) held with the strong had in the higher position. So a person who is otherwise right-handed “should” shoot left and vice versa. There are exceptions, as a lot of kids will have an instinct to put their strong hand in the lower position.

    • Lucky 13

      I love this discussion. I’m a lefty,
      (Lucky the lefty) but shoot right, however when I play goal I use my dominant hand to catch which is left.

      I have to grab my goalie stick and flip it to my catching side when moving the puck as I don’t find it naturally comfortable trying to shoot it with my right hand on the top of the stick.
      Weird huh?

      You should see me trying to shave with my weak (right)hand, it’s not pretty.

      I believe the ratio of hockey players in the NHL is 65% left and 35% right, which is why I believe you see a premium paid for right handed shooters.

      Great discussion!

    • Rudy27

      Here’s why I shoot left (as a rightie). When I was a little kid, the older guys always put me in net while playing road hockey. So I held the stick with my right hand, and when I had to shoot the puck, I just put my left hand lower down the stick and shot it!

      • deantheraven

        I started in goal as a left-hander who had to catch left because our community equipment was all for right-catching goalies. Worked for me because I could get the knob of my stick in the webbing for a better shot. Of course, I was 10 or 11, so ‘a better shot’ wasn’t like Mike Smith better.

          • freethe flames

            Me too; I’m not sure what the science would say. Most people are right handed. I have lots of friends who are right handed and shoot left but bat righty and golf righty as well. I’ve always wondered why. Give a kid a stick(no blade), bat, and let them swing it; everyone will make their own choice. Is it dominate hand, dominate eye, dominate side of the brain? I have no idea.

  • everton fc

    I think Hathaway has injected what was needed on that 3rd line – speed, grit, and youth. He’s got a goal and three assists in 7 games. Jagr has a goal and six assists in 17 games. Seems Jagr should be 4th line RW, with Brouwer and Lazar.

    Stockton’s Finest- Hathaway was deployed on both the PP and PK, in Stockton, correct?

    • cjc

      I think you need to look at the track records of these players. Hathaway had 8 points in 43 games before his recent 4 in 5. 3 of those points have come at a time when Jankowski and Bennett are rolling (one of Hathaway’s assists came on a Tkachuk goal). Jagr has 1921 career points, and a not too shabby 7 points in 17 games this year. He’s also shooting about 10% below his career average. Bennett and Jankowski were playing well with Jagr, but they were hitting posts and generally not having great luck. When Jagr comes back put him back on the 3rd line, and if that line fails to click, then look at putting them on the 4th line.

      • Jumping Jack Flash

        I would move Hathaway to the fourth line, and swap Jagr and Ferland between first and third. It seems like Ferland has a lull from time to time while Jagr will provide some possession for the first line just like Ferland will give grit to the 3rd line.

  • buts

    If Brouwer wasn’t used so much on PP and PK and in important situations so much we wouldn’t be so mad at GG. It’s absolute insanity the usage of this guy. We all know Ferland would be far better in TB’s role on the pp also TB is not fast enough for the PK. The lack of execution on our specialty teams is a huge drawback to the flames having any hope in the post season if we make it there.

  • cjc

    There is this narrative that Smith is somehow more streaky than the average goalie, but I’m not sure I buy that. Ditto Rittich. I’ve not seen a statistical analysis that shows this is the case. Every goalie has peaks and valleys to their game – Pekka Rinne sucked on the back end of 2014-2015, all of 2015-2016, but has been great so far this year and last.

  • Lucky 13

    I think Mike Smith will be fine.
    He’s a warrior and I love his character. I don’t feel uncomfortable at all when he’s in the net. Maybe because he’s such a confident person.

    60+ games might be a bit much to expect of him, although you’d never hear him say that.

    I like what I’ve seen from Rittich so far and I think we should allow him to get more starts in the season.

    How can we truly evaluate our backups if we don’t use them enough?

    We seem to play better on the road, so it would be nice to see Rittich get some more games in this situation.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      Evaluating a goaltender is a science in itself. A perfect example is Macolm Subban who seemed to be destined to be an AHL goalie and nothing more. That is what Boston thought, after giving him a couple chances to prove himself with no success. In fact in his 2 NHL games with Boston in 2 years he had save percentages of .500 and.813….ouch.

      Suddenly, Vegas took an interest in him and gave him a chance to secure the back up role for Vegas. They moved Subban up the depth chart and were willing to give him a chance. So how does he repay them, he comes within minutes of getting a shutout in his fist game. The only goal that beat him came off his own defender.

      Subban continued to pay dividends to a club that showed both commitment and patience. He currently has a .923 save percentage that is better than anything he had in the AHL and the OHL except for his last year with Belleview where he registered a .934 save percentage. He has a NHL record of 7-2. In his last start he back stopped Vegas to a win in one of the most difficult arenas in the NHL, Bridgestone arena in Nashville. He got the shoot out win by stopping all six Nashville shooters.

      I would argue that both Rittich and Gillies have been more impressive in the AHL. Subban could not secure a spot in Boston playing 2 games in 2 years, the pressure was insurmountable. Rittich needs more than one game every couple of weeks to feel like he belongs. The organization’s philosophy on player development can make or break its prospects.

  • Lucky 13

    Rumour mill has the Buffalo Sabres and Flames engaged in trade talks?

    Both have been scouting each other’s games. Wondering if we see a trade? We’re looking for more forward depth and Buffalo needs some D help.

    • everton fc

      I’m looking at the Sabres roster, as I type. Please don’t trade for Evander Kane!! Sam Reinhart would be an interesting scoop, for the Flames. But he’s not a very good skater. Yet, he’s played on Eichel’s RW.

      Bennett-Jankowski-Reinhart. Interesting.

      With Brouwer now producing offence… And Hathaway earning his minutes up here… What to do w/Jagr, if a trade w/the Sabres materialized? Sending Hathaway back to the “A”, seems pointless – he’s doing well up here, and the team seems to succeed, when he’s getting minutes. Just a coincidence, or does Hathaway’s ability yo draw penalties and be a bit like Tkachuk actually help our team? I say, yes.

      • cjc

        Troy Brouwer hasn’t suddenly become good or rediscovered his offence. He’s scored a couple of goals, which is great, but he will revert to old Brouwer soon enough. Hathaway has been earning his minutes, but he’s likely to settle into fourth line material over the long haul.

        I was surprised to learn that Jagr has no no-trade protection, but I can’t see the team trading him unless Calgary is out of it and Jagr goes to a contender. His scoring rates are better than both Jankowski and Bennett, and that line was doing fine for a while… his possession numbers have also been solid too, and he’s +7, so… when Jagr comes back he goes on the third line, regardless of any trade with Buffalo.

        For that matter, Kane or Reinhart would require assets (picks) that the Flames just don’t have. Paying in prospects is more expensive – it means giving up Mangiapane, and/or D prospects like Kylington, Andersson, Valimaki or Fox. None of those guys are proven NHLers, so they’d likely need to send 2 or 3 good prospects Buffalo’s way to get a deal done.

        I don’t think I like Kane as a person, but he seems to be Buffalo’s second best hockey player.

        • everton fc

          I’d love to dump Brouwer. I was not implying he was on a roll. But the organization probably thinks he’s climbing out of the ditch.

          Not sure what Reinhart’s value is…

    • ThisBigMouthIsRight

      Ya I saw that… But looking at the Sabers roster, well, I’m not sure who the flames would be looking at? Maybe a Lack for Chad Johnson? I think I’d rather stick with Rittich personally! No One else really jumps out that I’d be willing to pay to get. The only Buffalo assets I’d be interested in would be Alexander Nylander or their 1st round pick this year. I don’t think the Flames are willing to sell a top D to get either for the future. and Just No to UFA, Cancer/Distraction/Attention Seeking Evander Kane. Not worth it~!(unless they throw in their 1st RD pick as bonus).

  • Skylardog

    We begin a critical stretch of 12 games tomorrow. We should have a good idea of where we are at when it ends on January 6. It features 8 games against teams we appear to be battling for a playoff spot (Anaheim 2, SJ 2, Minny 2, Vancouver and Chicago) and 3 games against teams in our conference that have put themselves in a position where they are almost certain to get a spot, if not the top spots in the conference (LA, Nashville, & StL). We also get Montreal.

    We can and should put Vancouver out of their misery, and could put a nail in the coffin of Anaheim by winning both. The Anaheim games have the potential of eliminating a team from the Pacific Finals, and magically doing it only half way into the season. SJ and Vegas appear to be the competition for 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific. Beat SJ twice and we are in a great spot for a top 3, lose both and we are looking like a wildcard unless Vegas tanks.

    And being a wildcard means beating out Minny and Chicago, who both are appearing to be wild cards at best. Two teams you do not want to be battling for the last spot in April.

    Split these 12 games, and it will be a tough battle to the end. It appears today that the magic number to get in is 93 points, or 11 games over 500. We need to go 7 over 500 in the last 52 to get there (about .570 or 27-20-5 for example). That is much easier than going 7 over 500 in the last 40.

    Go 9-3 and we can almost coast into the playoffs. Go 3-9, and we will need to go 13 over 500 in the last 40 (0.663, or 25-12-3 for example). Don’t count on that happening 2 years in a row.

    There is a strong chance that we will all but seal our playoff fate in the next 3-1/2 weeks.

  • Carl the tooth

    How old is Ferlund ? He just got going . To say Hathaway will never be a Top nine is Ridiculous . Especially since the majority of firstline AHL players end up being 3rdline NHLers . Hathaway is 10 times grittier than bouma . I seen some decent skill from Hathaway last year that he never really got rewarded for but he was great on the forecheck and created . He’s a decent skater with speed and is definitely one of the players with the most heart .

  • FLT

    I don’t get the argument on Rittich. The first set of games – 7GP, 5GA, 0.973, 3SO – isn’t “pretty good”. It’s amazing, and you can’t ask for much more from your goalie.

    The second set – 8GP, 18GA, 0.925, 1SO – is neither “bad” nor a “cold streak”. They’re actually very decent numbers, and above his season average AHL save % of 0.924 from last year. For those who care, the numbers across the two samples are 15GP, 23GA, 0.945, 4SO.

    I’m not saying he can carry the mail in the NHL, but unless I’m sucking at math (very possible), I don’t see how those numbers lead you to your conclusion.

    • Skylardog

      I got 933 for the second set in a quick calculation. That is very good. The question there may be one of consistency. He wasn’t up to par in 5 of the 8 games but amazing in the other 3.

      • FLT

        Yeah I get the inconsistency argument, there are a couple meh games in there. No real stinkers though, and it doesn’t strike me as abnormal inconsistency. I’d certainly take it in the context of 0.945 over the stretch, he gave the team a great chance to win far more often than not.

      • Stockton's Finest

        My point exactly Puffy. There were games where the backend played “Madador” defense. When Gillies was up with the Flames, it was Rittich the Heat rode to the playoffs. I am convinced he is the reason we made it to Game 5 against a NHL stacked Barracuda team. He got sick after the first period when Gillies relieved him (and played quite well in relief). I would argue that he would have won that game if he wasn’t sick.
        Everyone I have talked with in Stockton say Rittich is a better goalie than Gillies period.
        He is used to playing every 5th game or so (thanks Huska) and always comes out ready to go. I still believe the team plays better in front of him than Gillies. They can take more chances when he is in net because they trust him more.
        My opinion only, but I have also been watching him in person more.

  • deantheraven

    Gotta take issue with your treatment of Hathaway here. Again. Same things you’ve been saying about Ferland. Hathaway’s 26, less than a year older than Ferland. Screw the predictive stats. How about a story about two late bloomers who never gave up and when they finally got their chance they took it and ran with it? IMHO, with guys who have small sample sizes, (read: lack of NHL experience) past numbers have less meaning. Sam Bennett had elite numbers in Jr., not so much (yet) in 2 + seasons in the NHL. Former players Kypreos and Hrudey said it together and separately: That day when you realize “This Is It. I’ve made it and i ain’t goin’ back”, everything changes. Here’s hoping all three know the feeling.