Where could TJ Brodie fit in under Bill Peters?

Defence was supposed to be an area of strength for the Flames in 2017-18. Perhaps, under a new head coach, it still can be.

If there’s one position the Flames seem unlikely to add to, it’s defence. They already have Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie, Travis Hamonic, Brett Kulak, and Michael Stone. Then, there’s Rasmus Andersson pushing to become a full-time NHLer, and Juuso Valimaki and Oliver Kylington probably aren’t far behind, if at all. That isn’t even accounting for the potential addition of Adam Fox in the near future, all with Matt Bartkowski being the only unrestricted free agent of the group.

If anything, it would probably be in the Flames’ best interest to trade one of their defencemen for help in another position.

But there was the Flames’ defence under Glen Gulutzan, the most primary feature likely its strict adherence to left-right pairings, and then there’s what the Flames’ defence might become under Bill Peters. In Carolina, Peters had a collection of very young defencemen to work with, 26-year-old Trevor van Riemsdyk being the oldest of the group. In Calgary, he’ll have a much older, more experienced group (assuming the main six are all back, Hamilton and Kulak will be the only ones under 26), and one with that much more scoring power, as well.

Peters showed off extensive knowledge of the Flames’ roster as he was introduced to Calgary, in particular calling the top pairing of Giordano and Hamilton elite. Based on that, we should perhaps just assume they’ll be left together; after all, why mess with something clearly working?

Except… Brodie.

Assuming Brodie is indeed playing for the Flames next season, then he could turn out to be the major wild card in this group. Under Gulutzan, Brodie floundered, playing to the left of right-handed defencemen Dennis Wideman, Deryk Engelland, Stone, and Hamonic. Under Bob Hartley, however, Brodie primarily played to the right of Mark Giordano – and they were extremely good together.

Perhaps that was a symptom of Brodie and Giordano being the only two defencemen on the Flames who could continuously be relied upon to play top minutes. That’s no longer the case, not now that Hamilton’s value has finally been recognized, plus the potential Hamonic once carried (and, for all we know, could still improve upon).

First question

Is it an option to reunite Brodie with Giordano?

It’s difficult to compare underlying numbers for the Giordano-Brodie pairing with the Giordano-Hamilton one, because Hartley’s teams had extremely poor showings in their underlyings, while Gulutzan’s did not, and those factors are beyond a pairing’s control. We can, however, note that Brodie, with Giordano, always had a strong positive 5v5 CF% rel (from +2.00 to +9.54 over the seasons), and only just barely had a positive one with Hamonic this past season (+0.56).

Hamilton, meanwhile, has ranged from +8.49 to +10.51 with Giordano. They have been the better pairing, full stop.

Is it worth it to potentially downgrade the first pairing – even slightly – to elevate Brodie’s game? If things go well, maybe they could handle the bulk of the defensive zone starts, while Hamilton’s pairing could take more offensive zone ones, particularly seeing as how Hamilton is the Flames’ best offensive weapon from the blue line.

On the other hand, this does fall into “keep playing Lance Bouma with Mikael Backlund, because Bouma only ever looked really good alongside Backlund” territory. Sure, Backlund helped Bouma, but also, if Backlund played with stronger linemates – say, Matthew Tkachuk – then his game got that much stronger. Brodie isn’t as miscast as a top pairing defenceman as Bouma was as a top six forward, but the general concept still applies.

The risk is that the Flames nuke their elite top pairing for no positive results. The reward is their top pairing declines slightly, but they get a stronger second pairing out of it.

Though that’s a whole other question: who does Hamilton play with? Hamonic? A rookie? Either way, it’s almost certainly going to be someone he has no experience with.

Second question

What about mixing up the top four: Brodie with Hamilton, and Giordano with Hamonic?

This likely keeps Brodie on the left side which, if that really is the source of his struggles these past couple of seasons, doesn’t do anybody any good. On the other hand, in Brodie’s limited time with Hamilton – over 70 5v5 minutes a season – their results have generally been positive: +3.94 5v5 CF% rel in 2015-16, +6.04 in 2016-17, and -0.79 in 2017-18.

Maybe it could work, but it still leaves the Flames with a weakened top pairing. After all, Giordano and Hamilton have been elite together, and nothing really points to any other defenceman improving on that.

Third question

Could Brodie play on the bottom four?

Let’s think of a defence in which Giordano and Hamilton are the de facto number one pairing, but instead of considering the Flames as a top four group, their second and third pairings are on equal footing with one another. In this case, let’s magically handwave away Stone because he probably is the weakest member of the overall defensive group, and have Hamonic and Brodie as the two right-side defencemen in the bottom four.

That leaves a question: who fills the left-handed spots? Kulak for one, in all likelihood. The second could be Valimaki, or Kylington, or even Andersson if he can play the left side and we’re truly done caring about handedness.

Say what you will about Brodie, but if there’s one thing he can do, it’s skate. That could give a more offensively inclined prospect the green light to jump up into the zone – and if things go poorly, well, Brodie can likely get back fast enough to ensure things wouldn’t be a disaster.

Or, perhaps Hamonic could play alongside a Valimaki or an Andersson, while Brodie and Kulak man the blue line as a (hopefully) quietly effective duo.

All in all, Brodie’s value is perhaps the lowest it could be at this time. He’s probably still a good enough player to be able to fetch the Flames some sort of a return to upgrade in another area, but the Flames wouldn’t be selling high on him. And it’s not as though he’s chopped liver; Brodie, once upon a time, looked like a bonafide top pairing guy.

If the Flames want to see if they can get him back to his former glory under a new coach, then they’ve got a number of options.

  • freethe flames

    I decided to do an interesting exercise comparing Gio’s stats with TJ and with Dougie. With TJ his stats were 104 points 91 PIM’s and a plus 8 over the last two seasons together. With Dougie 72 points 122 PIMs and a +22. Combined over two years TJ and Gio had 190 and were +27. Together Gio and Dougie combined for 166 points and +35.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I’ve thought about that, as well, but there are a lot of potentially confounding factors: 1) Gio was younger with Brodie. Now, Gio is ageing very well, but it’s still reasonable to expect a decrease in offensive output with time; 2) Hartley’s “system” relied almost exclusively on stretch passes and rush offence (where the D would often be the trailer), meaning the D were very likely to be one of the last 3 people to touch the puck on a goal; 3) the roles on the pairings have been reversed to a great extent – Brodano had Brodie playing the safety and Gio doing most of the pinching, whereas MG Hammer has had Gio playing the safety more often while Hamilton pinches with regularity (sometimes too much regularity).

      • FL🔥MES

        Yes I do. It’s a frustrating time of year sitting and waiting for things to happen. Compound it with articles like this when people come up with crazy ideas. In the end I expect that a few changes will be made. The team will be fine.

        I wonder if Tooth got detained in Iceland? It’s a genetically pure population there you know? Kind of like a big Hutterite colony.

  • Atomic Clown

    Anyone see the article on Matchsticks and Gasoline regarding an Andersson-Sprong swap with Pittsburgh? It makes a lot of sense. Sprong is trucking along at 1.0 ppg in the AHL, and has wet his feet in the NHL. It would put a hiatus on the Brodie/Stone talks, as the next most ready d prospect is Wotherspoon. Id certainly prefe this deal over Kapanen. I honestly dont care for anything from the center of the universe other than Nylander/Marner, and thats gonna cost a kings ransom.

    • freethe flames

      I just read the article and it is indeed an interesting idea. PP have about $4.5m in cap space and some interesting decisions to make. I wonder if anyone might be available via FA?

      • FL🔥MES

        No thanks.

        Sprong is a RW and got 65 points in 65 games (1.0 ppg) and was +4.

        Ras is a defenseman and got 39 points in 56 games (0.7 ppg) but was +20. That’s a goal differential of 6 between a defenseman and forward.

          • Hockeysense9393

            Didn’t you hear? +/- is a skewed stat that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Getting a “potential” top 6 RW that scores where we need help now…over a “potential” bottom 4 defenceman (at the moment) that is a position we have strength on. And you say no on a point of +/-? That’s very interesting.

      • TriPPiNvdUb

        There was another article I read th9s morning suggesting that the Leafs move Nylander for a Dman and Brodie was brought up in conversation….

        1 for 1 hockey trade? I know most will think we would have to sweeten the pot but I think it could be done straight across!

    • Baalzamon

      When you’re talking about trading a defenseman for a winger you have to ask yourself the following question: does this trade gain me more than simply moving the defenseman to the wing? NONE of the suggested trades involving Hamilton have come close to doing that, for example, and I don’t think this trade does it either.

      There are a lot of players I’d target ages before Sprong. Kapanen is one, and I wouldn’t trade Andersson for him, either.

      • Atomic Clown

        fair enough, i havent seen sprong at all to be able to say anything meaningful about him other than his stats line. We have to realistically assess Andersson before slapping an untennable price tag on him. I know Andersson wont get you William Nylander, but what about his brother? Last i remember, before the flames drafted Tkachuk, Alex was looking like the most likely pick, and people in general were high on him. He has pedigree, skill, and is scoring less that Andersson, so it could be Nylander plus for Andersson.

  • Franko J

    I think Treliving has a deal or two in place in regard to Brodie. As far fetched as it might sound It all hinges upon where Karlsson and Carlson end up. Logically it will create a domino effect and if you examine free agency closely outside of Carlson there really isn’t too many D available that stand out. Besides the Flames have a couple of prospects who have earned the opportunity to showcase their talents at the next level.

    • cberg

      If Peters is planning to play an up-tempo fast game like we just saw Vegas do, Brodie’s a definite keeper. He’s also much more creative with the puck than, say Hamilton. Got to get more consistent on coverage and gaps but we may need to re-think these trades…

      • Off the wall

        If we can play a fast, forechecking game like Vegas I’d be in my glory.
        They should inspire any team with the way they play the game.

        San Jose looked like they were overwhelmed with their speed and defensive systems.

        I’m really looking forward to Winnipeg and Nashville. Should be a good tilt!

  • freethe flames

    It is a frustrating time of year and that’s why we come to FN to let our crap out and discuss what we think should be done so that next year and the following year we don’t have the same crap to deal with. Nothing we say here will change what BP thinks or BT does but it’s supposed to fun. If you are not having fun with it maybe you should take a little vacation from it (I did for about 6 weeks and now it’s fun again). Peace.

  • oddclod

    Interesting… a connected local bar owner informed me Murray Edwards & co has a deal in principal to sell the team and right about the time Bettman rolled into town this year all parties met. My 2 putting & 2 together figures if true, it’s leaked & council is now trying 2 spark an arena deal because the group is from Houston. That said, what the hell is going on in LV & what the eff is a golden knight anyways??

  • Hockeyfan

    TJ, backsthesweet, and hath or other some such to sens for their 1st and Stone. watching these playoffs, Flames would of been swept with the timid, scared hockey they play. so mediocre after decades still. but, the guys are really nice and sweet, not great at pro level hockey but they know how to cry.

  • PlayitagainSam

    Yahoo it’s about time they fired Burke!! Just heard on Sportsnet he resigned from his position. Bs he was told and thank god we can return to respectability . No more Fred Flintstone!

  • TheWheeze

    I don’t think Brodie is going anywhere. Have a strong feeling Peters is going to have some pull regarding personnel. And he seems to like and value Brodie. But then again, hyping a player for trade value is good business sense so who knows I guess

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Team needs talent right now. It ain’t gonna come via free agency and there is no Sid Crosby on the farm. Stoner gets you a 4th round pick. Brodie is the brightest trading chip Tre has to deal not named Monahan, Tkachuk, Gaudreau or Hamilton. Tre wouldn’t dare deal Gio at this time, even though he would bring back more than Brodie.

  • RKD

    Assuming Brodie is back pairing him with Gio might rejuvenate him or it might not. What then would Hamonic take Brodies spot and Hamilton move down as his partner. Brodie is here in body but his mind/heart/spirit is somewhere else. A change of scenery is probably best for him. He could net us a forward, we need scoring.

    • Kevin R

      Both RHD. Just changing a dirty underwear problem. Coach wanted Brodie on left side & GM got him a bonafide partner for right side. Now we have too many RHD. Peters works well with the young D so the path seems obvious & Brodie seems destined to bring in that top 6 RW

  • Derzie

    How to get trashed in 4 words or less: “Flames should trade Hamilton for…”

    Stop the nonsense. Like selling your Ferrari so you can afford nice tires. D-U-M-B.

  • Garry T

    I like the Kulak Brodie combination. Kulak’s improvement in two years has been substantial. You can turn Brodie loose on offensive opportunities and Kulak is smart and a better skater now and this could work.