It’s arguable which Flames youngster is considered the first pillar of the post-Iginla rebuild. Most probably consider it to be Sean Monahan or Johnny Gaudreau. Maybe some are waiting for Sam Bennett or Matthew Tkachuk to become the icon of a new era.
I contend it’s T.J. Brodie. The 26-year-old defender’s rise from obscurity was one of the first indications that the team might have a future beyond Iginla and the old guard. In fact, it was the Jay Bouwmeester trade in 2012 that gave us a hint of how good Brodie was going to be.
A former fourth round pick, Brodie was considered a good, but not great, NHL prospect when he was in junior. His point total jumped up markedly during his draft+1 year, but that can be said of a lot of players. It wasn’t until his 20-year-old training camp where Brodie started to really stand out as a prospect of note in the organization.
He made the show out of camp that year, but didn’t stick. Nevertheless, Brodie made an impression and likely would have made the team out of camp the next season but for the lockout.
Instead Brodie established himself as the Abbotsford Heat’s top defender. Although he only managed three points in 12 AHL games that year, it was often clear that Brodie was the best player on the team whenever anyone watched the Flames’ farm team. The sophomore was playing almost 30 minutes a night and made Chris Breen look serviceable before being called up when the lockout finally ended.
Brodie was a third pairing option for the Flames for a brief period, but moved up the rotation when the Flames gave in to the rebuild and traded away Iginla and Bouwmeester. The kid moved up to play with Mark Giordano on the Flames’ top pairing for the rest of the year, and put up better underlying results than the departed veteran in the same role. That was eye-opening.
Since then, Brodie has never stopped getting better. He’s long since surpassed Bouwmeester as an NHL defender. His results were so good after just 100 games in the NHL, I argued the Flames should eschew a bride deal and sign Brodie long-term. A year later, Steve MacFarlane argued Brodie could one day battle for the Norris Trophy. Sound ridiculous? Read on.
The Various Conquests of T.J. Brodie
When he first broke into the league, Duncan Keith was considered a comparable to Brodie, in style if not in quality. Suggesting Brodie could ever match up to the Norris trophy winner seemed grotesquely optimistic at the time, but…
– Over the last three seasons, Brodie places eighth overall amongst regular defenders in terms of relative corsi/60 (all shot attempts against). And aside from Giordano (second overall), Brodie plays in way tougher circumstances than the other guys in that list:
– In fact, since October 2013, Brodie has started 430 more shifts in the defensive zone than the offensive zone at 5on5. Brian Campbell, in contrast, started 118 more shifts in the offensive zone. That’s a differential of 548 offensive zone starts between the two players.
– Brodie has played the sixth most even strength minutes in the league over the last three seasons, even though he appeared in just 232 games (due to injury). The five guys ahead of him are: Ryan Suter, Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty, Brian Campbell and Shea Weber.
– Brodie is 13th overall in terms of even strength points by a defensemen over the same time frame with 64. That’s only 10 back of the aforementioned Keith and eight back of partner Giordano.
– Brodie is already 12th all time amongst Flames defensemen in points with 145. He’s in line to move up to eighth this season, right behind Dion Phaneuf.
– If we limit that to defenders 25 and younger, Brodie moves to up seventh in points amongst Flames franchise defenders.
– Oh yeah, he makes plays like this:
I don’t know if Brodie will ever get a shot at the Norris, but there’s no question he has established himself as a cornerstone defender on the Flames. He remains perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league and boasts one of the best value contracts around. He will be a key to any success the Flames find in the post-Iginla epoch.