Calgary Flames: What’s going on with T.J. Brodie?

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 22: Josh Anderson #77 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Calgary Flames on November 22, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 22: Josh Anderson #77 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Calgary Flames on November 22, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Coming into this season, the Calgary Flames were supposed to have one of the best defence core in the league. But they haven’t quite been that spectacular. And that includes T.J. Brodie.

Every Calgary Flames fan was excited about this upcoming season. They fixed their goaltending issue, they were working on fixing their RW-depth issue, and they fixed their defence issue. After acquiring Travis Hamonic from the NY Islanders to complete their top-four and re-signing Michael Stone as that fifth defenceman, they were basically set. And they were ready for Cup contention.

But the defence hasn’t quite been as spectacular as everyone was assuming. And a noticeable player is T.J. Brodie. This isn’t to say that Brodie’s been the worst, but he’s been making lots of mistakes this season. Mistakes he doesn’t generally make.

Last season, Brodie’s stats were hurting. But it wasn’t because of him. Everyone knew that Dennis Wideman was somewhat of an anchor for Brodie. He was constantly making mistakes that Brodie would try and bail him out of. But as good as he is, he couldn’t bail him out of everything. And Brodie was at a career-worst +/- of -25.

Then when Michael Stone came into the picture and replaced Wideman, everything changed. The Flames went on a ten-game win-streak and Brodie’s numbers drastically improved. From the first game with Stone as a pairing until the end of the season, Brodie was +9.

Related Story: Five Reasons the Flames' Season Turned Around

But this season hasn’t exactly been the case.

Brodie rarely made mistakes last season, even with Wideman has his partner. But this season, he’s been a completely different player. While he’s still a great skater, that’s probably the only thing that hasn’t gone downhill. He has been having lots of giveaways, he fumbles with the puck, and his puck control is nowhere near what it once was. It seems like his confidence has taken a shot.

One noticeable moment was in OT vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets and Brodie lost the puck right beside the net that led to Josh Anderson scoring and the Flames losing their first game in OT this season.

So far this season, Brodie has the worst CA on the team by a long shot, at 437 (5v5). The next highest is Dougie Hamilton with 363, but Dougie beats him at CF. Brodie’s Rel.CF% is -4.81, a career worst. Last season, it was -1.36.

Brodie currently has 26 giveaways, the worst on the team and he’s on pace to beat his giveaway number from last season when he had 76. The biggest thing for me so far this season that’s been noticeable is his puck control and puck protection. Not everyone can be a Jaromir Jagr when it comes to protecting the puck, but not everybody should be a Matt Bartkowski.

And last season, lots of people (rightfully so) blamed Brodie’s digression on Dennis Wideman. And while Hamonic hasn’t exactly been a spectacular star so far this season, it’s not like Brodie’s being affected only by Hamonic’s play. Like I mentioned, Brodie himself is making mistakes.

I don’t know what’s the reason for Brodie’s mishaps this season, but maybe the Flames need some sort of defence change to spark things up a bit.

I’m not saying those should be the exact pairings, but it doesn’t hurt to move things around a little. All I know is that the Calgary Flames aren’t exactly proving to be one of the best defence core this season. That was evident in Columbus. That was evident in Dallas. And it was evident against the Toronto Maple Leafs when they scored three goals that were all a result of the Flames failing to clear their own zone.

One of our writers here, Ben, looked at this about a month and a half ago and asked why the Calgary Flames defence core wasn’t defending. And a reason for Brodie’s digression in his defence could be because of Glen Gulutzan’s system.

Related Story: Why is the Flames defense corps not defending?

This is what Ben said (keep in mind this was written about six weeks ago):

"Why is this the case? This is what I’d like to ask Glen Gulutzan. My only guess (and it is only a guess) is that it is systemic.  Gulutzan’s push-forward, possession style of play simply does not prioritize defensive play.  He is known to work special teams.  He was hired to combat his predecessor’s poor possession numbers, promising 5-man units in every zone.Brodie would seem to be the best example of the best and worst of Gulutzan’s system.  With 6 points as of this writing, he ranks second in team scoring.  However, he is number one in the NHL with a staggering 68 shots against! His partner Hamonic, arguably the more defensively responsible of the pair, has had a single goal and seen 62 shots.I love the offense. But, whether I’m right or wrong about the problem being Gulutzan’s system, Smith’s play against that many shots every night is unsustainable. Unless and until the Calgary Flames’ very talented, very expensive defense corps relieve some of the pressure on their goaltender, losses will inevitably accumulate."

Right now, the Calgary Flames are averaging 33.0 shots-against per game. This is the highest they’ve had in years. The last time they even averaged over 30 SA/GP was in 2011-12, when they averaged 30.8. In fact, I went back 20 seasons, and their current 33.0 SA/GP is the worst. Their 30.8 SA/GP was the second worst and otherwise, they’ve only allowed over 30 SA/GP one other season. Maybe Ben has a point with Gulutzan’s style. And this isn’t to say that I’m not loving the offence, but other things matter. And maybe this style isn’t working for T.J. Brodie.

Next: Underrated centreman - Sean Monahan

Something’s gotta change and T.J. Brodie needs to regain his confidence.