Brodie’s up-and-down season has Flames coaches and fans staying patient

 

When defenceman is good, he’s really good, but consistency has proven elusive thus far

 
 
 
 
Calgary Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Dennis Wideman against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
 

Calgary Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Dennis Wideman against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Photograph by: Chris Carlson, AP

Dallas — On the subject of T.J. Brodie, the Calgary Flames coach can uncover no trends.

Unless the trend is the distinct lack of a trend. In other words, inconsistency.

“Brodes has been like the stock market — up and down,” Bob Hartley says of his blue-chip rearguard. “He’s shown some great shifts . . . and some others that were not very good.”

Hartley points to Monday’s game, which he described as a “very mediocre” evening for Brodie against the Los Angeles Kings. But then who authors the winning goal in the final minute?

Even those heroics come with a qualifier.

“On some other teams, Brodie wouldn’t have touched the ice for that final power play . . . (because he’d already) made a few mistakes,” says Hartley. “But we have a philosophy as a coaching staff — if we’re going to (mould) our young players, we have to give second and third chances as long as the working habits are there.

“With Brodes, it’s not a matter of not working. So it’s just a matter of focusing, re-finding his game, keeping his game simple, limiting turnovers. Everything’s going to be fine.”

Averaging 22:36 of ice time through nine dates — and working out of position on the right side — Brodie has recorded three points, going minus-three in the process.

Being partnered with when-healthy Mark Giordano means staring down the enemy’s stars every night.

“It’s been OK,” Brodie, 23, says. “It’s definitely different playing against some of those guys. They like to take risks and you always have to be looking behind you. Sometimes you can’t jump up (into the play) because of who’s on the ice.

“It’s definitely a different game than last year.”

Yes, last year.

The 2013 campaign had finished on an undeniable upswing.

With workhorse Jay Bouwmeester shuttled to the St. Louis Blues, the smooth-skating Brodie got the ice time. And he got the comparisons — to Bouwmeester (by the staff), to P.K. Subban (by teammates).

“I don’t really compare myself to those guys.”

But he hears the chatter.

No matter, says his boss.

“You can’t avoid the media game,” Hartley says. “It’s part of our business. We have to learn to cope with this. Pressure from the outside, there’s nothing we can do about this. Pressure from the inside — of the game, of the job — that’s what we chose. So we have to find a way to get it done. But we’re dealing with a very young defenceman. He’s going to mature. He’s going to be fine.”

Brodie had managed this season to go about his business in relative peace — unlike last winter when he’d become the face of the rebuild and the destination of reporters.

These days? There are few crowds around his dressing-room stall. Which suits him fine.

“The media, it can be distracting,” says Brodie, “but it’s part of the job. You’ve just got to answer the questions and take it for what it’s worth.”

Brodie’s arrival stands as a rare revelation by the Darryl Sutter administration.

Handed a 2008 conditional pick from the Boston Bruins because they had not retained Brad Stuart, they Flames snatched the skinny blue-liner in the fourth round.

Returns, even in early days, had been positive.

“First time I saw him play (in the Young Stars Classic) in Penticton, everybody knew he was going to be a really good player,” Matt Pelech, former first-round pick of the Flames, was saying the other day. “He was a big-time, standout player. He just moves. It’s effortless. He just flies around out there. He makes good decisions and he’s sneaky-good defensively. For someone with that high of an offensive ceiling, he handles himself well in his own end.”

That two-way potential is why the coach remains bullish about the youngster from Chatham, Ont.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that he can be a better defenceman than what he’s shown us so far,” says Hartley. “But I’m not disappointed. I know that we’re dealing with a young defenceman and that’s why you keep him in there.

“I think that he’s going to be a big part of this team.”

scruickshank@calgaryherald.com

 
 
 
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Calgary Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Dennis Wideman against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
 

Calgary Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie, left, celebrates his game-winning goal with teammate Dennis Wideman against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

Photograph by: Chris Carlson, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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