Brodie aims for big year with lessons learned under his belt
Defenceman knows where he stands in the Flames organization, knows this is a big year for him
“I had an older vehicle at the time,” Brodie says. “And I figured if I was going to be driving around and stuff, it would be a good investment.”
Now 22 Brodie clocked an unexpected 900-odd kilometres on his prized pickup driving from Calgary through the Rockies to Abbotsford B.C. last month in what must have seemed a trip back in time.
After all, Brodie earned a full-time job on the Calgary blueline last season (a lingering head injury shut him down in early March.)
Then came the NHL lockout and another assignment to his old stomping grounds in Abbotsford.
Not that Brodie is complaining. The Chatham, Ont. native ran afoul of general manager Jay Feaster back in 2010/11 for not “respecting” the American Hockey League.
Two years older and two years wiser, Brodie plans to use this latest AHL stint as a finishing school to launch him into a long and successful NHL career.
“There’s always room for improvement no matter how good you are,” said Brodie, who has never suffered for lack of confidence. “Both end of my game can use work.
“There’s always things to get better at, so that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
“I just want to get better at reading the play and finishing plays,” said the smooth-skating defenceman who registered four goals and 14 points in 54 games last season for Calgary. “When I get a chance to score, I need to take advantage of it. If I see a pass, I need to make it, and I need to jump up in the rush — but pick my spots.
“It’s all about reading the play.”
No dummy, Brodie can read the situation brewing in Calgary. The Flames have eight defencemen on one-way contracts in Jay Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, Cory Sarich, Chris Butler, Derek Smith, Anton Babchuk and Brett Carson.
Brodie has a two-way entry-level deal that affords the Flames the flexibility of dispatching him to the minors without waiver exposure.
“T.J. has to come in and make our hockey team,” Feaster said this week in a break from the action at Heat training camp. “Nothing is given.”
As such, Feaster wants Brodie to make the most of every moment in Abby under the tutelage of head coach Troy Ward.
“Obviously, we would like T.J. to get stronger,” Feaster said. “As a young player, he needs to work on his defensive positioning. That’s why it’s good to have him here.
“That’s one of the things that Tory concentrates on is defensive positioning and dealing with the line rushes against. So it’s again improving his defensive awareness and his play down low in the zone.”
Message delivered by the boss. Message received by the employee.
“The quicker you are at reading the play, the better you can pick up rushes,” Brodie said. “And the better of a stick you have, the more you can break up passes and separate a man from the puck.
“Obviously I’m not that big a guy, so I’ve never been that big a hitter. But obviously, that’s another aspect of the game I can work on.”
Hoping to make the most of a negative situation, the Brodie clan plans on clocking another 334 kilometres later this month (once harvest is complete) to watch the Heat take on the Lake Erie Monsters in Cleveland.
“It will be nice to get the chance to see them,” Brodie said, clearly trying to see the bright side of a bleak labour situation. “Whatever happens with the NHL, happens. All I can control is how I work out and how I prepare for the season.
“They have guys who know about that stuff, and that’s their job.”
In the meantime, Brodie intends on doing everything in his power to keep his job in Calgary through a solid showing in Abbotsford.
That’s the game plan.
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