A lot of pluses in Brodie’s game
Flames young blueliner showing skill beyond his years
The statistic, T.J. Brodie warns, should be taken with a grain of salt.
Before Wednesday’s game against Dallas, the third-year pro was leading the team with a plus-4 after 10 games (nine of which he’s suited up for and averaging just under 18 minutes of ice time per appearance).
On the one hand, it’s always good to be on the positive end of things — and even better when you’re the youngest guy on the team (at the moment at least, with Sven Baertschi on the limp). But on the other hand, Brodie says, the number only says so much.
“Take it for what it’s worth,” the 22-year-old said the other day, only a few months removed from waking up in the Fraser Valley with the Abbotsford Heat. “I’ve had it sometimes in the past where I’ve had a bad game and I’ve been a plus. Sometimes, I’ve played well and the bounces go the other way.
“Obviously, being a plus is good. It means something. But at the same time, it doesn’t.”
For example, take last year’s 9-0 debacle/loss at Boston (Jan. 5, 2012, if you need a reminder). Brodie, playing only his 31st NHL game ever, managed to miraculously walk away even — and logged the most ice time out of anyone, including the smooth skating (and minus-5) Jay Bouwmeester. Hardly explainable, really. (“They could have easily scored when I was on the ice,” Brodie downplays).
But it’s a good indication of the type of reliable minutes the Chatham, Ont., native is capable of.
And this year, it only seems to be getting better.
Poised with the puck and confident, Brodie’s play has been noted by the Flames coaching staff who have rewarded him with ample ice time. Also telling is his presence on the second defensive pairing with NHL veteran Dennis Wideman behind Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano. There are flashes of offence in his game, too, with three assists in his nine appearances this season.
A pleasant surprise all around, said head coach Bob Hartley.
“A great, great part of our lineup,” Hartley said. “He logs lots of ice time. Offensively, he offers a lot. His skating. His vision. He opens himself in open ice. It’s pretty remarkable for a young player. Every game, he gets some pretty good scoring chances and I think with experience adjusting, maybe a quicker release on his shot, I think you’ll see him put points on the board for us.
“But we’re not here to give gifts to anyone. If he plays, it’s because he deserves it.”
Wideman, on the ice with him every day, can also confirm Brodie’s progression.
“There’s ups and downs for everybody,” he said. “There’s going to be games where you just don’t feel good, where you just don’t have it. And you’ve gotta find a way to get the job done.
“I think so far he’s been great. He’s got lots of composure for a younger guy.”
Brodie’s hustle — under pressure or not — has also come in handy, Wideman adds.
“He’s got good speed,” he said. “He’s good defensively. He’s playing smart and moving the puck very well. I think every time we’ve tried to jump into the play, he’s beaten me up there.
“He’s got offensive instincts, but playing solidly in his own zone too.”
The comfort level has been mutual as Wideman’s smarts allow Brodie to join the rush and vice versa.
But when it comes to the bigger picture — a permanent spot in the dressing room only a few stalls over from Jarome Iginla — Brodie is making a fine adjustment to the daily grind of being an NHL player.
“Coming off the first couple games, I just wanted to play simple,” said Brodie who watched the first game of the season from the press box. “I wanted to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes and if I was out there, we didn’t get scored on and just took it from there. Each game I’m trying to do the same thing but add the offensive side of my game. I guess each game I’ve felt a little more comfortable, a little more confident with the NHL game.”
And here, consistency is key.
“Basically, I’m just trying to come every game and be ready,” Brodie said. “Prepare myself and give myself the chance to be in the lineup in the next game after that.
“But all I can do is play — everything else is up to the coaches and management after that.”
Follow on Twitter/KristenOdlandCH
© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald