It’s no mystery that the Calgary Flames’ 2015-16 season hasn’t gone as planned.
After an exceptional 2014-15 campaign that included a storybook return to the playoffs, the Flames have stumbled mightily this year, posting a subpar record of 26-30-2 as their postseason hopes slip away.
However, amid the disappointing campaign, the Flames have seen a few bright spots. Chief among these has been the stellar play of the team’s young stars — Johnny Gaudreau leads the way, having posted 58 points in 58 games, ranking him sixth in points among all NHL skaters.
On the blue line, rising star T.J. Brodie has continued on his path towards superstardom as well, proving once again why he remains one of the most underrated defenders in the game.
After a career-high 41 points last season, Brodie has continued to chip in offensively in 2015-16. He currently has 36 points in 50 games thus far, putting him on pace to finish with a new career-high of 53. Playmaking has been at the core of Brodie’s top notch effort this year – he’s managed to raised his assists per game pace from .37 last season to an astounding .64 in 2015-16, and ranks sixth among all NHL defensemen in total assists.
Brodie also ranks fourth in points among all Flames players – just one point back of captain Mark Giordano, who’s suited up for nine more games than his young defensive partner. When assessing Brodie’s success in relation to his usage, we see more clearly just how exceptional he’s been this season.
At even strength, Brodie ranks second among all Flames players in terms of goals-for per 60 minutes with a mark of 3.3, bested only by Gaudreau. That means that the 25-year-old Brodie has been better at facilitating 5-on-5 offense than even Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler, who each topped 30 goals last season. At the other end of the rink, Brodie has been defensively sound at even-strength as well. He holds the second-lowest goals-against per 60 minute mark of any Flames blue-liner, sitting with a 2.4.
While the statistics are great indicators of Brodie’s fantastic season, there’s a large part of his game that simply can’t be measured by numbers. For a club with so many young players in key roles, the Flames have no trouble finding themselves out of sorts, playing a frantic, forced style. This is where Brodie’s skill-set shines, as the smooth-skating rearguard is exceptional when it comes to calming the play down and getting his team back on track.
While he doesn’t shy away from pressing forward and joining the rush, using his elite speed to drive Calgary’s offense, Brodie also has the patience and defensive awareness to pull back and recoup, allowing his teammates to reset and regain their proper positioning. It’s been a crucial aspect of his role with the team this season, and one that figures to remain a key part of Brodie’s game as he grows into the role of Calgary’s future number-one defender.
Flames head coach Bob Hartley has certainly noticed Brodie’s fine play, as he’s put him on the ice more than any other Flames skater this season. Brodie ranks first on the club in average time-on-ice, suiting up for 25:32 per game this season – nearly a full minute more than team captain (and presumed number-one defender) Giordano.
Needless to say, it’s been a strong season for Brodie, despite the overall lack of success for the Flames. Assuming Calgary can revamp their goaltending situation prior to 2016-17, it seems Brodie is set to continue thriving on Calgary’s blue-line as he slowly but surely climbs up the ranks of the best defensemen in the sport.