When Kyle Dubas signed TJ Brodie this off-season, many viewed it favourably. He was a steady defender. A stark contrast to the Tyson Barrie, Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner type defenders they’ve had for the past few seasons. At around a third of the way through the season, I evaluated how TJ Brodie was looking with the Maple Leafs so far. I analyzed his strengths, and what I thought he could work on. Now, nearing the end of the season, let’s look at how TJ Brodie has fared in his first season as a Leaf.
Evaluating TJ Brodie and His First Season With the Toronto Maple Leafs
Even Strength Defence
TJ Brodie’s abilities really emerge in the defensive plays he makes at even strength. When I wrote about Brodie last, I highlighted his ability to defend two-on-ones extremely effectively. I raised concern with players catching on and showing patience and waiting Brodie out since he goes down to defend the two on one every time. That has not happened and I swear Brodie has even gotten better at it.
Brodie might be the best odd-man rush defender of all time pic.twitter.com/ObXbsoe8Aa
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) February 14, 2021
Tj Brodie is so good at this#Leafsforever pic.twitter.com/mFbICnVWsi
— Rink Rat Report (@RinkRatReport) March 4, 2021
Now, I could just keep posting TJ Brodie being excellent at breaking up two-on-ones (trust me, there’s much more). Not only does Brodie take away the royal road pass, but he also then takes his stick and tries to get it on the puck once the puck carrier has committed to shooting (since Brodie had taken away the lane). Most good defenders removing the passing option. Brodie has begun to remove the passing option first, then attempting to get the puck off the carrier’s stick. He’s done this against some of the top players in the division. Defending an odd-man rush is a frequent occurrence for the partner of Morgan Rielly, so it’s good that Brodie is one of the league’s best at it.
This is also exclusively discussing Brodie’s play with two on one’s. He has also been excellent at defending at one-on-one’s, two-on-two’s, and just about every other chance the other teams have.
Data and visuals from Evolving Hockey
Looking at Evolving Hockey’s data, we can see how strong TJ Brodie has been defensively. Ranking in the 78th percentile according to their player cards, Brodie has been among the league’s best defensive players. He ranks 22nd in the league among defencemen in Evolving Hockey’s xGAR at even strength defence. He also ranks 35th among league defencemen (with a minimum of 500 minutes played) in xGA/60 with 2.02. Needless to say, TJ Brodie is pretty good at defending at 5v5.
Even Strength Offence
This is an area I hoped Brodie would begin to provide more value for the Leafs in my first article. Boy has he. This has become an underrated aspect of his game in Toronto.
Data and visuals from HockeyViz
Brodie has provided an 8% swing in offence when he’s on the ice vs when he’s off. He’s not flashy by any means. He’s no Morgan Rielly when playing in the offensive zone, but he makes effective passing plays. He doesn’t generate offence through shot attempts. In fact, Brodie has the lowest CF/60 at all situations on the Leafs. Lower than Joe “Never Shoots the Puck” Thornton. This is what a defenceman’s role should be in the offensive zone. Serving as a passing outlet to get the pucks to the forwards in a higher danger situation.
I don’t need Brodie to be raking up points, being the sole generator of offence. That’s not his roll on this team. If he is able to be a player that gets to puck to the players who ARE meant to generate offence, that’s the best thing he can do. I’d much rather him get the puck to Mitch Marner, William Nylander or Auston Matthews than take a shot from the point that has a 2% chance of going in.
Area To Work On
If you ever needed proof that even-strength defence doesn’t translate to penalty-killing ability, TJ Brodie would be the perfect example to use. The Leafs have had a good penalty kill this season, but that’s not as a result of TJ Brodie. Jake Muzzin and Justin Holl carry the Leafs defence in that aspect of play.
Data and visuals from HockeyViz
Brodie hurts his team when he’s on the ice during the penalty kill. If I had to criticize any aspect of his game, it’s this. Either Brodie needs to work on his ability to kill penalties, or the coaching staff needs to stop putting him in that position.
In the first article I said I’d like to see Brodie on the top power-play unit. Since then, Rasmus Sandin has taken that spot when he’s in the lineup. I believe that he is very well suited for the job. Should a power-play defenceman go down, I’d like to see Brodie in that role, but it doesn’t make sense anymore to try him there in a healthy lineup.
After the first season of his contract, Brodie has been an incredible defenceman at even strength for the Leafs. He’s been among their best blueliners, and just brings a sense of calm when he’s on the ice defending or when he has the puck. While he could use more time on the power play (on a trial basis) and less time on the penalty kill, Brodie has certainly been worth every penny, and I look forward to watching him for years to come on the Leafs.
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