I wrote a post for the Backhand Shelf this morning that examined the role of the average fighter. I concluded that many regular players in the NHL who accrued a lot of fights also had a specific role on their team. As it happens, Mike Brown had 10 fights with the Maple Leafs last season, but I couldn’t speficially determine his role from the advanced stats without some sort of context.
Brown has 19 fights in two seasons with the Leafs, with a record, according to the voters on hockeyfights.net, of 9-5-5. It’s a pretty good win percentage, but that hasn’t helped the Leafs closer to a playoff spot, nor has it prevented the Leafs’ best forwards from getting hit and taken advantage of for their small size.
To take a line from Office Space, “what would you say, you do here”?
In each of his two seasons with the Leafs, Brown has faced the weakest competition according to Corsi Rel QoC, which is essentially the average possession rate of his opposition. [2010-11, 2011-12] He’s never been too much of a factor with his own puck possession, and the four Leafs he has seen 200 minutes with, Luke Schenn, Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson and David Steckel, all have better possession rates without Brown than with him.
Among forwards, Brown was 8th on the Leafs in penalty killing time last season, playing about 37 seconds a game with the Leafs down a man. That is down from 1:35 a season prior, when he was ranked 6th. The Leafs brought their “goals against per 60 minutes shorthanded” down from 7.9 to 7.4 in that span. Did Brown not being on the ice make a difference?
|Leafs GA/60||Brown GA/60|
It’s not ALL Brown and the Leafs have a lot of issues on the penalty kill, but Brown’s presence on the PK didn’t help the Leafs concede fewer goals.
He doesn’t score goals, either. In both years, he was last on the Leafs in goals for per 60 minutes, excepting Fredrik Sjostrom in 2011. Brown scored 0.29 goals per 60 minutes at even strength in 2011 and almost an identical 0.28 in 2012.
Brown doesn’t do much. He’ll hit on occasion and fight, but his toughness hasn’t really proved to have any positive aspect on the Leafs. Despite this, he’s still under contract for two more seasons on a one-way deal. Brown is not exempt from waivers, like Colton Orr when the Leafs sent him down midway through last season.
Would the Leafs send him down and open up space for a fourth line composed of Steckel, Jay McClement and Leo Komarov as checking and faceoff specialists? It would probably be better defensively, and they’re a core group of players you can use on the PK and not tire out your major players. I think this would be the preferable road, honestly, as I don’t see much value of being Mike Brown on the Leafs.
It’s a tough job, and Brown auditioned well and did everything his role asked him to. The problem is that players with his role have little positive impact on a hockey team.