The American Hockey League announced today that TJ Brennan has won the 2014 Eddie Shore Award, as the AHL’s most outstanding defenceman. It’s their equivalent of the Norris Trophy, and for the first time, it’s been won by a member of the Toronto Marlies.
What has he done to deserve it?
Brennan has been one the most dominant offensive defencemen in the league’s recent history. His 24 goals have him just outside of the top 20 in the statistic, and he’s sixth in assists with 45. Together, his efforts over 73 games put him in the top five in league scoring, despite playing on the point. The powerplay has been his bread and butter, scoring 42 of his 69 points on the man advantage.
A criticism that many have given him is his actual defensive play. It’s an understandable reason for concern, but he’s occasionally been caught out of position. But his play in that regard has come a long way throughout the year, and mistakes are becoming few and far between. Steve Spott also helps things by playing him with stay at home defencemen, like Stuart Percy and Kevin Marshall.
Brennan’s true expertise comes in keeping the puck away from the defensive zone entirely, producing a ridiculous amount of his team’s offence. At one point this year, he had 12.3% of the Marlies’ shots, which is a similar control of offensive play to what Phil Kessel has for the Leafs. For more on his team-relative dominance, check out this post I wrote in Feburary.
A lot of people were hoping that the Leafs would use his restricted free agent status to re-up him for next season, and give him the NHL shot he seems to deserve. However, it appears that the team won’t have that opportunity after all. According to CapGeek, Brennan required 34 NHL games played to keep his restricted status. Now, he’ll be a UFA under Group 6 rules (which don’t effect the signing process).
One of the worst defensive teams in modern history passed on calling up the top defenceman in the minor leagues, and will lose him before he plays a game for them. It’s both aggravating, but understandable. Understandable because they had an abundance of defence, but aggravating because they didn’t take the depth as a green late to trade quantity for quality. Understandable because he’ll be helpful to the Marlies in their playoff run, but aggravating because he could have helped the Leafs be a better possession team and maybe squeak in themselves.
Whatever the case, he has a team to help now and at least a handful of games left to play in the organization, including tonight’s against the Binghamton Senators.
Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com