TJ Brodie was arguably the Leafs biggest addition this offseason, at least as far as on-ice value goes, as his signing helps the Leafs round out their deepest blueline in years, maybe even decades. Brodie was the one player that I really wanted the Leafs to go after, considering that he was the best mix of being a blueliner capable of playing well at both ends of the ice and manning a top pair, and actually being an affordable option in the Leafs current cap climate (sorry Pietrangelo).
It’s likely that Brodie plays on the top pair with Morgan Rielly, at least to start the season, and while Rielly is no Mark Giordano, Brodie being the best partner he’s ever played with could mean we might see an improvement in Rielly’s play as well.
Of course, that also brings up probably the biggest concern of TJ Brodie’s game, and that’s that he has shown to be codependent on playing with Giordano to play well. Put the two together and they’re a force to be reckoned with, take them apart and Brodie struggled a bit more.
And with a 4 year deal with a $5 million AAV signed at age 30, that’s certainly a gamble on the Leafs part, but it’s one that I think will pay off, at the very least in the first 2-3 years.
That’s why TJ Brodie’s number is 55.
Why 55? Because in the past three seasons, TJ Brodie has actually spent 55.38% of his even strength ice time away from Mark Giordano. Almost 45% is still a lot of time with one person, but it’s important to note that while Giordano is the biggest single contributor to Brodie’s stats as far as quality of teammates go, more than half of his ice time is still impacted by several other players as well.
Thankfully, we’ve also started to get more advanced stats that do a better job of isolating a player’s impact while getting rid of other factors like quality of teammates, quality of competition, rink bias, etc. The best work we’ve seen on this so far is Evolving Hockey’s RAPM model, which if we use that to evaluate Brodie, paints him in a very good light.
Looking at this, we can see that he is an excellent shot suppressor, while also doing a good job of limiting those chances, and not at the cost of generating offense as well. While he’s prone to the odd ugly turnover, he’s defensively responsible at the end of the day, something that should compliment Morgan Rielly quite well. His numbers actually look even better if you look at just this season as well, as it starts to push up more into surefire top pair territory.
While his shot suppression wasn’t nearly as good, he improves in every other aspect at even strength, which could hopefully paint a better picture of what the Leafs are going to get this season. That said, he is also 30 years old, so we shouldn’t expect prime TJ Brodie either.
Brodie has also fared well in the Goals Above Replacement department, as his 19 GAR in the last three seasons ranks him 47th amongst defensemen, and fourth on this Leafs team, with Rielly (15th), Muzzin (23rd), and Dermott (35th) all ahead of him. GAR is far from the be-all-end-all stat it is in other sports, but the fact that the Leafs are one of two teams with four defensemen in the top 50 (the other being Nashville with Ellis, Ekholm, Josi, and Benning) bodes well for what we might have working for us this season.
As far as his contributions without isolating the stats, he fairs out really well in every category except for his individual expected goals (which as a defenseman should probably be expected), and his shot blocking, both at even strength and on the penalty kill. His skill set fairs pretty well at both ends of the ice, and even if you take away from the Giordano factor, it’s likely going from Gio to Rielly will maybe just impact his defensive stats, but since Rielly hasn’t even played with a defensively competent defenseman in his career up to this point, there’s a chance Rielly could be the one impacted by this pairing instead of Brodie.
Another thing to note is that away from Giordano, Brodie’s teammates haven’t always been the best either. Last season, Brodie had a 52.76 xGF% at 5v5 away from Giordano, most of that spent with Michael Stone, who is an absolute black hole defensively, and Travis Hamonic, whose defensive results have been subpar since joining the Flames. In 2018-19, it was spent almost entirely with Giordano when he won the Norris, and in 2017-18, it was once again with mostly Stone and Hamonic.
In fact, whether he plays with Rielly or Muzzin, those two will be the best defensemen not named Mark Giordano that he’ll have played with in his career, or at least with the defensemen he’s played consistently with. So, if you’re going to make the case that Brodie is boosted by playing with Giordano, you could also make the case that he’s dragged down by literally everyone not named Giordano.
There’s certainly going to be an adjustment period for Brodie when he first gets here. It’s the first time he’s played with a new team in 10 years, and, as I’ve said numerous times already, he won’t be playing with Giordano. I don’t think it will impact his play overall, but he’ll probably have a slow start before finding a groove with the Leafs.
So, all he needs is some patience from Leafs fans, which I’m sure is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask from this fanbase that never overreacts to anything.
All stats courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.com.
All visualizations courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.com and ChartingHockey.ca.
All salary cap information courtesy of PuckPedia.com.