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TJ Brodie had a rough year but his time as a Leaf should be remembered positively

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Jon Steitzer
20 days ago
With the title I am making the pretty big assumption that TJ Brodie’s time with the Maple Leafs is over. There is nothing certain about that yet. What should be certain is that TJ Brodie’s time on the Maple Leafs top pairing is over. It should have been over before last season even started but through a lack of alternatives and Sheldon Keefe’s reliance on his “old faithful” lines and pairings, Brodie had to slog through a year that I don’t think was his priority in life.
Skipping past the difficulties in Brodie’s personal life, 2023-24 also brought a healthy dose of age catching up to Brodie. The evidence was already there in the 2023 playoffs as the McCabe-Brodie pairing wasn’t capable of taking on the toughest assignments. Some of this was a disconnect between the partners, and some of this was Brodie not being the right guy for the physical assignment of shutting down Florida’s forwards, but it was also 25 minutes a night of hockey in May being too much.
Knowing that things weren’t going great for Brodie should have been addressed in the offseason and if not then, in training camp. The Leafs could have planned for a new top-pairing partner for Morgan Rielly but instead opted to go with John Klingberg, a player who would likely never see ice time with Rielly unless the Leafs were pushing for a goal late in the third pairing. And while Klingberg wasn’t the external answer, Sheldon Keefe didn’t show much interest in trying Jake McCabe on the right side or pushing Timothy Liljegren into the role, instead, the Leafs went forth the way they always had with Brodie on the right and playing 20+ minutes a night against the top competition from around the league.
Leafs defence TOI vs elite competition compared to GF%: 
Brodie had the toughest workload and while he was still on the right side of the GF%, it wasn’t as substantial as previous years and given the success Jake McCabe was having, it seems like he could have been utilized more and Brodie could have transitioned to more of a second or third pairing role.
Brodie’s WOWY’s show a clear picture that playing in the top four didn’t agree with him last year. All of his partners that would have required him in that role yielded lower results whether he was on the left or right side. Depth partnerships with Lyubushkin, Benoit, and even Conor Timmins were encouraging and could point to him still having something to offer in a third pairing role. The issue with that is that Brodie is too much of a generalist for most third pairings, and while he could still have something to offer on the penalty kill, he isn’t the hulking mass that teams look for to accompany either the young defenceman or powerplay specialist that often makes up the second part of that pairing.
When it comes to which forward lines were beneficial to Brodie, he pretty much lived and died by his time spent with Auston Matthews and that probably means that any future as a depth defenceman isn’t in Brodie’s cards either. His numbers are solid with Tavares as well but outside of top-six responsibility in offensive situations, the numbers are questionable. (On a side note, was there anyone who had a good time playing with David Kampf last year?)
While it looks like an easy decision based on the decline in Brodie’s game last season to move on from him, there is still the question of whether or not Craig Berube can make an impact on his outputs. The answer is probably not. While Craig Berube is the new head coach, Mike Van Ryn will be returning as the defensive coach and that hasn’t gone well for Brodie. If the plan is to continue with more of a man-to-man defensive approach instead of zone coverage, that will put Brodie at a continued disadvantage and the right fit for him as well as the right fit for the Leafs involves a change of scenery.
It might be time to say farewell to TJ Brodie, but at least it should be a fond farewell. He did a lot to benefit the Leafs in his seasons here. He was a strong partner for Morgan Rielly and elevated a lot of partners who needed a strong positional anchor in their own end. Brodie’s frequent starfish-blocking attempts on odd-man rushes will be noticeably gone next year and hoping the Leafs don’t suffer because of it.
Data from Natural Stat Trick and PuckIQ

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