Well, I took about a month off from SCH to prepare for The Rapture, and that's apparently not happening, so I'd better get back into doing what I do.........which is talking TBrouw. While I may be the president (and scrapbooking chair) of the Troy Brouwer fanclub, even I can't sit here and tell you that TBrouw gave us everything we were hoping for in his 3rd full season as a Blackhawk. Before the season, I was convinced that 22 would take the next step, build on his 20 goal 09-10 campaign, and help fill the power forward void that was left by the departure of Dustin Byfuglien. What did Brouwer do well and where did he fall short in 2010-2011? Let's find out.
|2010 - Troy Brouwer||79||17||19||36||-2||38||7||0||5||122|
Contract Status: Arbitration eligible Restricted Free Agent (2010-2011 Cap Hit: $1,025,000)
Positives: "Hits" is certainly an imperfect and subjective stat, but you still expect a player like Troy Brouwer to get his fair share over the course of a season. Brouw lead the team, and was 5th overall in the NHL, with 262 hits (84 more than the next forward, Bryan Bickell). From the start of the season until about February 17th, it's fair to say that the Hawks were probably getting what they wanted out of Troy Brouwer as he amassed 17 goals and 16 assists in just 57 games played. Brouwer was also consistently one of the Hawks' best powerplay performers, finishing the year with a 5 on 4 GFON/60 of 9.06 (third best forward behind Hossa and Toews). Brouwer was at his best this season when he, Dave Bolland, and Marian Hossa formed a formidable 2nd powerplay unit. Despite not being asked to play the full time net presence role on this unit, Brouwer still put himself in the right positions to produce. It was a solid first 57 for TBrouw, especially when you consider the fact that he wasn't always skating with top 6 talent, but the evaluation is based on a full season and offense is only one side of the story.
Negatives: This season, perhaps more than any other, Troy Brouwer's defense was called into question. While, there are no perfect metrics for defensive play, TBrouw certainly wasn't impressive in the imperfect metrics that are available. Brouw was basically the 2nd worst forward on the team in plus/minus and advanced plus/minus with -2 and -0.7 ratings respectively. As DaleHalas pointed out once upon a time, only Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp had lower defensive zone start percentages than Brouwer, who certainly isn't viewed as the same type of offensive weapon as the Patricks. The eye test tells most that Brouwer isn't lacking in the effort department within his own zone, but that his decision making needs to be considerably better if Quenneville is going to trust him with big minutes and tough matchups.
All this talk about defense shouldn't overshadow the post 2/17 offensive drought that left many in Blackhawks Nation with a bad taste in their mouth when attempting to view Troy Brouwer as an impact offensive power forward. Brouwer's last 29 games (including the 7 postseason contests) yielded no goals and just 3 assists, with a goose egg against his hometown Nucks in the first round. While the first round no-show could be attributed to Brouw's torn right labrum suffered on his biffed check attempt in early April, the other 22 games of complete ineffectiveness simply can't happen, regardless of who his linemates were.
Defining Moment: To quote one of my favorite movie characters of all time, "that (play) was a defining moment, and when a defining moment comes along, you define the moment... or the moment defines you."
In a mid-March contest vs. San Jose, Brouwer made a couple of mistakes while coming back to try and prevent a shorthanded chance. Instead of staying in the middle of the zone and letting Campoli (who had good position) take care of Marleau, Brouwer skated over to help out and compounded this mistake by putting a soft hit on Marleau rather than playing the puck. Marleau slipped a nice pass to Jumbo Joe who had plenty of space to finish in the same high slot that Brouwer had just vacated. This is most likely a microcosm of what frustrates Quenneville about a talented player like Troy Brouwer.
Final Grade: C-. Brouwer's first half of the 2010-2011 season kept this from getting down into the "D is for Diploma" range, but it certainly was an underwhelming year for my boy Troy.
Outlook: TBrouw's shoulder injury, coupled with his poor finish to the year, should keep his RFA price down. Trading Brouwer at this point certainly wouldn't be a "sell-high" move for lil' Bowman, and it would make even less sense when one considers the fact that the Hawks are woefully short on power forwards as it is. It will be interesting to see how Brouwer's summer of negotiation goes. I would like to think that he'd sign something like a 1 or 2 year deal at 1.5 per, but what the hell do I know about what kind of coin it takes to keep a hot wife happy?
Bowman and Q need to figure out what they think Troy Brouwer can bring to this team going forward. Despite having a somewhat impressive hit total, Brouwer isn't a fourth line energy-type player, and Q obviously doesn't think that Brouwer is the defensive stalwart that should skate on Bolland's left wing. Brouwer is the type of player that excels when he plays with talented players who can work an effective cycle and maintain puck possession while he gets in front of the net. Contrary to the notion that Troy Brouwer is afraid or simply refuses to get in front of the net, he has shown in the past that he will wreak havoc in the crease when skating with linemates that give him time to get there. Unfortunately for TBrouw, he wasn't given the opportunity to play the net presence role on the first powerplay unit this year, and he spent limited time as a top 2 left winger. If the Hawks see Troy Brouwer as more of a fourth liner than a top 6 winger, then they should trade him to a team that will give up a solid prospect to put Brouwer in an impact offensive role. Let's keep in mind that if Brouwer isn't with the team in 2011-2012, the Hawks will have let go of their top 3 hitting forwards in just 2 offseasons (Byfuglien, Ladd, Brouwer). Brouwer certainly became a polarizing player toward the end of the year, let the debate rage on.