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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

TJ Brodie, a Canadian Roman Josi (and vice versa)

While NHL defencemen Roman Josi (Bern, Switzerland) and TJ Brodie (Chatham, Ontario) were born 6,700 kilometres apart, one could make a case that Josi's accent is the only real discernible difference between the two rising stars, who -- statistically, are each other's twin in a number of ways.

This is a relevant comparison for Calgary because Josi, like Brodie, was a pending restricted free agent. However, he isn't any longer. On June 10, Josi signed a 7-year $28-million contract with Nashville. To save some unnecessary duplication of work, should Flames General Manager Jay Feaster just call up Predators GM David Poile and ask for a photocopy of the Josi contract? Let's take a deeper look.

Side-by-Side Comparison

Age:
  • Josi - 23 (born June 1, 1990)
  • Brodie - 23 (born June 7, 1990)
Height:
  • Josi - 6-foot-2
  • Brodie - 6-foot-1
NHL Career Statistics:
  • Josi - 100 games -- 10 g, 24 a, 34 pts, 22 PIM, minus-6
  • Brodie - 104 games --  4 g, 24 a, 28 pts, 24 PIM, minus-9
NHL Career Path:
  • Josi - Spent one full season in AHL (Milwaukee, 2010-11), one season split between AHL and NHL (2011-12), then played full year last season in NHL (48 games)
  • Brodie - Spent one full season in AHL (Abbotsford, 2010-11), one season split between AHL and NHL (2011-12), then played full year last season in NHL (47 games)
Time-on-Ice in 2012-13:
  • Josi - Averaged 23:31 for the season
  • Brodie - Averaged 23:25 in 15 games in April (after Jay Bouwmeester traded), or 20:13 for the season
Drafted:
  • Josi - 2nd round of 2008
  • Brodie - 4th round of 2008

Another similarity between these two young, dynamic players is how well they finished off last season. In May, Josi was named MVP and top defenceman at the IIHF World Championships, leading Switzerland to silver -- it's first medal in 60 years. Josi's play may not have surprised people living in Nashville but for others who don't get to see the Predators play very often, Josi made quite an impression with his poise, puck-moving ability and all-round game.

Meanwhile, Brodie's coming out party came the previous month. After Jay Bouwmeester was dealt to the St. Louis Blues on April 1, Brodie really opened some eyes, thriving on his increased work load and playing in all situations. Over the final 10 games, Brodie had six points (1 goal, 5 assists), which was tied for second on the team behind fellow countrymen Sven Baertschi. Looking back on the year and how he entrenched himself as one of the club's go-to blue-liners, it's hard to believe he was healthy scratch for the Flames season opener. That will never happen again.

In 2008, a dozen defencemen were drafted in the first round including four in a row after Steven Stamkos went first overall -- Drew Doughty (2nd), Zach Bogosian (3rd), Alex Pietrangelo (4th) and Luke Schenn (5th).

Josi and Brodie weren't in that top 12 but if their careers continue on the same trajectory they established last year -- Josi taking over Ryan Suter's role/minutes and Brodie inheriting the same from Bouwmeester, they'll find their way into that top 12 soon enough if they're not there already. While that's good news for the Flames, it's also a skill set that you do have to open the wallet for.

Will Brodie Really Get the Same Contract?

Probably not. There are three things working against Brodie, which may prevent him from locking in for the same amount and could leave him more in the $21 to $23-million range if the two sides agree to a similar length of contract.
  1. Raw Skills as of June 20, 2008 - While neither Josi or Brodie went in the first round of that defence-loaded draft held that year in Ottawa, Josi (No. 38) still went 76 picks higher than Brodie (No. 114) and that's significant -- 29 other defencemen were chosen in-between. There's definitely an expiration date for when your draft position can no longer be considered a relevant factor but the market would suggest we're not at that point quite yet.
  2. 2013 World Championships - They were both there but in greatly different roles. Granted, Team Switzerland doesn't have nearly the same depth as Canada, but while Josi was leading his team in scoring (4 goals, 5 assists in 10 games) and logging over 20 minutes of ice time per night, Brodie (0 goals, 1 assist in 7 games) averaged just over 11 minutes as Canada's 7th defenceman and was a scratch in their final game. While this is far from a perfect apples-for-apples comparison for many reasons, it won't do Brodie's agent any favours at the bargaining table.  
  3. Smaller Sample Size - Josi played at a high level the entire 2012-13 season while Brodie wasn't elevated into that similar altitude until the final month. When teams are playing out the stretch and you have a non-playoff team often playing non-playoff teams, it can make it awfully hard to accurately gauge performance.
One way or another, expect Brodie to be re-signed with the Flames in the near future as he is undeniably a big part of it. Will it be a short-term deal for a reduced salary giving Brodie another couple years to establish what his market value should be? Or, has Calgary seen enough good things to lock him in long term? Stay tuned.

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