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Flames Win Streak is Done, Time to Replace Brouwer with Lazar

Two of our writers combine our opinion into one story

NHL: New York Islanders at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

When the Calgary Flames acquired Curtis Lazar, it was made clear by Brian Burke and the Flames that Lazar definitely wouldn’t see the ice until the win streak ended.

They probably didn’t think that it would take two weeks for the streak to end, but now that the streak is done, it’s time for a big change.

Troy Brouwer Has Been Unbelievably Bad (samwell9)

The Calgary Flames had a 10 game streak of wins finally came to an end last night. It was a beautiful run, filled with players contributing all throughout the line up. Almost every player was pitching in and had moments that helped contribute to the success of the team. One of the only guys that really did not contribute was Troy Brouwer.

Brouwer has 2 points in his last 15 games, which were a goal and an assist that came in the February 24th win over the Florida Panthers. He has 4 points in his last 28 games, despite ample ice time and a prime spot on the first powerplay unit.

Out of the 12 Flames forwards to play over 300 minutes of ice time at even-strength, only 4th liner Lance Bouma (0.63 Points Per 60 Minutes of ice time) produces at a lower rate than Brouwer’s 0.83 P/60. But hey, he must be contributing in other ways right? Well, definitely not at even-strength.

On Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets, in 10.32 minutes at even-strength, Brouwer finished with a pathetic 6.3% CF. While he only started 28.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone, his 1 shot-attempt for and 15 against are an abysmal ratio. It was almost unbelievably terrible, so maybe it was an anomaly?

After a respectable game against Pittsburgh’s weak bottom-six, he followed his Winnipeg performance up 2 games later with an even worse performance. Last night against the Boston Bruins, in 9.17 minutes of even-strength ice time, he once again posted a CF% of 6.3%.

This time, he started 60% of his shifts in the offensive zone, so even though he was given high ground against the Bruins, he was constantly pushed back into the defensive end and then shelled by the opposition. Even if you do not subscribe to the value that others put on #fancystats, those numbers are far too awful to ignore.

The Flames have 2 great lines with the Monahan and Backlund trios and a really solid 4th line with the Stajan group. It is just Sam Bennett’s line that is struggling and it is very evident that Troy Brouwer is the weak link. Bennett finished yesterday’s game with a 28.6% CF, while Kris Versteeg finished with a 19% CF.

Both abysmal numbers, but they obviously had an improvement when away from Brouwer. Whether it is by the numbers or the eye test, Brouwer is not helping that line.

The line of Kris Versteeg, Sam Bennett and Troy Brouwer has not been putting up many points lately. When you watch, what you often see is Bennett and Versteeg trying to make something happen while Brouwer is just along for the ride. It does not help your highest draft pick in franchise history’s development to be playing with a guy that makes everyone he plays with worse. For all the talk about Sam Bennett’s struggles, it is not that hard to see where perhaps the most significant problem lies.

In 358.5 minutes of even-strength time together of Bennett playing with Troy Brouwer, he has a CF of 45.3% (very bad). In the 458.5 minutes that Sam Bennett has been free from the Brouwer anchor, he has a CF% of 50% which is completely respectable for a young player. Same for Kris Versteeg, who has a 45.8% CF with Brouwer and a very good 51.6% CF without him.

It is not just Bennett and Versteeg that have been adversely impacted by Brouwer’s presence this season, as you can see in the nice WOWY (with or without you) chart below, from CorsiCa. Every player’s possession rates are better when they are not with Brouwer, with the lone exception being Jyrki Jokipakka (not a great player either, to the extent that he was waived and traded) who gets a marginal boost with Brouwer. Brouwer makes it harder on his teammates to succeed on the ice.

Brouwer is hurting everyone he shares the ice with. Except the opposition.

The Flames felt the need to go out and sign Troy Brouwer because he is a big right-winger and a great leader. He also is known for being clutch in the playoffs, but that is a claim that is also highly debatable, as last year was the only playoff in his NHL career where he averaged over half a point-per-game and he achieved that by riding a 23% shooting percentage.

I do not care if Troy Brouwer is the best leader in the NHL, if he is performing to the extent that he is the worst forward on the ice, it is hard to imagine he could have enough leadership contributions to mitigate his poor play. He has been awful this season and needs to be held accountable. Dennis Wideman had to sit for his subpar play, Brouwer should not be subject to special treatment.

He needs to be replaced with Ferland or Bennett on the first powerplay unit immediately and he should be taken out of the line up for at least a little while. If he was not Troy Brouwer and was someone like Garnet Hathaway, he would have already been in the minors.

Unfortunately, there are 3 more years left on his contract after this season, at a $4.5 million AAV. I know he is a nice guy and all that, but he is the third highest paid forward on the team. This is very concerning in a results based business. While I have no idea how they deal with this in the future, they can start addressing this issue right away.

The Flames have shown they have a great team, but the third line is being hurt. Now that they have finally lost a game, they have a good reason to make a line up change. It is time for them to do something about Brouwer.

All possession numbers courtesy of CorsiCa and hockeystats.ca.

Give Curtis Lazar a Shot (FlamesMM)

After all Sam wrote about Brouwer’s struggles over the last while, it makes total sense for the Flames to insert Curtis Lazar in his place.

Perhaps not for the long term but at least for the game against Dallas it makes sense.

Some would likely say that they’d rather see Alex Chiasson out than Brouwer, but Chiasson in my opinion has played three straight really solid hockey games along with the entire fourth line. Brouwer needs to be the candidate to leave the lineup as his line hasn’t been clicking whatsoever.

It’s important for the Flames to evaluate what they have in Lazar, and they’ve had him sit for six games now, which can only do so much, he needs action. Even though his numbers haven’t been great this season, he needs to be judged in the Flames systems and a Flames uniform before any decisions can be made.

The Dallas Stars are also an ideal opponent for Lazar to make his Flames debut against as they’re a team that’s just playing out the homestretch of the season with the playoffs out of range.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The game itself won’t have a ton of meaning, so giving Lazar at least one chance to prove his worth wouldn’t hurt. Even if he doesn’t stay in for the Kings game, it’s important to test him.

Next, I think Bennett and Lazar have an ability to be a long-term duo for the Flames lineup. Both are young forwards who have struggled to settle into the league this season, although Lazar’s struggles have been more pronounced.

Both players have a good puck and scoring skills, but both also have a significant edge to them, and could be a solid young third line now and in the future. Coupled with Versteeg’s playmaking capabilities, I could see that line doing quite well.

I’m not asking nor expecting Lazar to come in and make a huge impact, but he needs to get his feet wet with the Flames because there’s only so much learning he can do watching the game.

He’s had two weeks in Calgary and should be fairly familiar with the Flames systems by now, and after Brouwer’s recent performances, the accountability has to be there from the coaching staff.

The coaching staff has shown a streak this season of riding things out (ala Dennis Wideman with Brodie), but for the good of the team and this kid, it’s time to give Lazar his shot, and for Brouwer to ride the pine for at least a game.