Last summer, Troy Brouwer was the Calgary Flames prized free agent acquisition.
Last season, Troy Brouwer was by far the team's biggest disappointment, arguably their worst forward and ultimately hurt the team more than any benefit he provided.
Initially seen as a potential fit on the top line, he slid down the depth chart throughout the season and after spending way too long on the third line, he finally was dropped down to the fourth line.
While there is the potential of a bounce back, we have to keep in mind that Brouwer was never as good as he was made out to be when the team signed him, with his inflated shooting percentage, lots of ice time, good teammates, poor possession stats. He will also be 32 when the season begins and it is well documented that there can be a sharp drop off in performance for players as they hit their 30s. We can hope he will be better, but there probably is not much of a logical basis in thinking that way.
Unfortunately, he still has 3 seasons remaining on his contract at $4.5 million a season. Not an ideal situation at all.
But where does he fit in the line up?
Where Does He Not Fit?
- The Top Line. Sean Monahan did not fare too well when he spent time alongside Brouwer. Johnny Gaudreau was the forward least negatively impacted by Brouwer, but it still does not make sense at all for Brouwer to play with the team's most productive forwards. Ferland was an excellent fit down the stretch on the top line, that is who will start the season with Monahan and Gaudreau. If Ferland falters, there are a lot of players that should get a shot on the top line before Brouwer spends any time there.
- With Sam Bennett and Kris Versteeg. Brouwer was a massive anchor to both Bennett and Versteeg's play last season. The line spent a significant amount of time together and consistently were shelled by the opposition. Bennett and Versteeg both had their CF% improve by about 7% when they did not play with Brouwer. Swapping Brouwer out with Alex Chiasson led to a very tangible improvement in the team's third line. It would not be acceptable to hurt Bennett's development for another year with Brouwer.
- The Powerplay. Brouwer spent way too much time on the first powerplay unit last season and really struggled to produce for the most part. He received constant opportunities due to his "net front presence" and the fact he is a right-handed shot. But, really, there should be more skilled players on the ice with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan when the Flames are on the man advantage. Ferland and Bennett, who both have shown a lot more capability than Brouwer, did not have powerplay time due to the coaching staff using Brouwer. That should not happen again.
Where Should He Probably Not Go?
- With Mikael Backlund. Putting Brouwer with Backlund is probably the best possibility at trying to salvage any level of respectable even-strength play. However, it is hard to think that it would be worthwhile. Backlund just had the best season of his career. With Matthew Tkachuk and Michael Frolik, they formed one of the best 2-way lines in the entire NHL. It is hard to imagine that it would be worth separating that trio in an attempt to prop up an underachieving, overpaid forward.
- The Penalty Kill. Backlund, Frolik, Bennett, Curtis Lazar, Freddie Hamilton, Matt Stajan are all more capable options. Give him the scraps of PK minutes, but it probably would not be all that beneficial to be relying on him in any regularity during penalty killing scenarios.
What Is Left?
- The 4th line. This is probably the most likely outcome. Limited minutes alongside some combination of Stajan, Lazar, Hamilton and any young players that may make the Calgary Flames this season. It would probably be more beneficial to have a younger prospect that has more potential to contribute both now and in the future in the line up, but money and politics likely lead to a different outcome.
- The Press Box. Brouwer should spend some time in there this season if his play is anything like last season's performance. It saves him and the club from sending him to the AHL and he can still be around to provide his "leadership" and "good in the room" attributes. Then, he is also available to draw into the line up for injury or more physical games where the team believes he can help.
- The AHL. Burying Brouwer would free up a roster spot for a younger and probably better player (Poirier, Shinkaruk, Klimchuk all come to mind). Brouwer can be a really solid veteran and leader with all of the high quality prospects the Flames have and his family can enjoy living in California. I don't think there is any possibility of this happening in the upcoming season, but I would not rule it out of the seasons to come.
- A Trade. Very difficult on multiple levels. First of all, he is going to be 32 in a month and is coming off a very bad season. He is making a lot of money for the next 3 years. Finally, he has a full no trade clause for this year, followed by a 15 team no-trade clause for the rest of his contract. It is hard to imagine a lot of the good teams that he would be more willing to go to, will want to trade for him and he would probably block most "cap dump" trades as those typically occur with non-contending teams.
- A Buyout. Not happening this year, but a pretty real possibility in the years to come.
In the end, there really is not a good fit for Brouwer with this Calgary Flames team. The most likely and best case scenario is bouncing between the 4th line and the press box, hopefully contributing in whatever way he can.
If he did not have a contract this big and was not a former 20 goal scorer with a reputation for being a winner and leader, he would probably be on waivers and in the AHL this season. Alex Chiasson was better than Brouwer was last season and he still does not have an NHL contract.
That is just the sad reality of it. There is no good place for Brouwer on this team, but they are still sending $4.5 million his way this year, while his presence potentially blocks a younger player from joining the club.
Where Do You Think Brouwer Belongs?
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