Smooth skating, soft hands, incredible positioning, and moving the puck have long been a part of the pedigree of Jonas Brodin in the NHL. Logging top-pair minutes alongside then-Norris Trophy candidate Ryan Suter as a 19 year old coming into the league super charged the rookie’s development and set the standard of expectation for a remarkably successful NHL career. That season was followed by the expected sophomore slump and some further regression as Brodin was moved down the depth chart to create more equity in handedness among the defensive pairs to provide a right-shot partner for Suter in Jared Spurgeon and bring further balance to the bottom-4.
Unfortunately the shockwaves of uniting Suter and Spurgeon - while creating a juggernaut of a top pairing - left Brodin and Marco Scandella reeling, and it seemed for a while that we may have seen the best of Brodin already in the rear view. Though his defensive game has remained consistently strong throughout the years, Brodin achieved his personal Mendoza Line offensive performance in 2015-2016 when he posted just 2 goals and 7 points over 68 games. After being a mainstay on the power play up to this point, he was removed completely from both units during this down season.
While he continued to pass the eye-test defensively, playing with lesser partners also lowered his possession metrics and displayed that he was not able to overcome the defensive lapses and weaknesses of his younger and less experienced partners. He spent most of his time skating backwards, back checking, and displaying his top-notch stick work but was unable to get much momentum behind one of his best skills, which is moving the puck up the ice. Doubts began to creep in about Brodin being able to live up to the rich contract he signed at over $4M AAV.
But then Bruce Boudreau and Scott Stevens came onto the scene, armed with a new defensive rotation aimed at balancing the minutes and things started to fall into place for Brodin.
This season, Brodin showed again that he is an elite shot-suppressing defender. As you can see from the chart above, every other defender’s shot prevention increased while Brodin was on the ice, some (Folin and Olofsson) by epic proportions. The rest of the regulars also remained neutral or improved their shot generation when paired with Brodin. Brodin got back to his puck possessing ways and finished the season at 50.3 CF%.
Brodin also earned the respect of the new coaching staff with his skating and responsibility, and took back his spot on the power play. Early in the season, you could see that Scott Stevens had gotten in his ear as shots were flying on net with authority. He finished the season with a career best 3.83 Shots/60, a half shot more than any previous season.
Though that dissipated somewhat as the year rolled on, it still led to his most productive offensive season as he set career highs in points (25) and assists (22). The 3 goal output was disappointing, but the point total and willingness to shoot the puck were signs of offensive progression. Perhaps the hardest thing to remember about Brodin is that he was just 23 years old this season. Being an acclaimed player for multiple seasons makes him a grizzled vet, but he is just entering his prime and this season again showed that he can continue to develop.
There is another part of Brodin’s game that doesn’t get a lot of play. We here at Hockey Wilderness have long touted Nino Niederreiter’s ability to make the other players around him better and why that makes Nino so valuable to this team. Jonas Brodin has a very similar affect on the lineup from the blue line:
Brodin has a huge net-positive affect on the players around him. Most notably, he suppresses shots allowed for every player on the team. But, he also has a positive effect on several player’s shot generation as well.
The team also got a gut-check when Brodin missed a month of service in late January with a broken finger. It was an opportunity for the team to see what it had in a couple of it’s younger players, and the team saw just how much it could miss him being in the lineup everyday.
Overall, Brodin displayed his ability to continuing to develop in his age 23 season. His defensive skills sharpened and his offensive skills took a step in the right direction. If this writer had his druthers, the team would do everything it could to protect Brodin through the upcoming expansion draft and offseason to keep him in their long-term plans. Unfortunately, that could come at the cost of giving up other assets that could be painful at minimum, and destructive at worst. If retaining his salary prevents the team from re-signing Niederreiter it would be a major loss for this team. And if the team could not return something very useful for losing Matt Dumba in any way, that would be a major loss of a valuable commodity.
The future is definitely uncertain for the young Swede, but fans should sleep peacefully knowing that with Boudreau’s backing, GM Chuck Fletcher will do everything he can to keep Brodin with the club.