No one saw it coming – some cheered, some were left confused and scratching their heads and some were, well, just completely apathetic or maybe didn’t even really know who he was. Former Blues defenseman and captain, Eric Brewer, is now gaining speed with a playoff miracle (or nightmare if you’re a Penguins or Capitals fan) team and writing his own page in the NHL books. While he won’t completely edit that story to delete his time with the St. Louis Blues out, it’ll be easy to write it off as a quick intro that led to a glorious second half of the season and triumphant playoff run. When fans think of the Tampa Bay Lightning they immediately think of the blatant young gun Stamkos, veteran St. Louis and long time Bolt Lecavalier, and it’s exceedingly easy to conjure those names up at first thought. Those three players combined for 244 of the Lightning’s points this season. Then February 18th, 2011 happened and Eric Brewer waived his no-trade clause which sent him packing for warmer temperatures and more cup wins in their short history to Tampa.
Brewer had a knack for being a dynamic player with the Blues in a strange and quiet, non-flashy, somewhat mistake prone and injury riddled way. In Brewer’s first 5 years donning the Bluenote (including the Blues last playoff run in 2008-09 when he was sidelined with a herniated disc) he was, on average, scoring 16 points with a -15 rating per season. While he wasn’t a dazzling player or superstar defenseman, he was netting $4.5 million in his last year of his contract. Despite having less than stellar numbers in the past, his 2010-11 enterprise as a Blue was one of his best looking and successful runs compared to seasons past. Contract year successes and more hits than misses are no surprise, they show players who are looking to earn or increase their keep, keep a job, shows who wants to stay and even who wants to go (to a better team, to a “home” team, reasons are innumerable). Brewer’s contract year saw him offering something for anyone who was watching – his play was more solid, less mistakes seeming to be made, showing he was someone who wanted fans to notice him, not turn him away. However, after waiving his no-trade clause, Armstrong and Co. decided to cut their losses, get rid of Brewer while still hot enough to brand a steer and get something in return for their past expenditures.
Why get rid of player when he’s hot, though? Well, first and possibly most obvious and cliché, nothing is ever guaranteed. For some players, time and chances are unfortunate – injuries and accidents happen, teams change coaches or management, lose money and the like, all of which are factors for some great hockey players to get the short end of the stick. Brewer proved, though in his contract year and few flashes of brilliance throughout his 5+ seasons with the Blues, that he could be a great player and had tremendous potential but after the herniated disc and several years of inconsistent play the Blues chose to part ways with Brewer and move on. Several reasons played in to the dump of Brewer, one of which being his hefty pay and the disproportion between the zeros on his paycheck to his numbers on the ice. Another being the emergence of younger, thus cheaper, defensive talent, the likes of Nikita Nikitin and the young, celebrated Canadian Alex Pietrangelo. Doug Armstrong further claimed that he wished Brewer to go to a playoff contending team, somewhere he’d blossom and play to his potential.
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Since Brewer’s trade to Tampa Bay he’s been their leading defenseman, leads in blocked shots and has been on a top penalty killing unit in the post-season. Tampa Bay hasn’t just been fortunate in their post-season play, but have been leading the way, benefiting from outstanding team work, from the grinders to the fourth liners. Very few Blues fans would be shocked to hear that regardless of low number in terms of scoring, only 1 goal and 1 assist, Eric Brewer has been a +5 since his move South. Brewer’s contract with the Lightning still expires at the end of this year but he has set out to prove his worth with Tampa Bay.
So, what do you think, Blues fans? Was Brewer just not the right fit here? Is he just getting “lucky” in Tampa Bay? Let’s hear your thoughts. Leave comments below.
Post Music: Bloom by Radiohead – “In Bloom” by Radiohead was too much of an obvious choice, so I went with this one. This one is just a bit more…welcoming. Thanks crazy Thom Yorke.