We’re introducing a new feature for the next month or so until free agency really kicks in. We’re calling it Monday Matchups, where we pit two players against each other to determine who would be the better player to keep, trade, let walk etc. Hopefully it’ll be fun and spark debate.
Our first match is going to pit pending free agents, David Backes and Troy Brouwer, against one another. Both players are unrestricted free agents. Both will likely be seeking a raise. It is unlikely both will be able to come back without some other roster movement.
Time of Service
This one is easily won by Backes. Backes has been on the team since 2006-07. He has been the captain for almost as long.
Brouwer, who was acquired in the trade with the Washington Capitals for TJ Oshie, only has one season under his belt with the Blues.
Brouwer has openly stated that he wants to return and has never spent fewer than four seasons in any city. However, the longevity of Backes gives him the edge for what he’s done for the franchise both on and off the ice.
Backes has averaged 48.6 points per season when he has played a full year. Brouwer has averaged 36.6 points per season.
Backes has averaged 21.9 goals per season (not including his rookie season). Brouwer averaged 18.5 goals (not including his two seasons that he played 10 or fewer games).
In Brouwer’s defense, he has consistently been a third liner (occasionally time with the second or fourth). Backes spent a lot of time on the first line until the last couple seasons.
This can be seen in the average ice time. Backes has averaged 17 minutes or more on the ice every season except his first two. Brouwer has only averaged 17 or more in four out of his 8 full seasons.
This one is essentially a wash, though a tiny edge goes to Brower. Their overall stats are quite similar for the postseason, but Brouwer has done as much or more while playing a lesser role.
Brouwer’s best two seasons include four goals and eight points during his Stanley Cup winning season with the Blackhawks. Brouwer has 32 points overall, including his 13 this last postseason.
Backes has 27 points, but half of that came in one season (14 points in 2016).
It’s hard to really separate these two players. Backes has the edge for the regular season and for how long he has been with the team.
Brouwer gets a small nod for better playoff performances and putting up similar numbers to Backes while consistently further down the lineup than the Blues’ captain.
Both players have told local media they want to stay. Backes has been a little more pragmatic with general statements, but Brouwer is apparently playing all sides.
“I have thought about it, for sure. Family & friends, playing for my hometown, it would be an experience for sure.” – Brouwer on Vancouver.
— Scottrade General (@The_STG) May 30, 2016
“Definitely be a great experience to play for the hometown team and see what it’s like but I don’t know what Canucks plans are.” – Brouwer.
— Scottrade General (@The_STG) May 30, 2016
His statements are a little disappointing that he would comment on a specific team, but it is at least consistent. He said the same about the Blues by pretty much stating he wants to stay but doesn’t know their situation.
If we take emotion out of it, Brouwer might be the better choice to bring back.
Brouwer is younger (will turn 31 just before the seaosn starts). He’s proven to be a more consistent playoff performer. He’ll also be cheaper.
Backes has already turned down a $5.5 million contract according to Jeremy Rutherford. Even if the Blues can talk him back down to that number, the amount of years he will likely want may not make sense.
Backes is already 32 and a multi-year deal might not make sense if he’s talking about more than three or four years. Brouwer is younger and likely will not cost as much. He’s going to want a raise, but the most he is likely to get is the $5.5 million the Blues already were prepared to offer Backes.
Backes is a good leader and a fine player, but he is what he is. It took him being an unrestricted free agent to finally step up his game in the playoffs.
Brouwer is a solid playoff performer and consistent in the regular season too. He’s not likely to step into the captaincy role, but can fill the void left in the locker room if Backes is to depart.
Brouwer still has potential upside as well. While his peak seasons have not been as high as Backes’ peak seasons, he has scored in the 40 point range depending on his line mates.
He’s already shown a good combination with Paul Stastny and Robby Fabbri. While it isn’t likely he’ll stay on that line, if the Blues can bring in some quality pieces, Brouwer could benefit there as well.
Backes is what he is. He’s a good regular season performer, but this season showed that he’s at his best when on the third line. $6 million or more is a lot to pay for a third line player regardless of his history with the team.
It’s hard to envision a team without David Backes, but if forced to choose, then it is smarter for the franchise to go with Brouwer. He’s younger, potentially more cost effecitve, as consistent or more in the playoffs and has Stanley Cup experience.
So, in our initial Monday Matchup, the decision goes to Troy Brouwer in a close one. What do you think? What are your arguments for or against our reasoning? Let us know in the comments and Let’s Go Blues!