The St. Louis Blues seemed poised to move on from their fourth line players from previous years going into 2017-18. Thankfully, they retained one in particular as he was one of the team’s best players all season.
When St. Louis Blues fans hear the name Kyle Brodziak, the term best player does not spring to mind very quickly. However, in terms of what he brought to the team, night in and night out, there is an argument to be made that he was up there in the ranks.
Now, before people’s heads pop off and start rolling down the street, I’m not comparing Brodziak to the Blues best skill players like for like. Based on skill level, expectation, actual production and sheer will, Brodziak is someone the rest of the team could learn a thing or two from. Hopefully they get the chance as he is, once again, a free agent.
Final Grade: A
Again, for whatever reason, I can sense the backlash coming. There are going to be those that just don’t understand how a third or fourth line player can get an A and some of the top guys get less.
We are not grading on a level playing field. Brodziak is not expected to put up 20-30 goals, so you are not going to expect the same production numbers from him. So, putting up fewer goals than, say a Vladimir Tarasenko, does not hurt him based on that fact alone.
Coming into the season, expectations were not all that high for Brodziak. The Blues had pondered moving on without him, given the number of prospects they had in the wings. However, Brodziak ended up getting a one-year contract to remain with the team.
Thank goodness that happened. Even if you take the injuries that plagued the Blues out of the equation, Brodziak’s talents were sorely needed by this team this past season.
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Even when the team was healthy, he brought a veteran presence that was both calm and yet intense. He was not the get in your face type of guy, but he provided leadership by example. Brodziak simply went out there and did his job, and did it well, every night.
Brodziak ended up playing 81 games for the Blues in 2017-18. The last time he played that many was with Minnesota in 2013-14.
Brodziak also managed to find a scoring touch that has not really been in his game since early in his Minnesota career. Some of that can be attributed to playing higher up the Blues lineup, but Brodziak was still scoring even when he was on the fourth line.
Setting career bests in a Blues uniform, he had 10 goals and 33 points with St. Louis this past season. Those might not be knock your socks off numbers for some fans, but that’s double the point production that Brodziak has put up with the Blues at any other point.
Brodziak earned extra playing time. It just so happened that injuries forced him higher in the lineup than we would normally see.
Despite playing almost two extra minutes more than he had previously with the Blues, there was no dropoff. In fact, Brodziak’s defensive numbers improved with more playing time.
His Corsi and Fenwick numbers both went up – not by astounding numbers by by margins big enough to not just attribute to extra playing time. Brodziak’s point shares also went up this season as well. Surprisingly, even his faceoff percentage went up by three points.
What made Brodziak even more impressive this past season was his versatility. We knew he was more than a fourth line player, based on him playing elsewhere with other teams. It just so happened that he fit that role perfectly in his previous years with the Blues.
It was something to see, though, to see how well he fit in wherever the Blues needed him in 2017-18. He could fill in as a second line wing or play third line center. He could move from the fourth line further up the lineup within one game and go right back without missing a beat.
Admittedly, having Brodziak play that far up the roster was part of the Blues problem. If you are having a guy that has not scored double-digit goals play on your second or third line, you have issues. That was not Broziak’s fault though.
He did what he as asked and went out and produced to the best of his ability. He set an example for younger players to follow. If someone like Tage Thompson could give that same effort every night and couple that with his talent, you’d have a scary-good player.
It is too early in the offseason to know if the Blues will bring Brodziak back for another season. He will be 34 by the time the 2018-19 season begins.
He has earned another deal though. Even as a team that is looking for spots for the youngsters, they need a player like Brodziak to fill the gaps and set a positive example. We probably should not expect another 30 point season if he comes back, but sometimes you have to have those guys that just bring their lunch and go to work every day, without fail. Those guys set the tone for the ones that have the skill but think it is easy sometimes, when it is not.