Like Bobby Orr, Jeff Brown was a player that achieved great things, but might have done even more if they played in a different era. That is not to say Brown was on Orr’s level, but merely to point out the style of play.
Even playing when he did, Brown achieved a lot as an offensive defenseman. He set career highs with the Blues when he scored 25 goals and 78 points.
For comparison, Al MacInnis‘ career bests were 28 goals and 103 points. So, Brown didn’t accrue as many assists, but he was almost as adept as a scorer.
Brown’s numbers went down when the NHL got into a dead area during the mid-1990’s. That’s when teams started emulating the New Jersey Devils with a more defense-oriented, trapping style of play.
It was not always fun to watch, but it was effective. Teams started asking Brown to focus more on the defensive end, which he did, but that took a lot away from his total game.
Imagine Brown playing in today’s game. Brown was a hard-nosed player, something he carried into being a junior coach, where he showed a lot of fire on the bench. You did not want to meet his icy stare if you made him mad.
However, he had an offensive game that did not match the era he played in. He scored a lot of goals, but was really the only defender venturing forward.
If he played in today’s game, where it is much more commonplace for defenders to join the rush and look to score, he could have easily been a 30-goal scorer. Even if the goals did not increase, the points likely would have.
Brown was not a selfish guy, but I feel like the assists would have increased with today’s style of play. Players specifically look to get deflections on defender’s shots now, where in the past those were a little more rare. Forwards did try, but it was not almost a set play like it is in today’s game.
Brown easily could have been a regular 70-80 point scorer in today’s game with his offensive skills. Throw in his tenacity, and you’ve got a well rounded player in today’s NHL, whereas he was thought of as almost too offensive minded during his day.