CALGARY, AB – T.J. Brodie can do the math.
Competing with eight defencemen on one-way deals in Calgary Flames training camp, the Abbotsford Heat blueliner knows he has to go above and beyond to catch the attention of Bob Hartley’s coaching staff.
“On an entry-level you can get called up or sent down the easiest so if I want a job I know I have to steal from someone and it just takes that much more work,” said Brodie, who must also contend for a spot with Heat teammates Chris Breen and Steve McCarthy.
He might have already found his opportunity.
With a shoulder injury expected to sideline Anton Babchuk for the opening weeks of the season, Brodie may have bought himself time to impress. It wouldn’t be the first time Brodie has been able to capitalize on an opportunity at the misfortune of Babchuk.
In November of 2011, Brodie was summoned from Abbotsford to Calgary after Babchuk suffered a hand injury. Brodie never returned to the Heat, playing 54 games for the Flames and recording 12 assists and 14 points before his own shoulder injury last March ended his season.
Irony aside, Brodie insists he’s not hiding a Babchuk voodoo doll under his pillow.
“Definitely not,” the six-foot-one, 185-pound defenceman said. “It’s part of the game, getting hurt. When you get hurt, there’s always that chance of someone coming up and playing well no matter who you are. There’s that chance of getting your chance to stay.”
And while a Babchuk injury might buy him a bit more time, Brodie knows making the team as an injury-replacement is a temporary fix, not a long-term solution for his goal of being a regular in the National Hockey League.
“At the end of the day, its only three or four weeks so if I want something permanent, I have to do more than just stick around for a bit,” said Brodie, who also made the Flames’ opening-day roster for the 2010-11 season, but was returned to the Heat after three games.
Brodie’s transition game and offensive instinct might be his ticket to Calgary. With Flames head coach Bob Hartley looking for a more upbeat offense, Brodie feels he can help deliver.
“It’s the type of game that I’ve always liked to play,” he said. “I like to jump up in the rush when it’s there. It sounds like he wants us to do that so that’s pretty exciting for the D to hear that and to have the green light to go.”
But that doesn’t mean Brodie’s free of his defensive responsibilities.
“Obviously being solid on the defensive side of the game is the main thing but offensively I think I have to try and produce and create and I think if I do both of those things it might make their decision a little bit tougher,” he said.
Hartley couldn’t say if Brodie, or any other defenceman for that matter, has done just that after three days of camp.
“I never comment whose ahead of who because it doesn’t really matter,” Hartley said. “Where you’re at today, if you’re in a good spot it’s good, but the battle is still on. The evaluation process keeps going on.
“I’m anticipating hours of meetings because the difference between being on the team with the Flames or going back to Abby will be very very little difference. I think that we’re going to have some great meetings. It’s a tribute to the players. No one is lacking. No one is dogging it out there. They’re working hard and doing a good job.”
That doesn’t mean the 22-year-old has gone unnoticed by the coach either, who has also seen Brodie while keeping an eye on the Heat earlier this season.
“I’ve watched him in Abbotsford,” Hartley said. “He’s a great skater, brings a lot to the table.”
If he’s able to continue to bring those same characteristics in camp, it could add up to a spot on the Flames blueline on opening day for Brodie.