He doesn’t know how good he is. I’ve rarely seen a young defenceman progress at such a quick pace. - Bob Hartley
CALGARY, AB -- There’s no questioning where TJ Brodie’s focus lies.
“My main priority is here,” said the 25-year-old Calgary Flames blueliner after turning down an invitation to next month’s World Championships. “I think it’s more important to go home and recover. Sometimes it’s beneficial to go, and at other times it’s better to get rest.
“The way that my body feels right now, I think it’s better to go home and relax and get back to 100 percent and get back to training for next year.”
That should be sweet music to the ears of the C of Red.
As one of two Flames defencemen (captain Mark Giordano being the other) to finish in the top five in team scoring with a career-high 39 assists and 45 points, Brodie has enjoyed a steady increase in offensive production in each of his five NHL seasons.
With Brodie and Giordano, the Flames joined the Nashville Predators (Roman Josi and Shea Weber) as one of only two teams to boast a tandem in the top 20 scorers among defencemen.
Brodie, who ranked 15th in points per game (0.64), also concluded the campaign among the top 10 in assists.
“Just the way they possess the puck, the way they break up plays, lead the rush,” fellow Flames rearguard Deryk Engelland said. “Definitely one of the top pairings I’ve played with. Their mobility, great. Their offensive instincts, great. Then you throw them in the defensive zone and they’re great there, too. There’s not a weak spot from what I’ve seen.”
Giordano, who is coming off a career-high 21-goal campaign, credits his young partner with a great deal of his offensive success.
“I think he’s the best defenceman in the league at creating deception,” Giordano said. “Offensively, on the blueline, he’s really good at fakes and opening up lanes for other guys. I benefit a lot from that — he opens lanes for me and I am able to get shots.”
Thrust into the spotlight while playing parts of two seasons split between the Flames and their then American Hockey League affiliate in Abbotsford, the 6-foot-1, 182-pound defender has racked up 117 points over the last three as a mainstay in the NHL.
“He doesn’t know how good he is,” quipped Flames coach Bob Hartley. “I’ve rarely seen a young defenceman progress at such a quick pace.
"The way that he skates, the way that he jumps in the play, he can change direction so quickly that he's basically impossible to defend.”
He has also proven himself to be a key component in his team's ability to collect wins.
While sidelined for the first nine games of the regular season with a broken bone in his right hand after finding himself on the wrong end of a one-timer in Calgary’s first preseason game, the Flames stumbled out of the gate with a 2-7 record.
“We had a tough start,” Hartley said. “The injury to Brodie, and Giordano took a few weeks to get back in the groove of playing following his injury. We can dissect (what went wrong) this season in many ways, from special teams to individual players to coaching, wherever you want to go, but the first 20 to 25 games really hurt us.”
There is no doubt that when Brodie is in the lineup and chipping in on the scoresheet, the Flames are better off as their 20-13-2 record affirms.
In fact, during his season-high seven-game point streak in December, the Flames were playing their best hockey of the season and went a formidable 6-1.
He’s also a workhorse, averaging 25:15 of total ice time per night.
“He’s a world-class skater,” Hartley said. “He can log ice time. You ask TJ and he probably wants more. He probably wants another 10 to 15 minutes. He never sweats. He’s never out of breath.”
Possessing an explosive two-way game, Calgary's 2008 fourth-round steal is in this Flames rebuild for the long haul after signing a five-year contract extension in October 2014.
The smooth-skating rearguard couldn’t be more excited about his extended stay and where the Flames are headed.
“We have a lot of young talent who are skilled guys,” said an optimistic Brodie. “Last year there was Johnny and (Sean Monahan), and they were a big reason why we made the playoffs. And now going forward they’re only going to get better, and then we have other young guys like (Sam Bennett) who are the same. If these guys can keep going on an upward trajectory than we’re going to have a very good team.”