ST. LOUIS, MO -- After the Calgary Flames 5-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday, head coach Brent Sutter singled one player who he felt shone a bit brighter than the rest of the team.
"Brods was probably the best player on the ice for us," Sutter stated in his post-game address. "Outside of TJ Brodie, our defencemen needed to be better. They weren’t very good at getting pucks out of our zone. It’s about doing things a little harder, a little better."
High praise indeed, especially considering the other defenceman Sutter was referring to included the likes of veterans Mark Giordano, Jay Bouwmeester and Scott Hannan.
Since being recalled on Nov. 9, Brodie has asserted himself as a capable, reliable defenceman for the club. He's notched two points in six games, has a plus-one rating through that span and has been a constant presence on the Flames third defensive pairing. Cory Sarich and Derek Smith have been the ones shuffling in and out of the lineup - not the rookie.
"Every game, I've gotten a little more comfortable," the 21 year-old said. "There's still some things to clean up - missed a couple of passes last game, got to hit the guys on the tape - but I feel pretty good out there."
Those small growing pains aside, Brodie's overall performance has been nothing short of superb. His two-way game, on-ice vision, skating ability and poise with the puck are a welcome addition to the defensive core. Also, his play in his own end has drastically improved after playing his first season as a pro - a critique faced by Brodie since being drafted by the Flames in the fourth round (114th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
"When we decided to make a change and bring up some kids, Troy was the one that really made it very clear that Brods is the guy to put in," Sutter told CalgaryFlames.com "What you're looking for and a guy who can really develop into a really good NHL defenceman. He was taking strides there and he was one of their top guys so that's why he's here."
If you saw Brodie in training camp and in the preseason, you likely would not have expected to see the rookie flourish the way he has. He looked very average amongst his peers and fell down the depth chart as players like Smith and Jordan Henry came through with strong performances.
"I think he put a lot of pressure on himself coming into camp and it didn't go the way we all would have liked to," Sutter said. "But he went to Abbotsford and he went with a great attitude. Troy (Ward) worked with him down there and he had a great start to the year when the season got started, once the games got started for real. He really stepped his game up."
Right now, Brodie is just taking it one game at a time. He wants to improve upon his last performance every time he hits the ice and make sure the team is forced to make a hard decision when bodies start to return to the blueline.
"Come into every game the same. You've got to be ready, know who they have," he said of his game day approach. "Be mentally prepared and be aware when you're on the ice."