Here’s the thing about T.J. Brodie. Nobody writes about him – at all! You can find information about almost every other Toronto Maple Leafs’ player; but, try to find anyone writing about Brodie’s play. Nothing.
Everything about Brodie is quiet. And perhaps, that’s what makes him so good.
The Little Things that Make Brodie Good
Seldom do play-by-play hockey commentators mention him during game telecasts. That’s not exactly true, but it’s mostly true. When Brodie is mentioned, it’s always something like “Good stick work in the defensive zone by Brodie.” Or “Nice touch pass by Brodie.”
Really, Brodie’s skill is to not have the puck. As soon as it comes, it goes. He makes hundreds of little plays that keep the flow of the game going in the Maple Leafs’ favor – whether it’s on defense of on offense.
It’s the little things that Brodie does that make him so good. Conversely, it’s the mistakes that Brodie doesn’t make on the ice that also make him good. As a result, Brodie’s skill set complements the Maple Leafs game plan and he’s become the perfect silent partner for the Maple Leafs’ more visible offensive-minded defenseman – Morgan Rielly.
What Do We Know about Brodie?
Here’s what we know about Brodie. First, he’s a newcomer this season to the Maple Leafs’ defence. Brodie signed a four-year, $20 million contract with the team during the offseason.
Second, we know that Brodie played the past nine NHL seasons with the Calgary Flames after the Flames drafted him during the fourth round (114th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Third, we know that in his 634 NHL games with the Flames, the 30-year-old Brodie has scored 266 points.
Fourth, we know that Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas had his eyes on Brodie for a while and would have traded Nazem Kadri to the Calgary Flames two seasons ago, but Kadri used his no-trade option to nix the trade.
Fifth, we know that the Maple Leafs hoped Brodie would become a rock-solid performer on the Maple Leafs’ blue line. When the Maple Leafs’ organization assessed what stood in the team’s way of making it past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, which they haven’t done since the 2004 postseason, solidifying the team’s defense seemed like the biggest need.
Finally, as the 2020-21 season can attest, we know that Brodie has done just that. He’s been quietly steady as a defensive partner with Rielly. He’s just what the hockey doctor ordered: he helped stabilize the Maple Leafs’ defense.
Brodie’s Both Quiet and Simple
From my perspective, Brodie’s the quietest player on the Maple Leafs’ roster. In fact, I have to purposely set out to watch him if I’m ever going to notice him much at all. But when I do, he’s just a steady, no-nonsense defenseman, who makes simple plays to help the team break out and makes tons of simple(ly) great little defensive moves when he’s on the ice – mostly with his great stick work.
Brodie’s great at anticipating where the offensive player’s going, and he typically able to get his body in the “flight path” to disrupt the play. Then he uses his stick to poke the puck out of the defensive zone. Furthermore, he does that for almost 22 minutes each game – not that you’d know that he’s out there that long. He’s that quiet.
Rielly and Brodie Make Up a Formidable Twosome
The result of the Rielly / Brodie partnership is that the Maple Leafs now seem to have one of the best top-pairing defensive twosomes in the North Division of the NHL – if not the entire NHL. Brodie doesn’t score like he did during his earlier seasons with the Flames, but perhaps that’s not his job with this team. He does have nine assists in 27 games on the season; but, that’s nowhere close to the 40-point seasons he used to put up.
Still Brodie does his job, which is stabilizing a once-fragile Maple Leafs defense. In that, he’s become a valuable addition to the Maple Leafs’ roster.
The respect between Brodie and Rielly moves both ways. Earlier this season, Brodie said about Rielly: “He’s an easy guy to play with, he does everything so well that it’s pretty easy to read him and he’s so skilled, you just let him do his thing out there.”
During a recent interview, Rielly discussed the important additions Brodie has brought to the Maple Leafs’ defense and himself as Brodie’s partner.Rielly on Brodie as a Defensive Partner
Enumerating the Reasons Brodie Is an Asset to the Maple Leafs
Rielly listed the benefits Brodie’s play has brought to the team. First, Brodie’s valuable because of “the way that he can move the puck on the breakout.” As Rielly reasons, no team wants to play in their defensive zone; and, Brodie’s strength is to help move the puck down the ice because he always seems to be able to put his blade on the puck so he can create openings.
He invited others to watch Brodie’s stickwork in the defensive zone and his play over an extended period of time. If they did, Rielly believed it would be easy to appreciate how much he adds to the strength of the team.
Finally, Rielly notes that Brodie’s been a good teammate and part “of the group, both on and off the ice.” Rielly appreciates how Brodie views the game. Finally, and perhaps more important, he believes Brodie’s helped him improve his own play.
For every good reason that benefits the Maple Leafs’ hopes of moving into the postseason, Brodie is doing his work out of the reach of the spotlight. In Toronto as a hockey market, that’s probably a very good thing.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf