An improved Washington Capitals player this term over last was Troy Brouwer – one of only two current Caps players who have lifted the Stanley Cup (the other is defenseman Brooks Orpik). Brouwer won the big prize in 2010 while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks and he recently told the Washington Post that he sees the Capitals making a ‘deep run’ for the Stanley Cup next season.
“There’s no questioning the guys in here wanting to win and their desire to win,” stated Brouwer. “We have to have that cockiness, that almost arrogance and that confidence that we’re a phenomenal hockey team and we deserve to move on and we should move on.”
“It could be a little bit of a mental block for some guys, for sure. You have to get over that, ‘We haven’t done this before,’ and ‘This is new territory for us.’ When we do, and I know we will in the next few years – hopefully next year – this team is going to make a deep run for the Stanley Cup in the future. Guys have got to embrace it and they’ve got to enjoy it and they have to know that it’s going to happen.”
Brouwer had an Excellent Season
Brouwer’s NHL career started in Chicago at age 21 when he made 10 appearances for the Blackhawks in 2006-07. His first full season was 2008-09, and he scored 49 regular season goals for Chicago from that season through 2011 when he was traded to the Capitals for a first-round draft pick. Since then, he’s racked up 83 regular season goals including 21 during the season that just ended – including a game-winning tally in the Winter Classic against his old team. This season was his best as a Washington Capital.
His 43 points this term tied the career high he recorded the year before; his plus/minus improved from a minus-6 to a plus-11 this season over last. He slumped a little bit during the playoffs, failing to score in any of the 14 games he started and recording only three total points. However, Brouwer is a team player. He was all over the ice during the postseason, hard-hitting, and made few mistakes.
Here’s a look at Troy Brouwer’s Regular Season Stats:
The Capitals, of course, came painfully close to advancing to their first Conference Final since 1998 – the one and only year they reached the Stanley Cup Final. An incredibly tight semi-final with the New York Rangers saw Washington bow out in some style – all seven games were decided by just one goal and a luckier bounce here and there would have seen the Caps advance.
However, Brouwer is not one to dwell on ‘ifs and buts’ as he looks forward to the 2015-16 season.
“I don’t think we’re far off,” Brouwer said. “I thought where we were standing last year at this time, it was probably very uncertain the future of what this team was going to be, but I think guys are realizing how special this organization is, how close and how special this group of guys in here are.”
Barry Trotz’s Positive Reinforcement
Credit for how special the organization currently is goes to Head Coach Barry Trotz who has ushered in a new era for the Washington Capitals in his first season in charge. His system worked for the regular season and the Capitals saw improvement in just about all aspects of their game. Trotz also got improved performances from his superstar Alex Ovechkin, his defensive pairings and a majority of the team.
There is a vibe emanating from the players, coaching staff and fans that was lacking in the prior season. Trotz has nearly two decades of NHL head coach experience and knows how to get the best out of each of his players. And, it’s not all about what Trotz does for his players; it’s often about what he says about them. Positive reinforcement is part of Trotz’s psyche and it pays off. Take that recent decline in Brouwer’s offensive numbers during the playoffs; Trotz was quick to point out that performing well – and being a solid team player – doesn’t always necessarily mean racking up goals or points.
“I think he [Brouwer] is doing a lot of those things that go under the radar, that you don’t get a lot of accolades for,” Trotz said after Game 3 of the Rangers series. “Away from the puck, with the puck, all those things, I think he’s played pretty solid right now and maybe not getting the credit due.”
Trotz was correct that day about Brouwer, and the latter has proved that he deserves the credit – especially after he was dropped down from the second line to the third line to team up with Andre Burakovsky and Jay Beagle to form the ‘Killer B’s.’ That line effectively won Games 3 and 4 against the Rangers.
Brouwer has one more season on his current contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. If Brouwer is to hoist a second Stanley Cup, he likely only has next season left on the Caps’ books to do so – if recent ‘economic’ history is anything to go by.