Here’s what I know about the Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman T. J. Brodie. He’s sneaky good, and I don’t mean in a bad way. He calms me down watching him, so I naturally assume he’s also a calming influence to his teammates when he’s on the ice.
Although I don’t recall the circumstances, I clearly remember watching Brodie make a mistake last season. What was so interesting about that mistake is that it was the first one I’d seen him make all season long. After that, I started to notice his play more. He’s quietly efficient.
Brodie Is the Quietest Defenseman I’ve Ever Watched
In the three seasons that I’ve written about the Maple Leafs, I’ve never seen a quieter player than Brodie. In fact, you hardly even notice him on the ice. He doesn’t ever seem to hang onto the puck for a long time. He doesn’t wind up and skate through the neutral zone. If fact, he simply moves the puck up ice to – almost always – the right player. Then the team is on its way towards the opponent’s goalie.
In a blast from the past, watch Brodie when he was a youngster on Maple Leafs’ ice in a skills competition. He was good even then!
The one thing I notice about Brodie is how little I notice him. I had to literally decide NOT to watch the action on the ice and keep my eyes on him in order to see him. He almost disappears on the ice, which is something I chalk up to competence.
Brodie’s Key Attributes as a Defenseman
Interestingly, one of Brodie’s main skills is to move the puck. The other is to anticipate the play on the ice and disrupt the opponent’s offense by continually invading their passing lanes. Brodie moves the puck masterfully by making regular, small, but safe plays to keep the game flowing away from his own goalie and into the opponent’s end of the ice.
Brodie does these little things without drawing much attention to himself. He does all this work so quietly that it’s really hard to find any hockey writer who writes about him. One seldom reads about his on-ice exploits, because there aren’t many obvious ones. Furthermore, the plays he makes are so embedded within the offensive flow of the game that it’s really difficult to find anyone writing about him. That, I suppose, is good because being an “Invisible D-Man” means that one’s not drawing attention to himself by making mistakes.
Brodie’s a great addition to the first-pairing defensive unit with the more visible and offensive-minded Morgan Rielly. After a season of no one talking about Brodie’s defense (because, as I say, he’s almost invisible), it’s easy to see why general manager Kyle Dubas was after the former Calgary Flames’ defenseman for a number of seasons.
Maple Leafs’ General Manager Kyle Dubas Had Been after Brodie for a few Seasons
As Maple Leafs’ fans will recall, the team had a trade worked out with the Flames where Brodie would have come to Toronto and Nazem Kadri would have moved to the Flames. Because Kadri invoked a clause in his contract to void that trade, it fell through. Kadri eventually moved to the Colorado Avalanche, with defenseman Tyson Barrie coming to Toronto from Colorado.
With Brodie at the back end, one of the Maple Leafs’ problems entering the 2020-21 season was solved. The defense was solidified. No doubt, he’ll continue to do that this season as well.
No One Talks About Brodie Because He’s So Efficient He’s Nearly Invisible
Having watched Brodie play for a season with the Blue and White, there were three surprises about Brodie’s contributions to the Maple Leafs.
First, the defense is much improved by the addition of a rock-solid defenseman like Brodie. He brings stability to the ice for more than 20+ minutes each game.
Second, with Brodie on the ice, the team’s record was improved.
But, third, perhaps the biggest surprise is that Brodie does his job so well that no one ever talks about him. For all intents and purposes, he’s the invisible man. And that’s a good thing for the Maple Leafs.
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