Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/26/14
Taking a short-term glance, it could be an indication of what all TJ Brodie can achieve when he steps up. In long-term sites, it may become a seminal moment in the career of the Calgary Flames defenceman. The fourth Flames goal in Friday’s 5-4 shootout victory over the Nashville Predators, was the kind of play head coach Bob Hartley has been clamouring all season to see from Brodie. After racing across the ice to keep the puck in the offensive zone by a whisker, Brodie wheeled and fired a high shot — it turned out to be deflected by David Jones — past Predators goaltender Devan Dubnyk to help complete the comeback. “He can be a dominant NHL defenceman — that’s for sure,” Hartley said of the 23-year-old blueliner following Saturday’s practice at the Corral. “TJ doesn’t know how good he is. That’s gonna grow with maturity, with experience … He’s still a very young player. You look at that third period — even on the bench, the players were commenting and saying, ‘Wow’. He was dominant in his skating and puck moving, and he finally shot some pucks. “He’ll be a force for us.” This season was bound to be an important year in Brodie’s development. Being put in a bigger role with the rebuilding club has meant facing tougher opposition — and top lines — on a regular basis. It’s come with all kinds of growing pains. But in the last few weeks, Brodie’s game has elevated because he’s adding more offensive flair to the hard work he’s put into improving his play in the defensive zone. “The first 20 games, playing against the guys I’ve played against this year, it took a little while to get used to,” Brodie said. “My main focus was to be solid defensively. I’ve been trying to find a way to do that and contribute offensively, but the offensive side was less important at the start of the year than the defensive side. “Now that I’ve learned the defensive side (more), I’ve tried to be more offensive.” Brodie has already set career-highs in goals, assists and points (3-14-17), but it’s another statistic that was weighing on him through the first half of the season. His plus-minus rating — minus-12 heading into Tuesday’s clash against the Chicago Blackhawks — was bothering him. After all, when you’re a young defenceman trying to show you’re responsible enough defensively to be a top-minute player, a number like that can appear to ruin your case. “I wanted to be successful playing against those guys, and when you start to get those minuses, it sorta takes the wind out of the sails,” admitted the native of Chatham-Kent, Ont. “But it’s one of those things. You can be out there for 10 chances for and three against, but they end up scoring on their chances and you don’t score on yours, and you’re a minus when it was a productive night. “I think forgetting about it and just playing is big.” The turning point came during the club’s post-Christmas losing skid and the offensive slump that came with it. At that time, he and the Flames were starting to have nothing to lose by him joining the attack more often. “You might as well take a chance jumping up. Maybe you’ll score a goal or set one up and create a chance, and if it does bounce the other way, you do what you can to recover,” said Brodie, who’s trying to pattern his game after Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes, among others. “And stuff started going in.” And he’s started to achieve more.
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