ST. PAUL, MN - MARCH 14: Jonas Brodin #25 of the Minnesota Wild skates with the puck against the Colorado Avalanche during the game on March 14, 2013 at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jonas Brodin is Expendable for the Minnesota Wild, and Here’s Why

First off, I just want to thank the people who have remained connected to this blog despite my lack of activity. It’s been a busy time and when you’re trying to balance multiple jobs and tasks in order to find more jobs, you tend to take away from other aspects of life.

The fact that there are a handful of people out there who for whatever reason check this blog every so often made it real easy for me to come back and continue onward with my writing.

I have remained connected to hockey happenings and I could talk about a ton of different things since I last posted, but I wanna touch on a particularly noteworthy development that really hasn’t gotten the attention of say, a player hitting a referee, or Trade Deadline Day (although it kind of ties into that showcase, now that I think about it).

Jonas Brodin, for the first time maybe ever, was a consistent name being bandied about as a piece that was available, for the right trade.

This is shocking stuff for some people, because Brodin for the longest time was an untouchable, a core player, for a franchise that had almost nothing in the youth department when he joined the team. You look at his age (he turns 23 in July), his draft pedigree (10th overall, 2011), and his career (he’s been a top-4 fixture for all 4 years of his career, for the most part), and it’s understandable why that should be the case. Young defenders of his supposed caliber are literally only available for 1st line centers (see: Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen), and all rumours point to Brodin’s supposed availability being contingent on a player of that level.

Problem is, Brodin ISN’T that caliber of player.

Not to say he’s a bad player, absolutely not. From a eyeball perspective, he has it all. He’s a smart, mobile defender with an active stick and a good pass. He’s young. He plays big minutes. He’s spent a ton of time on his off hand playing shotgun to Ryan Suter as the right defenseman, a position that actually detracts from both players’ full potential due to both of them being lefties (which was pointed out by Suter himself earlier in the year). Through it all, he’s consistently been able to hold his head above water. Brodin rarely makes mistakes, and that reliability made him one of the most valuable pieces on the marketplace (if the rumours were true).

The thing with Brodin is, he’s never really added anything of value to the Wild’s defense corps. Let’s take a look at his Horizontal Evaluative Rankings, courtesy of OwnthePuck:Jonas Brodin HERO

Now, we do need to take into account Brodin’s usage. He gets a ridiculous amount of even-strength ice time all things considered. That has to be worth something. Again, though, we have to think about why the only thing we hear of Brodin is that he’s reliable. Reliable means you can trust him not to mess up when his team needs him. When that’s ALL you hear about him, though, it does get concerning.

And the reason why all you hear about Brodin is his reliability, is because quite frankly he’s just not very good at being productive. His ability to produce offense is barely NHL-caliber. It’s actually kind of impressive, in a weird Anchorman sort of way. You’d expect a player who plays so much at even strength to at least luck into a few more points than he has.

From the fancystats department (a term which is a rant I’ll leave for another time) he’s only marginally better. Once again the guy is a black hole at generating offense of any kind, although we see that he’s a fairly strong shot suppressor relative to his team. As a whole, though, he’s only bottom pairing material, thanks in large part due to an inability to create chances at the opposite end of his goal.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise in hindsight, because he was drafted as a smart player who had just 4 assists in an entire season for his Swedish league team. He managed to go 2 full seasons without a goal, only compiling 12 assists in 94 games in the SHL.

Let’s now take this and compare him to another player of pedigree (again, OwnthePuck deserves all the credit, especially for guys who do not want to go through the shot metrics of every game of every team in the league):

Warrior Chart: Jonas Brodin vs. Seth Jones

That really puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it? If you’re Columbus and are basically forced into jettisoning a disgruntled Ryan Johansen, I’d say there’s a fairly good reason why you’d take Seth Jones over Jonas Brodin. If you’re Edmonton and were hoping for Seth Jones, well….

This is a player who was being loftily compared to the likes of Nick Lidstrom (like every good young Swedish defenseman ought to aspire to). Brodin just happened to forget the other part of Lidstrom’s game, namely the offensive savvy and pure production efficiency. Brodin’s a shutdown defenseman, but in all honesty he’s roughly 3rd best on the team in that regard:

WARRIORjonasbrodinmarcoscandella

As a side note, Scandella might not have the pure skating or puck skills that Brodin does, but he’s pretty great at that defense thing in the role he’s given.

Matt Dumba has emerged into looking like a solid top-4 option at the very least moving forward. Suter already takes on the toughest matchups and still is top pairing in terms of offensive production. Scandella slots in very well behind Suter as a reliable 2nd pairing body with size and a great shot. Jared Spurgeon remains as slick as ever. And they’ve got some young players of potential on the blueline coming up still, with Mike Reilly and Gustaf Olofsson looking like NHL-caliber players in the near, if not immediate future. So what can you do with Brodin moving forward?

Brodin’s role and future on the team has been phased out for the most part. He’s a left-handed defensive defender on a team with 2 other top-4 players on that side locked up for many years. He doesn’t produce the kind of offense that can steal PP time away from the likes of Suter, Dumba, Spurgeon, or even Scandella with his point shot. Nowadays, elite shutdown defenders HAVE to at least generate something offensively. Just look at the king of them:

Warrior Chart: Brodin vs. Vlasic

At some point, players have to be able to contribute something meaningful and impactful to the team. Brodin’s a very vanilla player and doesn’t fill a role in that regard. That being said, his defensive abilities do make him desirable to teams in need of that trait, and who are also lacking in the LHD department.

I think he’s a good player. Old-school guys can look at the eye test and he checks all of the boxes a modern defender needs. But I also think that a lot of his hype was unwarranted and came because of his usage (playing next to one of the best defenders in the game) and his age. Maybe if he wasn’t pigeonholed into a particular role so early, he might have come out a more rounded player, and truly a cornerstone type of guy (not unlike a Lindholm in Anaheim). But Brodin never really developed past what he was at the beginning of his career, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that if you can get something of value for him, it shouldn’t be a difficult decision to make.

It is hard to judge how much of Brodin’s defensive play is due to the system of the Wild, and how much is his own ability. And when looking at individual ability to play D, you can only control so much; putting Brodin in a system like Ottawa’s, Calgary’s or Edmonton’s would probably make him look far worse than he is, so he isn’t a savior on the blueline by any stretch of the means. But he has value, versatility (because he’s so bland) and youth, and therein lies GM Chuck Fletcher’s opportunity.

But Brodin himself is not a top pairing defenseman, and I think expecting him to be one is a foolhardy venture. His tangibles managed to get him a comparable contract to other young defenders of value, and it’s still a reasonable dollar amount for a young 2nd pairing defenseman, which he is at minimum despite his inability to generate shots, chances or points.

In the modern NHL, elite defensemen are the ones who can control play and recognize opportunities that are available. That’s why the best players are all able to produce offense to some degree, because controlling play generally entails some level of offensive ability. Brodin doesn’t do that, and is constantly playing safe defensive hockey. While depth is a good thing, especially for the playoffs, the Wild also have holes elsewhere on the roster and if I can get something that helps fill those holes for a guy who I already sense is a luxury rather than a necessity, then I’m going to make that call without a problem.

With the development of the Wild’s backend and his own limitations, it’s clear that he’s an expendable piece of the puzzle for the Minnesota Wild moving forward if it wasn’t already guessed by this trade deadline. In any case, the summer is going to be very interesting for GM Chuck Fletcher, regardless of the Wild’s playoff aspirations for this season.

-Evan

 

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