Leafs headed towards a split with one important piece this summer
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Treliving headed for a split with a long-time Leaf this summer

Published March 19, 2024 at 9:26

Last Saturday, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe scratched Simon Benoit in favour of Timothy Liljegren, solely for the fact that Liljegren is a right-shot. Benoit was not pleased, and neither were Leaf fans given the play of Benoit and the struggles of Liljegren at the time. However, there is another defenseman that should have been scratched long before Benoit and maybe even Liljegren.

It is no secret that the play of veteran T.J. Brodie has declined significantly this season as age slowly creeps up on him. Turning 34 in June, Brodie struggled at times last season, but this season has been far worse for the pending UFA.

If we dive deeper into his underlying numbers we see a drastic change for the worse from his first year with the Leafs to this season and where he compares to the likes of the other five defensemen that have spent all season with the Leafs (Morgan Rielly, Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano, Simon Benoit, Jake McCabe) at five-on-five.

At 5-on-5 (minimum 100 minutes), Brodie's on-ice goals against per 60 minutes has jumped significantly from his first season in 2020-21 (1.6) to this season (2.6) which is second only to Rielly (2.8). While Rielly ranks first among Leaf defensemen in some of the "bad" metrics, his abilities on the offensive side of the puck come with an expected risk. Yes, Brodie's numbers are affected by playing so much with Rielly as well, but when you compare his first season as a Leaf to this season, when the two were paired together, the decline in performance is undeniable. Brodie has also been just as bad away from Rielly, while Rielly improves in some of these areas away from Brodie.

Brodie had been known as a defensive specialist throughout his career, but has clearly declined, so when excluding Rielly and focusing purely on Brodie and the other defensemen on the roster, it quickly becomes clear that the veteran blueliner is actually hurting the team.

Brodie is last in expected goals per 60 minutes and second behind Rielly for high danger shot attempts against per 60 minutes. On top of that, he has the worst shots against and expected goals against per 60 minutes this season.

Brodie had been a stabilizing partner for Rielly his first couple of seasons with the Leafs, but the past few years have been very trying for the 2008 draftee. Understanding that players have lives outside of hockey and that Brodie has gone through some extremely difficult times the past couple of seasons, he deserves credit for putting in the work and coming to the rink every day, but it would be wise for Keefe to lessen his workload and the expectations of him for the rest of the season.

Based on this season, He is still a very capable third pairing, maybe 2nd pairing defenseman, as evidenced by his performance (and numbers) when paired with Liljegren this season, but with the Leafs having so many defensemen who fall into that range, it likely means that Brodie is in the midst of his final season as a Leaf.

Leafs GM Brad Treliving has just two defensemen under contract for next season in Rielly and McCabe and while I wouldn't be opposed to bringing Brodie back, it would have to be at a heavily discounted rate and role. If one or both of those things are not do-able, then it would leave no choice for Treliving but to explore the market and find someone else that can stabilize the blueline longer-term.
March 19   |   918 answers
Treliving headed for a split with a long-time Leaf this summer

Would you re-sign Brodie if he took a much cheaper and short-term deal?

Yes, he is still a useful player24726.9 %
No, his age is catching up to him too quickly67173.1 %
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