Count me as one of the fans that is disappointed to see Eric Brewer be shipped out of Tampa to Anaheim.
I liked the leadership he offered and what seemed to be a steady influence, at the same time there was always the feeling that there could be more. Now, he’s in the Bygone Bolts category joining Nate Thompson on the Ducks.
Once Jon Cooper came in and managed with minutes in tandem with associate coach Rick Bowness, Brewer’s game was more in control and seemed fresher. Those mistakes that would creep up, especially under Guy Boucher, were minimized.
Somehow this season, it went off the rails. When a veteran player like Brewer gets scratched he either can play worse because of his attitude or motivated to do better. I would want to believe that the more you play Brewer the better he would be this year but he’s only played six fewer games than Garrison, Carle and and Stralman this year.
His regular stat sheet appeared pretty good for this year compared to previous years but the advanced statistics show he was a train wreck this year.
Coaching staff and the front office told Tampa area media that Brewer said he wanted to play but he was controlled in how he was being scratched. Between the salary constraints and his horrible stats for this year, it was justified to move him now.
If his performance was better than what we’ll see below, then it would have been an attitude problem. Here’s a snippet of how Barry Trotz explained how well defenseman Jack Hillen was handling his 19 games being a healthy scratch this season and what happens if he wasn’t a good teammate:
“What happens if you don’t have the good attitude is you start bringing other players down,” Trotz had said, “and when you start bringing other players down around you, it’s time to move that player out, because there’s nothing good that can happen.”
Speaking of the Caps, Brooks Orpik is a lot like a now more expensive Eric Brewer—both heralded for intangibles, but in advanced stats, they aren’t all that great. Orpik’s tradeoff that keeps him going is his jarring hits and physical play. Brewer lacked that grit and jabs after the whistle that could have elevated his game and value that made have played in his favor to hang around.
Brewer’s Fenwick, which accounts for all shots directed to the net that weren’t blocked, was the worse in his career topping the year he was traded from the Blues to the Bolts. He gave up about 12 more shots than he directed, according to stats by War On Ice. For five-on-five play, his offensive zone starts were about even this season, at 2 percent, a total swing from the -4 percent last season, meaning he had more defensive zone starts.
Revisiting that 2011-12 season, Brewer’s offensive zone starts percentage was a whopping -20 percent, explaining why that year was so atrocious (and why Boucher screwed himself).
Play with the charts on War on Ice and you’ll see a lot of red for Brewer buried with this year at the bottom of the charts.
Here’s just one of them that shows he was doing pretty well last season and then fell off a cliff.
This chart shows how many shots he was either giving up or getting on net compared to the time on ice of his competition. Basically, he was giving up a lot more in a shorter time up against his competition. Just play around with the charts on War On Ice and none of them look great, but comparatively, he was a lot better last season than this. Somehow getting bumped down on the depth chart is affecting him more than what it should. If anything it ought to have a positive effect on his stats, similar to how Mike Green, an offensive defenseman, is doing better this year seeing weaker competition.
Traditional stat pack
Measuring other areas of his game, the Bolts also saw Brewer’s best.
During Brewer’s St. Louis days, he played on a lean team and if you look at his stat sheet, it looked horrible for a defenseman if you take a peek at plus/minus. Folks, during his days in Tampa, he enjoyed the most number of plus seasons with any franchise he played for. Out of the parts of five seasons he spent with the Bolts, only one season, 2011-12, he was a minus player.
Look at that roster and you understand why. Brett Clark was a minus-26 and the rest of the cast was spare parts from Breden Mikkleson, Mike Commodore, Brian Lee and Bruno Gervais to Pavel Kubina, Matt Gilroy and Marc-Andre Bergeron who had 24 points in 43 games, enough to lead the defense corps in scoring in an 82-game season. That should tell you how bad that year was.
When Brewer left Tampa this year, he was plus-5 and had four assists in 17 games. That’s better than the minus players Radko Gudas and Mark Barberio (minus-2 each) and the goal and assist Gudas put up. Barberio is scoreless in his seven games.
Brewer was also averaging 22.7 shifts per game and 17:50 in ice time this season, about 20 seconds above his average last season with one fewer shift. Both of those numbers are way down from the 20 minutes and 27 shifts he averaged in the lockout shortened 2012-13—also the final season of Boucher.