From Alzner to Wideman, we're taking a look at and grading (please read the criteria below) the 2011-12 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2012-13. Next up, Troy Brouwer.
#20 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Aug 17, 1985
3 (and parts of three others)
$2,350,000 cap hit through 2012-13; UFA summer 2013
'10-'11 Rink Wrap: N/A
Key Stat: His 15 missed shots in the 2012 playoffs were second only to Alex Ovechkin (18) among all Caps.
Interesting Stat: Brouwer led the team - and was ninth in the League - with a whopping 247 hits during the regular season. This is the second straight year in which he's both led his team and finished in the NHL's top ten in that stat.
The Good: Acquired on Draft Day 2011 for a first-round pick, Troy Brouwer was brought in to provide a big, physical presence (and a bit of offense) to the Caps' top six. And at the end of the day, that's pretty much what he did - he brought the big body, the bone-rattling checks and a few fights, while chipping in 18 goals and finishing fourth on the team in that department. In fact, between opening night and the end of January, Brouwer only once went more than three games without a point, racking up 26 of his 33 on the season - and his first career hat trick - during that span. And if you want to talk about big (and timely) offense, look no further than his game-winning goal in Game 5 against the Boston Bruins.
But when it's Brouwer you're focusing on, that other stuff takes a backseat to the physicality, and this year was no exception. As expected, he provided a nice one-two punch alongside Alex Ovechkin when it came to throwing the body around, with the two combining for 456 hits during the regular season (and another 97 during the playoffs) - his 247 hits on the year led the team, and included a bruising 11-hit game in the Caps' 1-0 win over the Penguins in January. Along with a bodycheck or 2(00), his five fights on the season marked a career high for the big right-winger and trailed only Matt Hendricks (who dropped 'em 11 times). Amazingly enough, despite the bruises his body took - and doled out - he was one of only six players on the Caps to skate in all 82 regular season games as well as all 14 playoff games.
The Bad: As much as the Caps appreciated the hits and the nearly 20 goals he chipped in, it wasn't all sunshine and roses for Brouwer's inaugural season with the Caps. He was on for more even strength goals-against/60 than anyone else on the regular roster during the season (although he did thankfully all but reverse that trend in the playoffs). A product of playing alongside some slightly less defensively responsible linemates for much of the season? Perhaps. But Brouwer also had an unfortunate tendency to drift a bit in his own zone, something that burned the Caps on a number of occasions and contributed to his team-low (tied with Carlson) plus-minus rating of minus-15 - although that is also owed in part to his team-worst 981 PDO, which in turn was driven by a woeful on-ice save percentage of .898. So good times all around.
And while Brouwer's 33 points weren't that far off from where his point totals usually end up, the fact is that the bulk of his scoring came early on in the season. After putting up 26 points in the first four months, his offense fell off a cliff to the tune of just seven points over the final three months of the season (with three in the final month) - at a time when the Caps, fighting for their playoff lives, needed every point they could get. The trend even continued, albeit at a more compressed rate, during the playoffs, as both his postseason goals came in the first round and he managed just two more assists - both in Game 5 - against the Rangers.
Oh, and speaking of not scoring against the Rangers... yeah, that one's going to sting. Make it up to us next year, Troy.
The Vote: Rate Brouwer below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Does the first-round pick the Caps gave up for Brouwer seem like too much or was it just about the right price for what they got? Brouwer saw time on both the top line and as part of the third- and fourth lines during the playoffs - where do you see him being a better fit going forward? Finally, what will it take for him to earn a 10 rating next year?