Key Stat:Troy Brouwer scored 21 goals in the regular season, good for second on the team. He scored zero goals in the playoffs.
Interesting Stat: Of all Caps skaters with at least 50 minutes of power play time, Troy Brouwer had the worst individual points percentage (35.9%).
The Good: Brouwer was a versatile player for the Caps this year, playing most of the regular season on the second line at even strength, the top power play unit, and logging the second most minutes per game among forwards on the penalty kill. In the playoffs, he added third line wing to his resume. His work on the forecheck helped create Jay Beagle's goal in game three against the Rangers and his work in the neutral zone helped create Andre Burakovsky's game winning goal in game four against the Rangers. His ambush of Calvin de Haan also helped put the exclamation point on the physically punishing series the Caps played against the Islanders.
Brouwer also provided good defensive work at even strength and the penalty kill. He suppressed shots and shot attempts at a respectable level at even strength and was among the best forwards in all penalty killing metrics. Brouwer was the team's second leading goal scorer and among the team's better defensive forwards. With Barry Trotz looking for physical, two-way play, he's likely very pleased with Brouwer's performance this year. The Caps clearly tried to win low-scoring games in the playoffs, focusing on preventing the tying goal rather than expanding a lead. Having players that are reliable defensively and physical enough to win battles for loose pucks is crucial to that endeavor.
Additionally, Brouwer also led the Caps in faceoff percentage during the regular season at 56.9%, following that up with a 51% faceoff percentage in the playoffs. When you have a wing that can win draws, especially a wing that you use regularly in the playoffs, it adds a lot of value. Brouwer's faceoff ability allowed Trotz to play Evgeny Kuznetsov in situations where he may not normally trust the young center to take a key draw (i.e., the defensive zone) and allows Kuznetsov to cheat like hell on a draw, knowing there's another option. Finally, Brouwer and Kuznetsov are right-handed and left-handed, respectively, so the Caps had a faceoff man on their strong side regardless of which side of the ice the draw was taken.
The Bad: Like Jay Beagle yesterday, Brouwer's versatility comes with a bit of an asterisk in that he played many roles, but not all that well. Brouwer is a mainstay on the first power play unit, yet as noted above he had the lowest individual points percentage of any regular power play player. It's tempting to point out that Brouwer's spot on the power play isn't the most involved with the set up and puck movement, but then you look at Joel Ward, who plays the same role on the second power play unit, and you see Ward at above 50% IPP on the power play. Simply put, Brouwer is being dragged along by a historically great power play, doing very little on his own to add to that historical greatness. But, dragged or not, at least he's managed to be productive on the power play...
...because then there's even strength. Despite being locked into a top six role from virtually his first day with the Capitals, Brouwer has consistently failed to produce like a top six forward at even strength. His shot and goal generation top out at the same rate as a third line forward, at best. Relative to his teammates, he isn't in the top half of the forward group in any of the possession numbers, despite spending most of his time with skilled forwards. His goals for percentage looks strong, in large part due to favorable on ice shooting and on ice save percentages. In fact, he got very favorable percentages on the power play and penalty kill as well. A little bit less puck luck and Troy Brouwer's results could have looked disastrous this season. Let's just hope Trotz doesn't start seeing Troy Brouwer as his second lucky rabbit's foot.
Finally, no discussion of "The Bad" would be complete without reemphasizing his complete lack of goal scoring in the playoffs. When a team's second leading goal scorer manages to come up with no goals in the playoffs, you know it will be trouble. True, it may say as much about the team's lack of scoring depth as it does about Troy Brouwer, but he's the team's second leading goal scorer and he contributed zero goals and three assists in fourteen games. Like Beagle yesterday, we're left wondering what could have been if Brouwer had managed to pot just one goal in a tight, seven-game series, with all games decided by one goal. Unlike Beagle, there's no room to cut Brouwer any slack because he's "not expected to be a goal scorer." Not only did Brouwer not score, he wasnt' even creating many chances. He had fewer individual scoring chances in the playoffs than Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Joel Ward, Jason Chimera, Jay Beagle, and even John Carlson. Other less-skilled forwards were finding ways to be dangerous, but not Brouwer. Yet Ovechkin and Backstrom will take the heat for failing to get it done when it matters. Right.
Nobody does wide open scoring chances quite like Troy Brouwer:
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 Troy Brouwer still belong in the Capitals' top six forwards? With the emergence of Burakovsky and Brian MacLellan publicly stating his desire to add a top line right wing, what does that mean for Brouwer's place on the team? Can he shift to a more traditional checking role? Should he, given what it likely would mean for Tom Wilson (another year on the fourth line)? What would it take for you to give him a "10" next year?