As we await the beginning of the new NHL season, I’ll be previewing each of the players in the Minnesota Wild system who will be on the roster, or competing for a place this year. My subject for this edition is Kyle Brodziak.
Kyle Brodziak had a really good year in what was a weird situation during the 11-12 season. He spent most of the year as 1C or 2C due to injuries to the team’s top forwards and, as a result, had a career year in terms of production, finishing as the Wild’s MVP. It was understood that he would be returning to his usual 3C, defensive role in 2013, as Koivu would be the first line centre with Mikael Granlund/Matt Cullen on the 2nd line. Brodziak ended-up having a pretty quiet season. He didn’t score much and had a bad +/- rating, which made him a scapegoat for certain sections of the fanbase.
-Here are some of his regular season numbers from last year:
So, as you can see, Brodz didn’t didn’t exactly set the world on fire in terms of scoring last year, with only 12 points in 48 games and a paltry shooting percentage of 9.1%. He played a lot of minutes for a guy labelled as the 3rd line centre. In fact, Brodziak had a higher average TOI/G than, 2nd line centre, Matt Cullen, which shows you how big a role he plays for this team. He contributed a lot to the penalty kill and also saw a lot of PP time, which irked some fans.
-Here are some more in-depth numbers from last year:
The underlying numbers show that Brodz played a pretty defensive role for the team, seeing a low percentage of offensive zone starts against above-average competition. His Corsi numbers are in the negative, but not by much, so there’s not much to complain about there. The team averaged similar shots for and against but more ‘goals against’ than ‘goals for’ with Brodziak on the ice this year.
The key numbers to look at here, that go a long way towards explaining why Brodziak seemed to have a down year, are his on-ice shooting and save percentages. He had the lowest on-ice Sv% of any Wild player (except for Tom Gilbert), finishing with the 18th lowest in the league, and the only Wild players with a lower on-ice Sh% were the 4th liners (Mitchell, Rupp, Konopka) and Cal Clutterbuck. His overall PDO was tied for 9th worst in the entire NHL. So it’s pretty obvious that a lot of Brodziak’s “issues” last season were mostly down the some terrible, terrible luck. His PDO should regress towards the mean next year, so I expect him to bounce back in a big way.
-Here’s the Player Usage Chart for the Wild forwards who played more than 30 games last year, illustrating the numbers above:
(Click To Enlarge) (Bubble Size=Corsi On Rating. Blue Bubble=Postive. Red Bubble=Negative)
Some important information was revealed this offseason regarding Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert and the somewhat ordinary campaign the two of them had. It emerged that the two players had been hospitalised with pneumonia before the start of the season and were effected by it throughout the year. Brodziak lost 15 pounds and found it difficult to be his usual energetic self on the ice. Getting a regular offseason and training camp under his belt will do him a lot of good and he should be ready get his production back-on-track in 2014.
As I pointed-out above, a lot of his apparent struggles this season stemmed for bad luck, illustrated by his awful PDO. With his luck set to rebound and his health problems behind him, I anticipate K-Bro will have a very successful year. He’s 29 now, so I don’t expect him to suddenly become and offensive force or to even match his numbers from 11-12, but what he should do is establish himself as a key defensive forward who can be an important cog in this team for the next 4-5 years.
Most speculation out of training camp has Matt Cooke as the most likely choice to be the LW on Brodziak’s 3rd line. There was some talk about Torrey Mitchell being the RW, but this, thankfuly, subsided. My choice for the RW slot would be either Heatley (if Zucker takes the LW on the 2nd line), or Niederreiter. Heater would add an interesting natural-shooter dynamic to the line, and if he lives up to all the hype about his new “fit & ready” image, he would be able to match the work ethic of Brodziak and Cooke. Nino has size and offensive upside, so he would be a good fit on the line too. Whatever the configuration, that 3rd line will be asked to shoulder some tough, defensive minutes and play with some physicallity while still being a goalscoring threat.
I’m assuming Brodziak won’t be considered for the 2nd line centre job, as it seems to be a straight choice between Granlund and Coyle. Brodziak will most likely find himself playing as many, if not more minutes than the 2nd line centre, as that line (particularly if it’s Heatley/Zucker-Granlund-Coyle) will most likely be used in very sheltered minutes. He will probably see a lot of PK time this year, even more than last year now that Matt Cullen has moved on. I don’t anticipate he will be used much on the PP now that the team has more offensive threats to choose from on the roster.
In terms of offensive production, it’s quite hard to predict what Brodziak will contribute in 2014. His numbers from last year are certainly an outlier due to his incredibly poor luck, while his numbers from the year before are skewed due to his massive change in role.
-Here’s his career points-per-game and Sh%:
As you can see, last year was a massive drop-off in his numbers. The most likely scenario for next season is his Sh% climbs back up to around 11% and production goes back to around 0.4 to 0.5 points per game, which would be a nice contribution from the 3rd line centre.
His Season Is A Success If…
His Season Is A Disappointment If…
….he struggles to score many points and, as a result, continues to be scapegoated.
Okay, that’s it for K-Bro. Next, I’ll be taking a look at Matt Cooke and previewing his 2013/2014 campaign.
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*Numbers in this article courtesy of: