Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Brouwer Power

What can the Caps expect from one of their shiny new toys?
For years, George McPhee has preached building through the draft, and was adamant about not trading first-round selections to acquire players, deciding instead to build from within.  You can imagine, then, the general surprise among Caps fans when the news broke on the night of the 2011 NHL Draft that the Capitals had traded their first-round pick this year for forward Troy Brouwer.  A 25 year-old winger from Vancouver, he scored 17 goals and 19 assists last year in 39 games for the Chicago Blackhawks, and spent five seasons in the Windy City, winning a Stanley Cup on 2010.  Of course, with new players, comes lot's of new talk - about what they'll bring, what they won't, and who they'll play with. So let's take a look.
First off, Brouwer is just one physical hombre.  Standing in at 6'2", 214, he's not afraid to use his size to his advantage, and the numbers prove it.  Last season, Brouwer laid out 262 hits in 79 games, which was fifth in the NHL among all skaters and led the Blackhawks by 35.  He would have led the Caps in that category last year, too; he had Alex Ovechkin beat by 21.  That's the brunt of what Brouwer is going to bring every night - contact.  No matter where he ends up in the lineup, his size and willingness to hit anything that moves will serve his linemates well by increasing space for them to work in, and you can never have enough grinders in a lineup when you have skill to complement it.
As a budding power forward with that level of physicality, some may expect Brouwer to take off in his first season as a Cap, especially on the power play. While that could happen based on a change of scenery or a fresh start, it's not very likely that he tops more than 50 points this year.  Last season in Chicago, Brouwer averaged a little over two minutes per game on the man advantage, sixth among Blackhawks forwards.  You'd think that, pending no other moves, his power play time would stay in that range with Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin, Knuble, and Laich all in front of him on the assumptive depth chart.  For a guy who scored over half his goals and points on the power play last year, it would be hard to count on a breakthrough without a significant increase in ice time.  It's possible, but I'm not banking on it.
In terms of two-way ability, Brouwer does have significant shortcomings.  Among 12 Chicago forwards who played in 30 or more games last year, Brouwer was eighth on that list in shorthanded ice time at 36 seconds per game. That number would place him ninth out of 12 players with 30 or more games played last year on the Caps, and eighth out of nine who will be on the roster next year (Boyd Gordon and Eric Fehr are gone; Mathieu Perreault should start the year in Hershey).  As you can tell, he's not particularly good shorthanded and likely won't see much time a man down as Joel Ward should eat most of Boyd Gordon's minutes on that front.
So who will he play with?  At even strength, I think he is a prime candidate to fill out the second line with Marcus Johansson and Alexander Semin, providing the latter is not traded.  As I wrote above, Brouwer is a physical presence and him on that second line would definitely add some oomph to a line otherwise seriously lacking it.  All of Semin's shots will generate a ton of rebounds, and if Johansson develops like he can, his playmaking ability will open up more space for everyone, including Brouwer.  But we'll see during training camp.  Provided, of course, that his surgically repaired shoulder holds up.

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