If there was a player who has gone completely under the radar or has been written off by many this season, its newly signed New York Islander T.J. Brennan. As New York Islanders fans patiently await training camp to begin, they’re slowly losing their patience/mind with Garth Snow in getting that coveted top 4 defenceman like Indiana Jones was attempting to get the Lost Arc. As the season gets closer, there will be more rumors that a deal to get a top 4 will certainly happen. Truthfully, I don’t think it will. Call it a gut feeling, however even after training camp begins and there isn’t a trade, many believe Brennan will just be waived. But why? Because he hasn’t stuck with other clubs. Is he that bad? What has kept him from showcasing his talents in the NHL?
First let’s go over Brennan’s AHL numbers:
Total Games: 301 Goals: 76 Assists: 123 Points: 199
In his first three seasons he averaged a little over 30 points a season. In his fourth season during the 2013 lockout, Brennan scored 35 points in 36 games. Finally this past season he posted 72 points in 76 games and was awarded the Eddie Shore Award for best defenseman in the AHL. Clearly he has had success in the AHL.
So Let’s see why he never panned out with the NHL clubs that he was on. First off the team that drafted him, the Buffalo Sabres, have always been known to draft or acquire some good defenseman and from 2011-2013 the following players were on the team for those two years:
Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold, Tyler Myers, Robin Regehr, Andrej Sekera, Mike Webber
If you’re not familiar with players outside of the Islanders, take my word and any Buffalo Sabres fan for it: Brennan was not making this team because there was no room for him and no one got injured. From the National Post:
“My first year in Buffalo, the year before there was like five defencemen hurt. And then the two years after that not one guy got hurt,” said Brennan, who always seemed at the wrong place at the wrong time. “And then I had a taste of it last year after the lockout and didn’t take advantage of the opportunity like I would have liked to.”
That taste came from the Florida Panthers during the lockout year and had a decent 19 game stint, scoring 2 goals and 9 points. You’d think that would at least get him a one year try-out right? Wrong. From Panther Parkway:
After coming over from the Buffalo Sabres via trade last season, Brennan quickly adapted to the Panthers’ game-plan and excelled as an offensive weapon from the blue line. In 19 games for the Panthers last season, Brennan was able to compile 9 points (2G 7A) and brought back the presence of a powerful slap shot to the power play that had been missing since the departure of Jason Garrison. Although the team may have been better served to keep Brennan for his offensive capabilities, the amount of depth on the Panthers’ defensive unit most likely kept him from being retained.
So this time Brennan puts up decent numbers when given a legitimate chance, and doesn’t catch on because of depth in the organization……again. During last year’s offseason, Brennan signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs wanted to use Brennan as a depth player (recurring theme again) in case there were any sustainable injuries to the defensive unit. From the Toronto Sun:
“That was the plan,” (VP of Hockey Operations for the Leafs) Dave Poulin. said “And we signed him to a contract that allowed him, once he got through waivers, to provide depth for us at the top level. But through the course of the year, we literally didn’t have any (long-term) injuries amongst our defenceman. It’s unfortunate that T.J. didn’t get an opportunity. It was a challenge, without question, because he got off to just an absolutely crazy start and maintained that through the course of the season — a top-five scorer, a threat on a first-place team and a constant threat on the power play. He had just a tremendous year.”
With all this scoring, is he a liability on defense?
“I think the thing with T.J. is can he be trusted on the ice defensively? I have no problems with his defensive game,” said Marlies head coach Steve Spott. “All he needs is for someone to open the door for him.”
So why am I so intrigued with an excellent depth player from the AHL who hasn’t been given a legit chance? Because this reminds me of Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau, guys who spent and had some good years in the minors and never got a chance with an NHL club. What happened when they were paired with John Tavares? A very short answer to a lot of good feelings would be magic. I am also intrigued with Brennan because of his style of play, which reminds some people of a certain former Islander. Again, the National Post wrote that
The Sabres saw in the 6-foot-1 and 215-pound Brennan a young Bryan McCabe.
Now, there’s only one person in this organization who has a style similar to Bryan McCabe and that’s Ryan Pulock. After Pulock was drafted, there was a buzz that pairing up Pulock with 2012 and possible top 2 defenseman Griffin Rinehart would be the defensive pair of the future for the Islanders. The trouble is Griffin Rinehart, this years rookie version of John Tavares on the defense, is ready to play in the NHL now, whereas Pulock is probably two years away at most. So brining in Brennan (who his more ready than Pulock yet has his similar offensive style of game) to compliment Rinehart’s more defensive approach may actually be a benefit for everyone involved. It gives the Islanders another weapon on the power play, it gives Ryan Pulock the time to develop in the minors, gives the Islanders a balanced third line pairing to start the season and head Islanders coach Jack Capuano may increase their minutes as they improve which will allow more breathing room for Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan.
If Steve Spott is correct in saying that T.J. Brennan just needed someone to open the door for him, he got two of them: Garth Snow and (former Leafs, coincidence?) Islanders assistant Greg Cronin. So when training camp concludes, Islanders fans may need to welcome him in and not show him out the door because magic could happen once again.