The Chicago Blackhawks welcome the Washington Capitals to the United Center on Sunday looking to solidify their playoff positioning. It will also be forward Troy Brouwer's first regular-season game in the United Center since the team dealt him for Washington's first-round pick in the 2011 draft.
I'll come right out with it. The 'Hawks miss Brouwer.
Brouwer's naysayers can point out what he can't do until they're blue in the face. No hands. Can't skate. Streaky. Isn't a top-six forward. Can't find a regular line.
Feel free to go on, but Brouwer's departure left a void. Back in June of last year, I wrote the following on Brouwer's impending status as an restricted free agent:
Seems like Brouwer wants to return and it may be more expensive to replace what he brings to the team. Will shoulder surgery keep the offer sheets away? The higher cap allows more dough to offer Brouwer, but is he looking for too much?
With rumors of an impending extension for Patrick Sharp, whispers are building about Brouwer being a trade possibility. That kind of move would hurt if we didn't pick up a rugged guy who will stay in front of the net.
Later that day, GM Stan Bowman dealt Brouwer for the pick that became prospect Phillip Danault. No one with Brouwer's attributes was acquired, though Bowman picked up Andrew Brunette to handle things around the net.
He got Jamal Mayers and Daniel Carcillo to replace the rugged play, then re-signed Michael Frolik with the money he saved by not extending Brouwer. The Capitals signed Brouwer to a two-year agreement with a cap hit of $2.35 million per season.
Bowman thought that Brouwer was expendable and that he could be replaced with players with more upside. What was the result?
Well, Brouwer didn't go off for career numbers with the Caps, but a look at his numbers tells you most of the story. Brouwer is going to post numbers similar to his totals in the previous two seasons with the 'Hawks.
In 71 games, Brouwer has 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points. "See?" go the haters. "He's no better than he was with us. Bowman was right in letting him go!"
Brouwer has been consistent in his production. He may never be more that a rugged 35-40 point player. However, what is wrong with that?
Let's put Brouwer's numbers in perspective. His 18 goals would tie him for third on the 'Hawks this year with the likes of Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane.
Brunette, they player signed to replace Brouwer's prowess in front of the net, and Frolik, who got the money Brouwer earned with his play over the past three years, have 16 goals combined this season. Brouwer also has one more ring than those two players.
Turns out Brouwer has some value after all. Oh, wait. I haven't brought up his hit total yet.
Brouwer is 12th in the NHL right now with 217 hits. That would lead Chicago by a pretty wide margin. In fact, we could count all the hits of Mayers and Carcillo (168) and throw in Brunette's totals in that department (20), and Brouwer still is more accomplished in this department.
Brouwer would have been a physical presence on this year's club and contributed secondary scoring, two things we seem to like in a forward.
Brouwer has also been a solid citizen in the clubhouse. Five of Brouwer's tallies have been game-winners for the Capitals. He leads the team in that category and would currently stand third on the Blackhawks.
All this out of a guy who Joel Quenneville couldn't seem to find a home for in his lineup.
“He’s hard to play against. He’s a tough guy; also, he’s got skill,” Coach Dale Hunter said of the rangy winger. “He’s one of them player combinations that every coach likes.”
Well, perhaps not every coach.