You get lucky sometimes, and there's a moment that perfectly encapsulates a player and his play for that season, or month, or career. When Troy Brouwer whiffed on a check in Montreal, stumbled, and crashed into the boards further injuring his shoulder, it summed it up better than I ever could. Because after a breakout year in 2009-2010, with free agency looming, Brouwer just kind of whiffed on the whole year. He didn't get a lot of help from the coaches, but he didn't help himself that much either.
Positives: Well, 17 goals is hardly a contribution to sneeze at. When he finally was returned to the top line along Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, where he spent a good deal of last year, that line clicked pretty well. Brouwer provides the size and net-presence the two kids need to be ultra-successful, and Brouwer did that. Brouwer is also one of the few Hawks that camps in front of the net and possess the size to stay there. He also tried to be a physical force, the rare Hawk who would make a hit and make it count, especially amongst the forwards. Brouw also never complained when he was being shuffled up and down the lineup, seemingly based on that day's weather pattterns. Troy also turned in a respectable performance on the penalty kill.
Negatives: 17 goals looks less impressive when you had 22 the year before and had the looks of a true power forward in the making. The constant changing of his role didn't help. Brouwer seemed to have a shorter leash than a lot of players, getting yanked off the top line after just one or two non-stellar performances. Deployed on the 4th line wasted his scoring ability. It's as if his versatility was a curse for him. Because you can play Brouwer on a checking line and he won't let you down there with his defensive IQ. Though Brouwer has the body to be blocking out the sun in the opposing crease, he didn't score enough goals from there. Brouwer should be banging home 30 a year, and 20 of them should come from no more than five feet out. Could have hit more than he did as well, as he's got decent wheels and the frame. We found out later that his shoulder was hurt all year, which could explain the 22-game goal drought he went through to end the season. Surgery last week may not even have him ready for training camp, possiby the start of the season.
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent
Keep Him or Ship Him: This is kind of a tricky call for GM Stan Bowman, and with his post-season surgery it only gets murkier. On the one hand, the Hawks just don't have a lot of what Brouwer provides, i.e. a big winger with a scoring touch. And Brouwer promises to be much more than that. He could be a true power forward in this league, and there's only a handful of those. But on the other, he might just be this 15-20 goal guy coming off shoulder surgery. That will keep his price down though, one would have to imagine. Unless Brouwer asks for ridiculous money, he should be retained because this type of player don't come around much. He would look great on a line with Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik if the Top 6 are getting the expected overhaul.