AHL good for Brodie long-term

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

NASHVILLE -- Sending T.J. Brodie to the minors is not a step back for the Calgary Flames prospect.

It's a step forward -- and will likely result in a giant leap.

On the surface, the moves which result in Brodie going to the AHL Abbotsford Heat and the club grabbing Brendan Mikkelson off waivers appears like another example of Flames GM Darryl Sutter opting for experience over youth, just for the sake of it.

That's a short-sighted view.

What impact Mikkelson has with the Flames remains to be seen, but Brodie's future is easily the bigger issue, and spending time with the Heat under the tutelage of Jim Playfair will do him a world of good.

"You still have to take care of the long-term of it, and he showed in training camp he has those skills, but he has got to get bigger and stronger," Sutter said.

"He has the assets and attributes he needs to play in the NHL, but he just turned 20, and (he's) playing against men ... He has to play a lot of minutes, and that 12 to 15 (a game) doesn't cut it."

Brodie will receive those minutes with the Heat. He wouldn't in Calgary. At least, not yet.

Sure, he was outstanding in the prospects tournament.

He was also good in the pre-season and deserved a spot on the Flames' opening night roster and to play in a few games. Ultimately, it was too early for him to be a full-time NHLer.

Brodie, who is the club's best fourth-round pick since Toni Lydman was drafted in 1996, averaged 16 minutes of ice time in his three NHL games, and ended up pointless and a minus-3.

He's not alone on the minus side of the ledger -- Ian White and Jay Bouwmeester were minus-2 going into Tues-day night's clash, while Steve Staios was minus-4 -- so it's not the big reason.

Brodie struggled on a few glaring plays. Think of Los Angeles Kings forward Jarret Stoll zipping around him or being caught up the ice when Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle netted his highlight-reel tally.

Just think how much better off he is going to the minors with those games under his belt. Instead of only playing pre-season games before being told by the coaching staff what he must improve on, Brodie will now play a bunch of minor-league games -- provided the injury wave doesn't destroy the Flames' blueline crew -- with more knowledge.

"It was huge to allow him to play some games off the bat so he understands and knows the difference between regular season and exhibition and training camp," said Flames head coach Brent Sutter.

"It's about the intensity and where his level of game needs to be at.

"He was fine in those three games, but there's certain areas -- like any young guy -- that he can improve."

Brodie realizes he has a golden chance to work on his game.

"A little disappointed, but I sorta expected to be sent down at the beginning of camp," he said while waiting to board a flight to Chicago to join the Heat. "I don't think it went too, too bad, but I have work to do."

As great as Brodie is at skating, he must pack some muscle onto his frame, which hovers just above 180-lb. right now.

"I'm not a big guy people are going to be scared to go into the corners with, so I have to work on my strength but also my positioning and my stick to be more effective," Brodie said.

He will be effective at the NHL level.

Just give it time.

As Darryl Sutter said: "You know clearly what direction he's going."

Soon enough, it'll be on that return trip to the Flames as a more complete player.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca


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