Over the Olympic break, I’ll be doing daily reviews of Chicago Blackhawks players and giving them a grade based on their seasons to date. Today, we examine Sheldon Brookbank.
Brookbank’s status in the lineup has been in constant flux. He and Michal Rozsival have split time almost perfectly with 32 and 33 games played respectively. This has certainly made it difficult for Brookbank to establish any semblance of on-ice rhythm, a factor that we cannot forget when evaluating player performance. Further, Joel Quenneville has somewhat inexplicably played him as a forward in about a dozen of those 32 games. Thus, we have ourselves some bizarre circumstances to take into consideration.
To date in the 2013-14 season, the eye test does not do Brookbank any favors. He has been caught out of position with regularity, usually as a result of his below-average skating agility. He is also a square peg in a round hole as far as his fit into Chicago’s puck possession scheme is concerned. Brookbank’s dearth of puck skills is noticeable, especially when compared to his more able teammates — he is far from adept at handling the puck at the point in the offensive zone or making the first pass in an accelerated breakout.
Brookbank doesn’t fare any better by the numbers. He ranks dead last among Blackhawks defensemen in relative corsi, and the gap between him and the next-worst player is substantial. Moreover, Brookbank has started almost 63 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, evidently indicating that Quenneville significantly shelter his minutes. When taken in conjunction with that, Brookbank’s poor corsi numbers become still more unfavorable.
Nevertheless, the harshest of judgments must be tempered somewhat. As discussed, an absence of rhythm as well as being thrown haphazardly into unnatural positions have had a hand in Brookbank’s rough season. These are not excuses so much as simple reminders that he has often had the cards stacked against him.
Final verdict: D
While his play has been sorely lacking, external factors have added unnecessary difficulty to Brookbank’s season.