Ever since the Chicago Blackhawks nabbed him in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (214th overall), Troy Brouwer was a part of that organization. He worked his way up from draft day obscurity to become a common linemate for Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Brouwer often played the role of a bodyguard – although he provided a reasonable amount of finishing touch, peaking with 22 goals in 2009-10 – for one of the better on-again, off-again lines in the league. He wasn’t that far off in 2010-11 with 17 goals, but a shoulder injury caught up with him, as Brouwer failed to score a single point in Chicago’s seven-game series against the Vancouver Canucks.
That letdown stamped Brouwer’s ticket out of Chicago, something he admitted to CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers. His agent prepared him to expect a change, which eventually came when the Blackhawks sent him to the Washington Capitals for a first round pick.
Sunday marked a somewhat awkward reunion for Brouwer and his teammates, then, as the Capitals beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in a preseason game. He admitted that it was strange to be in a position to land hits on his former teammates … although he joked that Kane was the exception.
“I’ve had to fight a couple times because of that little bugger. Maybe I’ll give him a little payback,” joked Brouwer, who had an assist against his old team in the Capitals’ 4-1 victory. “I don’t want to hit him and end up in the hospital with another shoulder surgery.”
Brouwer won’t have to deal with a whole lot of other awkward reunions, though, as the Capitals only play the Blackhawks once during the 2011-12 regular season. (Washington faces Chicago at the United Center on March 18, 2012.)
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of role Brouwer will be in that deep into the season. He was fortunate enough to draw a great assignment alongside finesse players in Chicago, but Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau is tasked with finding the right place for him in Washington. Myers reports that Brouwer has been blessed with assignments alongside Alex Ovechkin so far, but the preseason isn’t always the best indicator for line combinations.
Still, the Capitals invested enough in Brouwer to give him a shot as a “sandpaper” compliment to some of their high-scoring players. If he fits in well, then the team could mix up their lines to give themselves more scoring depth. He might have to fight fellow newcomer Joel Ward for that duty, although it wouldn’t be outrageous to see the two of them on the same line from time to time, either.
People have been bellowing about the Capitals’ lack of grit for years, so those same critics should be glad to see Brouwer and Ward join the team’s roster. Combine those two with solid two-way guys such as Mike Knuble and Brooks Laich and all of a sudden, Washington has the versatility to win “ugly” as often as they can blow people out.
In other words, they’re starting to look a lot like Brouwer’s old team.