In an effort to improve the team's fourth line and performance at the face-off circle, GM Jim Rutherford decided to sign Tim Brent to a two-year deal which had a very low cap hit of $750k. Brent was coming off a solid season with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the thought was that he would help give the Hurricanes' fourth line some structure, possibly help their penalty kill and win a few face-offs. Brent ended up helping in only one of those three areas, but he contributed in a lot of other different ways, some of which not many expected.
Brent played on the fourth line for the majority of the season, but he also saw ample time on the powerplay and posted a career high 12 goals and 24 points. For someone who regularly plays fourth line minutes, that is very good and surpassed a lot of the expectations people had for Brent this season. Brent actually was a key part of the second powerplay unit being very effective playing the point there and it showed a side of his game that not many knew he had. He is expected to continue playing his role as the fourth-line center throughout next season but what are the chances that he has another year like this one? We will explore that issue and take a closer look at Brent's season after the jump.
|2011 - Tim Brent
As it was mentioned in the introduction, Brent had a career season in terms of goals and points with 12 and 24 respectively. With the Hurricanes struggling to get a lot of offense from their top-six, receiving production from secondary and tertiary sources is crucial and Brent was able to help out in that department. He was always known as one of the hardest working players on the team and it was good to see him get rewarded for it every now and then. Brent was also one of the team's better shot blocking forwards as he ranked behind Brandon Sutter & Patrick Dwyer in even strength blocked shot percentage. In addition to that, managed to create more turnovers for the Hurricanes with 19 takeaways compared to only 13 giveaways. This is probably the result of him not handling the puck that much, though.
The biggest surprise with Brent this season was his powerplay production. The fact that he was being used regularly on the powerplay came as a shocker to me but how good he was on the powerplay was an even bigger surprise. Around late January/early February, Brent became a fixture on the second powerplay unit and he was actually very successful when playing the point there. Brent doesn't have the biggest shot in the world so one would think that his skills are more suited for the half-wall or a net-front presence type role, but Carolina's powerplay was producing more scoring chances no matter where Brent was playing.
|PP SCF/15 mins
The numbers do not lie here folks. Brent was a stud on the powerplay this year. It is a little funny that this is where Brent was the most useful this season because he was initially signed to be more of a defensive center, but I am sure that the Hurricanes are fine that he ended up giving the powerplay a boost instead.
While I am glad that Brent had a good season point-wise, I have my doubts that he can have another year like this because Brent's underlying numbers at even strength do not paint a pretty picture. Being in a fourth line role, Brent was used mostly in a protected role against other team's fourth lines and despite that he ranked dead last in Corsi Relative among forwards. This means that Brent struggled to get the puck up ice and spent most of the time in his own zone when playing at five-on-five. From a shot and scoring chance prevention standpoint, he wasn't terrible but Brent had a lot of problems on the forecheck and in the neutral zone.
So how was Brent able to score nine goals at even strength then? His 16.9% shooting percentage helps explains that. Brent was able to find the back of the net once every 5-6 times he shot the puck, which shows that he is either an amazing shooter or got incredibly lucky. With how little Brent shoots the puck, it's more likely to be the latter. The Hurricanes also shot at 9.2% at even strength when Brent was on the ice, which was pretty high compared to the other forwards. Why is this a bad thing? Mostly because it shows that Brent had the dice roll in his favor more than a few times this year and the chances of him shooting at nearly 17% next season are pretty low, so a drop in point-production might be around the corner.
Brent also struggled at the face-off circle this year with a success rate of only 48.7%. The only regular face-off takers with a lower percentage were Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner. Brent doesn't take that many important draws (most of those go to Sutter & Staal) but one of his strengths before this season was supposedly being able to win face-offs and we didn't see it that much this season. Brent was also bumped off the penalty kill about two months into the season and the reason for that was because he was terrible at preventing shots against. His powerplay production made up for this but the penalty kill has been one of Carolina's weak points over the last couple of years and Brent was originally signed to help there. You can see that clearly didn't work out.
Brent is signed to a two-year deal that pays him $700k this year and $800k the next. Brent definitely gave the Hurricanes a lot for what they were paying him because he centered the fourth line on just about every night, was used regularly on the powerplay and gave them a decent amount of production on top of that. $750k is the going rate for a lot of fourth liners these days and it is a bargain for someone who scores 12 goals so I don't think Brent's contract is an issue at all.
The Final Word:
Poor underlying numbers aside, Brent had a good season and it is hard to complain when your fourth line center gives you 12 goals and 24 points. He did just about everything that was asked of him, worked hard and gave the Hurricanes some much needed scoring from their bottom-two lines. There are areas where Brent needs to improve his game if he wants to have another 10+ goal season in the future, though and it all starts with him being able to drive the play at a stronger rate. I look forward to seeing if he improves in that area next season.
What grade would you give Timmy Brent's performance with the Hurricanes this year? Give him an A if he blew away your expectations, give him a C if he did what you expected him to or give him an F if he completely let you down. Also tell us how you think Brent will do next season. Do the high shooting percentage and poor possession stats concern you, or do you think he will be fine? Tell us in the comments.