Capitals' Brouwer relishes new role, high expectations
Thursday, 09.19.2013 / 4:44 PM
By Adam Vingan
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Throughout five full NHL seasons, Washington Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer has had a lot of jobs: punishing body checker, versatile power forward, outspoken leader. But last season, he added one to his résumé: finisher.
"Last year on my line, I was the shooter," Brouwer told NHL.com Thursday. "I've never been the outright guy on my line before."
While preparing for his first season as coach, Adam Oates saw enough from the 28-year-old watching video of his final seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks and his first season with the Capitals to trust him with an expanded offensive role. It paid off; Brouwer finished second on the team and nearly set career-highs -- he was on pace to do so over the course of a full season -- in goals (19) and shots (111) in 47 games.
Oates is expecting more of the same, if not more, this season.
Brouwer's best season before 2012-13 came with the Chicago Blackhawks four years ago. He had 22 goals and 40 points in 78 games, then followed that with four goals and eight points in 19 Stanley Cup Playoff games as the club won a championship.
"I know that's in his skill set," Oates said. "He's a big strong guy that we're going to ask to score a lot of goals."
Brouwer credited two things for his productive 2012-13 season: playing with center Mike Ribeiro (now with the Phoenix Coyotes) and his position in the slot on Washington's 1-3-1 power play, where he scored seven goals for the League's most potent unit.
The Capitals got off to a slow start, including a 2-8-1 stretch to begin the season, and Brouwer scored nine times in the first 20 games. He finished strong, scoring six times in the final eight games when Washington put the final touches on a surprising comeback to claim the final edition of the Southeast Division.
"[Ribeiro] told me that he never wanted the puck back," Brouwer said. "Whenever he gave it to me, he wanted me to shoot, and so I did. I feel like I have a pretty decent shot. Being in the spot I was on the power play as well, it gives me a lot of really good looks at trying to score goals."
Brouwer will look to replicate his success from last season on a new-look second line that, if practice Thursday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex is any indication, could have Brooks Laich at left wing and Mikhail Grabovski in the middle. The trio did not have an opportunity to work together before Thursday with Laich nursing a left hip flexor injury and Grabovski recently resolving his visa issues.
Brouwer said Thursday it may take time to develop chemistry with new linemates, but even though he, Grabovski and Laich have skated together as a unit for roughly an hour, they have forged an identity.
"We want to work hard," Brouwer said. "We want to be a line that's an offensive threat and has the ability to score. We want to be a hardworking line. Make it tough, and at the same time, create some offense, but also have some energy and be a lift for our team whenever possible."