Under Ken Hitchcock, it was a given. Kyle Brodziak was the fourth line center. Marked in permanent marker on his dry-erase board. He killed penalties, took defensive-zone face-offs, and played between 10 and 11 minutes per night. Hitchcock is gone now, and Mike Yeo should reconsider his fourth line center
Brodziak played in 69 games last season, scoring 15 points with 8 goals. He had a 49.5% FO%, 47.2% of defensive-zone face-offs, and on the penalty kill the number dropped to 46.1%. His CorsiFor% was 44.1%, and CF% relative to his teammates was -7.8. While we can try to blame this on playing with Ryan Reaves and Scottie Upshall, Reaves CF% was 46.1% and Upshall was 44.6%. This past season was Brodziak’s fourth worst CF% season and his face-off percentage hasn’t been above 50% since 2009. In Dom Luszczyszyn’s (The Athletic) season preview of the Blues, Brodziak was not listed in the top 12 skaters. It’s time to move the 4th line in a different direction.
There are plenty of better options still in Blues camp that can center the 4th line. Oskar Sundqvist is an interesting name, but one of the top options should be Wade Megan. Megan had a great season for the Chicago Wolves last year. While CF% isn’t available for AHL players, Megan was 4th in the league with 66 points, and he had a +/- of +27. Megan averaged .904 points per game last season in the AHL. Using Rob Vollman’s AHL to NHL translation factor of .47, Megan would have about 34 points over an 82-game season. While 34 points is a bit optimistic of a projection, considering he would only be getting 10 to 11 minutes TOI per game, it’s reasonable to believe he can easily outscore Brodziak’s 15 points from last season. I could not find face-off statistics either, but in his 3-game sample with the Blues last season, he won 48.15% of face-offs. While this is a terrible sample size to draw a conclusion on, even if he is worse than Brodziak at face-offs, his offensive skill alone would make him a better 4th line option.
With the injuries to Steen, Fabbri, Berglund, and Sanford, Yeo may decide to go with a more veteran option to center the fourth line. However, past statistics do not support this decision. We’ve already seen the best of what Brodziak can offer, it’s time to remove Hitchcock’s permanent marker and go with an option that offers some upside.