On Sunday afternoon, the Anaheim Ducks made a small transaction. They claimed a 27-year-old winger that was averaging 9 minutes of playing time per game this season. In the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a huge move. A Western Conference team that has had some issues keeping their forwards healthy added some depth as they fight for a playoff spot. Unfortunately, for some fans in Tampa, that player was J.T. Brown.
Brown, a Minnesota native, skated in 286 games with the Lightning during parts of six seasons. In that time he accumulated 61 points on 19 goals and 42 assists. He would occasionally find himself skating with the likes of Vincent Lecavalier and Nikita Kucherov, but spent most of his time with the Lightning grinding out his minutes on the bottom two lines.
The shift in his roles was an interesting look that Loserpoints explored earlier in the season. Did Brown become a 4th liner because that’s where his skills dictated he should play or did he change the way he played to adapt to a role thrust upon him by the coaching staff? Coming out of college he was a scorer, but that trait didn’t carry over to the NHL. While he was good at creating chances, he never seemed to be able to finish them off, indicated by his 4.5% shooting percentage over the course of his career. That number isn’t the result of a lot of wild swings in the percentage, either. His lowest was 3.5% and his highest 5.7%, not an extremely large delta.
Since scoring goals wasn’t part of his game he did work hard on other assets, forechecking and puck transition. As Loserpoints shows in his post, Brown was really good at getting the puck out of his zone and into the offensive zone. It’s just that once he got it into the zone there was a little trouble in getting it into the back of the net. Still, when a fourth-line player is getting the puck out of trouble and into the opponent’s end, it helps swing the flow of the game.
That he was one of the few Lightning players that was willing and able to drop the gloves endeared him to a portion of the fanbase as well. Tampa Bay is never going to be confused with the Flyers of the Broad Street Bullies era, but even in today’s NHL every team still can benefit from a player that can scrap it up a bit. While filling out an entire team with “grit” might not be the best way to win a Stanley Cup, having a player that gets under the skin of opposing players by finishing checks and and dishing out the occasional face wash in goalmouth scrums is worth a spot.
According to hockeyfights.com, Brown was involved in sixteen fights during his time with the Lightning, with nine of them coming in the last two seasons. His last fight was in Ottawa, during an ugly game that saw the Senators hook, obstruct and interfere (most of which went uncalled) their way to a 4-3 shootout loss. In the third period the Lightning forward took on Ben Harpur, a 6’6” defender who weighs 225 lbs. Brown, punching way above his weight class, and held his own against the larger man. It was a typical JT Brown game - 8 minutes of playing time, 11 shifts, 2 hits, 50% in the face-off dot, no individual shots, on the ice for two Corsi events for and two against.
Can the Lightning replace his hockey card stats? Yes. It won’t be hard to replace 1 goal and 3 assists,but it will be interesting to see who steps into the agitator role. A healthy Ryan Callahan occupies that space frequently or possibly a call up like Adam Erne will fill out that role. Time will tell.
A brief video history of J.T. Brown’s time with the Lightning
2011-12 - 5 games, 1 assist, 13:51 Time On Ice
On March 28, 2012, Brown sacrificed his final two seasons of eligibility at the University of Minnesota- Duluth to sign a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. One of the biggest names on the college free agent circle, Brown chose the Lightning over his other options because, according to the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, “it came down to the right opportunity and the right fit with the right team”. ^
Special advisor to the General Manager Tom Kurvers agreed, telling the paper, “He plays hard both ways, he’s aggressive, he has speed, moves the puck, has a scoring knack and is a clutch performer...His competitiveness is so noticeable and he has a little evil streak, which he’s learned to control.”
The Lightning chose to burn off the first year of the contract (probably part of the reason he was willing to sign with them) by playing him in the team’s final five games. In the final game of the season against Winnipeg he picked up the first point of his career - an assist on Teddy Purcell’s 23rd goal of the season.
It’s not the most glamorous first career point, but it is a bit of an indicator as to how he would score points in the NHL. Brown (sporting a “49” on his jersey) nudges the puck to Vincent Lecavalier in the neutral zone and then charges the net. He occupies the defender in front and allows Lecavalier to slide the pass cleanly to Purcell who slams it into the back door.
Unfortunately his first point is overshadowed not only by Purcell’s hat trick, but also by Steven Stamkos netting his 60th goal of the year. The face that he was on the ice with Lecavalier and Purcell showed that the Lightning thought highly of his offensive prowess.
2012-13 - 0 games, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0:00 Time on Ice
Brown spent the year in Syracuse and racked up 10 goals and 18 assists in 51 games with the Crunch during the regular season despite breaking his collarbone in late December. He returned in time for the playoffs and had 4 goals and 5 assists as the Crunch fell just short of winning the Calder Cup, losing in Game 6 of the finals to Grand Rapids.
2013-14 - 63 games, 4 goals, 15 assists, 13:02 Time on Ice
The season started in Syracuse again for Brown. He was off to a great start, with 10 points in 13 games skating with a couple of other soon-to-be familiar names - Vlad Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov (hence the JT Brownov nickname that still adorns his Twitter feed). He would be recalled to Tampa on November 11th, 2013. Once again, his good news was overshadowed by Steven Stamkos. The recall was a result of a rather unfortunate moment in Stamkos’ career.
Throughout the season his playing time would vacillate between 10 and 15 minutes a game as he was part of the “TampaCuse” invasion of young talent that helped the team make back into the playoffs during Coach Jon Cooper’s first full year behind the bench. No matter how much or how little he played, Brown shot the puck while he was on the ice, accumulating a career-high 1.79 shots per game.
Three games into his callup, Brown would add another career highlight (and for once Stamkos was not able to steal his glory).
This time it’s Purcell setting up Brown as the pass-happy winger dishes the puck to him and he rips it past Mike Smith. It was Brown’s second point in his first three games as he had picked up an assist the game before in Anaheim.
Just a little over a month after he scored his first goal, he had his one and only multi-goal game in a Lightning uniform as he scored twice against Florida in a 6-1 win.
The first goal is the result of Brown getting in front of the net and basically being the last member of the Lightning to touch the puck after it pinballs around in front of the Panthers net.
The second is a beautiful finish off of a Kucherov (yes that’s him wearing 56) pass on a two-on-one.
In the playoffs, the duo would hook up again for the first goal of the series against Montreal.
Brown did a nice job of controlling a bouncing puck (and credit to the Canadian media for finding a way to blame PK Subban) and then waiting for Kucherov to get into a scoring position. Brown ended up picking up another assist in Game 4 as the Lightning were swept by Montreal.
2014-15 - 52 games, 3 goals, 6 assists, 10:36 Time on Ice
Battling injuries throughout the year, Brown’s progress took a bit of step back in the 2014-15 season. Since the Lightning were undefeated in games where he scored a goal, it would have been nice if he did it a little more that season. His nicest goal of the year came against Boston.
Showing some of that speed and competitiveness that Kurvers mentioned back when they signed him, Brown splits the defense, fights off a slash on the stick by the man-mountain Zdeno Chara and beats Tuukka Rask with a nice wrist shot.
Despite a rough regular season, Brown did find himself playing quite a bit in the Lightning’s long postseason run. After being held off the scoresheet through the first seven games he appeared in, he finally broke the schneid in the Lightning’s 6-2 win over Montreal in Game 2 of the second round.
For a first playoff goal, it was pretty creative. Brown tips the puck almost straight into the air and on it’s side so that it hits the ice behind Carey Price and rolls straight into the net. Based on the replay, Brown didn’t even know it was in since he was cross-checked into Price by Greg Pateryn. This is also video footage of the only time a player made contact with Carey Price without it resulting in a goal being waived off for goaltender interference.
Of course, despite scoring a goal with a difficulty of 9.5, Brown lost the headline battle to Stamkos yet again as the Lightning captain snapped an 8-game scoreless streak and started throwing equipment into the stands.
2015-16 78 games, 8 goals, 14 assists, 13:22 Time on Ice
After a rough regular season, J.T. Brown bounced back for the best year of his career with the Lightning. He stayed healthy and found a nice role as depth scorer on a line with Valtteri Filppula. He shot the puck more (140 shots) and they were successful a career-high 5.7% of the time.
He added two more assists in the playoffs, both coming in the Eastern Conference Finals against Pittsburgh. The first came on Jonathan Drouin’s game-tying goal late in Game 2.
It was a heads up play by Brown in the neutral zone to get it to Drouin who had a ton of momentum built up. He even gets a “Watch J.T. Brown right here” from Pierre McGuire. Sadly McGuire did not give us Brown’s hockey playing lineage during the highlight. Brown added another assist in Game 4, but it wasn’t enough for the Lightning to win the series.
2016-17 - 64 games, 3 goals, 3 assists, 10:22 Time on Ice
The transition from aggressive, talented scorer to aggressive, talented fourth liner is complete. Brown is now part of a rotation of forwards that Coach Cooper rotates in and out to keep fresh. He plays well enough, but he just stops generating offense. His shots per game plummets to 1.05/60 and he puts up the worst possession numbers of his career.
He remains a part of the penalty kill and picks up the first short handed goal of his career.
As the puck ricochets out to the middle of the ice, Brown turns on the jets and breaks in all alone on Jaroslav Halak. A shifty fake gets the Islanders netminder out of position and Brown flips over his glove and into the back of the net.
A few weeks later he tormented Halak again for his second goal of the season and the first game-winning goal of his career.
He went to the front of the net and Cedric Paquette got him the puck. Eschewing any fancy tricks he just snaps it into the back of the net for the only goal Andrei Vasilevskiy would need in the 4-0 shutout.
It wasn’t a goal that sparked the most personal attention for Brown during the season. While trailing Nashville 3-0, Brown was blindsided by Nashville’s Ryan Ellis.
As you can see, Brown did not meekly accept the hit as he buries Ellis on the ice with a flurry of punches. The incident the announcers refer to during the replay is this hit Brown put on Roman Josi:
Following the “fight” with Ellis, as Brown was heading down the tunnel he swatted a cell phone out of the hand of Nashville fan who was heckling him. A minor internet fury ensued and then died out after Brown reached out to the fan and replaced his phone.
2017-18 24 games, 1 goal, 3 assists 9:22 Time on Ice
For a national audience and a local one, Brown’s year on the ice was overshadowed by the actions he took off the ice. He touched off a discussion in the hockey world when he became the first NHL player to peacefully demonstrate against police brutality and racial injustice by raising his fist during the national anthem. He followed that action up by partnering with the Tampa Police Department. He participated with the police and fellow athletes from the Tampa Bay area to bring a little normalcy to Seminole Heights on Halloween during a time when a spate of murders had gripped the community.
During that he kept adjusting to the role of 4th-line forward, appearing in just over half of the Lightning’s games. His one goal came against Anaheim (must have impressed their GM).
His last goal and point in a Lightning uniform was a prototypical 4th-line goal. Ryan Callahan is relentless with his forecheck and causes a turnover. The puck comes to Chris Kunitz who backhands a puck out in front to Brown. He waits just a second and wrists it into the upper corner over John Gibson’s glove.
Good luck to JT Brown in Anaheim. Ducks fans are getting a player that may not be on the ice a lot, but will do everything the team asks of him.
^ Pates, Kevin. “UMD Sophomore Winger J.T. Brown Turns Pro, Signs with Lightning.” Saint Paul Pioneer PressMar 28 2012. ProQuest. Web. 15 Jan. 2018