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The Sweater Series (Or Notable Numbers) #2: Eric Brewer

Do you remember 2004? When a team of plucky young studs were shredding the NHL’s Eastern Conference, but just needed a little more? Plucky young GM Jay Feaster swung a deal to bring in defenseman Darryl Sydor from the Columbus Blue Jackets for forward Alexander Svitov in a still-underrated trade that solidified the back end and helped the team on its way to an eventualStanley Cup championship.

Fast forward to the 2010-2011 season, which was supposed to be a rebuilding year. The Lightning, now led by GM Steve Yzerman is unexpectedly in contention for a playoff run– not just a playoff spot, but an actual run. In between lifting X-Wing fighters out of the swamp using only his mind and constructing unbelievably convoluted plans to someday swap future captains with the New York Rangers, Yzerman realized his team needs some extra oomph on the back end.

Yzerman had spoken of wanting to follow the model that had been so successful in Detroit with the “Red Wings” (never heard of ’em), with a focus on developing talent in-house, keeping prospects, building through the draft, etc. But seeing the Lightning kicking a little bit of tail and with a chance to do some damage, SY swapped a third round pick and prospect Brock Beukeboom to acquire Eric Brewer from the St. Louis Blues.

A former fifth-overall pick (1997) who won an Olympic Gold Medal with Team Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the captain of the Blues at the time he was traded, Brewer turned out to be critical in what became a run to Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Final, where the Lightning lost to the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins (grrrr). He played heavy minutes and provided one goal and seven points in the eighteen game run, including a three point game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round.

Since then? Brewer has continued as a mainstay on the Tampa Bay blueline. There are often grumblings about his speed and performance from fans and sometimes the media, and the constant pylon jokes are getting old, people. But the Lightning see value in Brewer’s contributions. When Martin St. Louis was traded to New York and Steven Stamkos was named captain, Brewer was made alternate captain in Stamkos’ place.

At this point in his career, Brewer would probably look better if he were playing fewer minutes, but with Sami Salo an unrestricted free agent and a young defence corps, Brewer will probably be a workhorse again this season. Expect solid minutes, but also expect pylon jokes.

Other Lightning Players to wear #2: Stephane J.G. Richer, Bob Beers, Enrico Ciccone, Bill Houlder, Mike McBain, Paul Mara, Stan Neckar, Timo Helbling, Dan Jancevski, Alexandre Picard, and Lukas Kraijcek.

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