It’s a tough role, Charlie (Mike) Brown

I wrote a post for the Backhand Shelf this morning that examined the role of the average fighter. I concluded that many regular players in the NHL who accrued a lot of fights also had a specific role on their team. As it happens, Mike Brown had 10 fights with the Maple Leafs last season, but I couldn’t speficially determine his role from the advanced stats without some sort of context.

Brown has 19 fights in two seasons with the Leafs, with a record, according to the voters on, of 9-5-5. It’s a pretty good win percentage, but that hasn’t helped the Leafs closer to a playoff spot, nor has it prevented the Leafs’ best forwards from getting hit and taken advantage of for their small size.

To take a line from Office Space, “what would you say, you do here”?

In each of his two seasons with the Leafs, Brown has faced the weakest competition according to Corsi Rel QoC, which is essentially the average possession rate of his opposition. [2010-11, 2011-12] He’s never been too much of a factor with his own puck possession, and the four Leafs he has seen 200 minutes with, Luke Schenn, Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson and David Steckel, all have better possession rates without Brown than with him.

Among forwards, Brown was 8th on the Leafs in penalty killing time last season, playing about 37 seconds a game with the Leafs down a man. That is down from 1:35 a season prior, when he was ranked 6th. The Leafs brought their “goals against per 60 minutes shorthanded” down from 7.9 to 7.4 in that span. Did Brown not being on the ice make a difference?

Well, by looking at this and this

  Leafs GA/60 Brown GA/60
2010-11 7.9 9.9
2011-12 7.4 11.4

It’s not ALL Brown and the Leafs have a lot of issues on the penalty kill, but Brown’s presence on the PK didn’t help the Leafs concede fewer goals.

He doesn’t score goals, either. In both years, he was last on the Leafs in goals for per 60 minutes, excepting Fredrik Sjostrom in 2011. Brown scored 0.29 goals per 60 minutes at even strength in 2011 and almost an identical 0.28 in 2012.


Brown doesn’t do much. He’ll hit on occasion and fight, but his toughness hasn’t really proved to have any positive aspect on the Leafs. Despite this, he’s still under contract for two more seasons on a one-way deal. Brown is not exempt from waivers, like Colton Orr when the Leafs sent him down midway through last season.

Would the Leafs send him down and open up space for a fourth line composed of Steckel, Jay McClement and Leo Komarov as checking and faceoff specialists? It would probably be better defensively, and they’re a core group of players you can use on the PK and not tire out your major players. I think this would be the preferable road, honestly, as I don’t see much value of being Mike Brown on the Leafs.

It’s a tough job, and Brown auditioned well and did everything his role asked him to. The problem is that players with his role have little positive impact on a hockey team.

  • Markas

    He’s a fighter, that can skate well and hit. I think there’s a place for him considering none of the 11 forwards display much grit at all.

    I know there’s no statistical link between championships and toughness, but I think most fans want a team that’s not completely soft.

  • Danny Gray

    It’s funny because I remember being okay with Brown because he “wasn’t Colton Orr” and I thought he was a very minor plus Corsi player who could fill in on the PK. He also skates pretty well. But it seems as though he’s only one of those things.

  • Danny Gray

    Why does everyone skate around the fact that the team has too much bottom 6 depth on the leafs of smaller and untalented players.

    There is 13 NHL players on teams (including RFA kulemin). Plus Orr, Komorov and Kadri makes it 16. But there are 14 forwards slot available.

    We know what will happen if Burke can’t trade away his garbage in another Phaneuf like deal. Kadri will be demoted for waiver purposes (rather than risk losing brown, lombardi connolly etc). They will blame Kadri’s size and defensive game and overlook Lombardi. Kadri needs to develop defensively but that is why other teams shelter a play like him. No but people blame his size or attitude. Give it a break – it is more about waivers because if Lombardi and Kadri had the same contract, Lombardi would be the one in AHL.

    Enough of Kadri. This bottom 6 on leafs is terribly constructed – some size but as soft as the top 6. Great depth with many marginal and ineffective players. Burke clean house and replace them with better players that play like they care.

  • Top shelf

    “The problem is that players with his role have little positive impact on a hockey team”

    Isn’t this kind of par for the course for all 4th liners.

    After reading the many comments on PPP I noticed the overwhelming feeling was that McClement’s advanced stats the last two years were awful.

    You also curiously came to the conclusion that Komarov would be better than Brown without Komarov having played one minute in the NHL.