It’s an all-too-familiar and on-the-cusp-of-extremely-annoying sound for Jonny Brodzinski.
But no matter how many posts the rookie Reign forward has hit this season (two last game, two on Nov. 25 and really too many to count), Brodzinski won’t let his development, or his attitude, be defined by the sound of speeding rubber hitting a red goalpost.
“I get a lot of grief from it from the guys too. They’ll go in eventually, I keep telling myself that and that’s what I keep hearing but it’s pretty crazy the amount of posts I’ve hit,” said Brodzinski, who’s scoreless through 17 games.
On paper, the 22-year-old Minnesota native has no goals, two assists, but no Reign player has been as snakebitten as he has. Only five Reign forwards have more shots on goal than Brodzinski’s 25. Every Reign forward that’s been a regular this season has at least one goal.
“I keep telling everybody he’s a shooter and I keep telling everybody he’s a sniper and he’s o-fer,” said a perplexed Reign head coach Mike Stothers earlier this week. “So I think if he was to become a hunter, the deer are safe right now because he just can’t seem to buy a goal. It’s just crazy.”
Stothers is right. Brodzinski is a shooter, is a sniper, as displayed by his three 20-plus goal seasons during his collegiate time at St. Cloud State. The many times Brodzinski’s beat the opposing goalie but not the goal frame behind him it’s been from the circle, the high slot, shooter’s territory.
Luckily, or not-so-luckily, whichever way you want to look at it, Brodzinski has dealt with a scoring slump before, just last season, his final one with the Huskies. “It was eight games where I just couldn’t put the puck in the back of the net. I’d have nine shots a game and I just couldn’t do it,” Brodzinski said. “You’ve just gotta keep going, keep plugging away and they’ll go in.”
Positivity in this type of situation is key and Brodzinski doesn’t lack that. He’s been lauded by Kings brass as a smart, coachable player. All the reasons why he was selected by Los Angeles in as the 148th pick in the 2013 draft.
“It’s interesting that he hasn’t put up any numbers and goals and offensive stuff like that,” said Nelson Emerson, the Kings’ Director of Player Development. “But you know what’s interesting about Jonny and what I appreciate is he doesn’t try to change the way the game is supposed to be played.
“Coach has a system that Brodz needs to play and he’s doing it and he’s not trying to vary from that to go and maybe create some offense or score a goal. That has been excellent because he’s playing the system, he’s doing the right things, he’s become – and started his career – he’s a real pro already. So that’s really positive.”
Positivity is a theme with Brodzinski. “We’re trying to stay positive with him and encourage him and make sure he’s not getting down on himself. At this point it doesn’t appear that he is,” Stothers said.
But Brodzinski admits that there were some growing pains early in the season, with or without goals. The AHL, being the developmental league that it is, still takes some getting used to.
“It was pretty tough at the beginning. I think the first eight games was kind of the barrier that I set that it was just a learning phase,” Brodzinski said. “After that I feel like I’ve gained a lot more confidence with the puck, especially in the offensive zone just shooting a lot more.”
As Brodzinski broke that barrier, he joined the top line with left winger Michael Mersch and center Nic Dowd in the third period when the Reign were getting shut out on Nov. 14 against Bakersfield. He was awarded the following Texas road trip as Stothers started with that line together. Mersch, who leads the Reign with 11 goals, knows a thing or two about scoring and when to shed wisdom and when to let things be.
“We just try to give him little tips and sometimes you just want to leave him alone because when you try to tell somebody too much maybe it will get in their head and you start over-thinking things,” Mersch said. “Little tips here and there, stay positive with him. Hopefully one of us can give him a good backdoor tap-in and get him going.
“He’s a great player though, it’s going to come around. Everybody develops in different ways so you have to keep that in mind. It will happen though, without a doubt.”
Brodzinski will have another chance this weekend as the Reign travel to Charlotte to play the Checkers on Saturday and Sunday. This time he’s expected to be playing with Paul Bissonnette and Ryan Horvat (tough guys), so perhaps his string of tough luck with conclude in Charlotte.
“It defies me because the chances he’s gotten, the shots he’s taken that they haven’t gone in,” Stothers said, later adding, “I still truly believe once he does they’re going to go in on a regular basis.”
So with each tick of the game clock and each passing game, the Reign eagerly await what is to come for Jonny Brodzinski.
Burying pucks isn’t the end all be all, but it is where the microscope falls for now, at least till the first one falls.
And then what happens?
“We’re probably going to have to take a timeout just to give him a big hug,” Stothers said.