Fifty-seven games into the 2013-14 season Derick Brassard has just three fewer points than Derek Stepan despite getting 3.7 less shifts a game and 3 less minutes of ice per game. Brassard, who has 6 points in his last 4 games, has found a role as the team's third line center with the dynamic Mats Zuccarello and the fickle Benoit Pouliot playing on his wings. Some of us expected great things from the 26 year old center after what he showed us what he was capable of in the 2013 NHL Playoffs but most of knew not to expect greatness from him.
What we wanted from Brassard, the biggest name coming our way in the Marian Gaborik trade, was reliable offensive depth and so far that is what he's given us. Although 0.57 points per game is hardly a number that jumps off the page, Brassard, like the rest of the Rangers, had a mediocre start to the season (it took him until October 26th to pot his first goal). Outside of a five-game pointless stretch in November and a four-game pointless stretch in January Brassard has been, in a word, solid. Especially when you consider he is getting just 15:30 TOI/G. Brassard's biggest impact for the Rangers is his production on the power play. Brassard has 14 points on the man advantage which is tied with Brad Richards for second on the team (Mats Zuccarello is first, with 15). Five of his ten goals have come on the man advantage which puts him second on the team in power play goals.
Now I am sure some of you are asking why I am making such a big deal out of what look like very pedestrian numbers but I'd like to point out that Derick Brassard has accomplished all of this on the Rangers' third line and the second power play unit while being 8th among Rangers' forwards in TOI/G. Derick Brassard is providing the depth scoring so many of us have been hoping the Rangers would add to the roster over the last few seasons. Could his numbers be better? Of course they could, but outside of Kreider, McDonagh, and Zuccarello which Rangers are producing the way they should be this season?
Derick Brassard is below average on the dot, he dives and flops around the ice to draw penalties, he opts for the pass far too often, and he isn't nearly as physical as his 88 hits in 56 games might lead you to believe he is... but he's been pretty damn good since becoming a Ranger on April 3rd, 2013. I often wonder what he would do with more ice time or used in a bigger role but considering that he is an RFA at the end of this season, I think I'm grateful that the Rangers are using him in a depth scoring role because it will likely make him more affordable to re-sign.
If the Rangers buy out Brad Richards this offseason they will likely be hunting for another center (Paul Stastny's name has been brought up several times by Larry Brooks) to replace him on the second line. Should the Rangers replace Richards' bad contract with another (likely) bad contract or should they try promoting from within and give Brassard the reins to the second line and use Richards' cap space in a different way? Is Brassard ready for that role? Would it be too big of a gamble given Henrik Lundqvist's window? I'm not sure how I feel about it to be honest with you guys but I've been thinking about it a lot lately. It's something for us all to think about as the season starts to wind down. If the Rangers make it into the postseason again I'm going to be paying very close attention to what Brassard does this time around because if he comes close to playing like he did in the 2013 playoffs he might make the search for Richards' replacement (if he is indeed bought out by the club using their last amnesty buy out) that much more interesting.
As much as I have come to enjoy Brassard and what he brings to the Rangers I'm not convinced that he should be the team's second line center... but I think we all know that he possesses the skills necessary to play in that role. For him it is simply a matter of consistency, confidence, and chemistry with his linemates. It's also a tremendous boon to have center depth and to have a guy as talented as Brassard play on a third line that can score. Perhaps it's in the Rangers' best interest to keep him in this role where he can succeed and provide the depth scoring this team has seemingly been lacking for the past several seasons. When is the last time that the Rangers had a third line that could score goals?
I just wanted to write a little open-discussion piece on a New York Ranger that I have been very pleased with lately and hear what our community thinks about Brassard and his role on the team. Okay, the truth is I just wanted to give us something to talk about other than the Ryan Callahan trade rumors and contract negotiations. They're driving me crazy.
Let me know what you think in the comments section guys and gals.
Let's Go Rangers.
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