The 2015-16 season was definitely one to remember for Derick Brassard. The 28 year old center put up a career best season, thanks, in part, to some generous shooting luck, and established himself as a bona fide top line center for the Rangers.
Statline: 27 goals (+8), 31 assists (-10), 58 points (+2) in 80 games played (0) 47.4% CF at even strength
(Numbers in parentheses show change from 2014-15, all numbers at even strength and courtesy of War-On-Ice)
The Story: In a season that felt like some kind of cruel social experiment designed to test the sanity of large groups of people, Derick Brassard's breakout was one of the few instances that could be seen as a bright spot. Paired mostly with Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash this season, Brassard was one of the few good constants that the Rangers could count on to put the puck in the net as the season wore on.
When I graded J.T. Miller's season, I mentioned that Miller's solid possession play allowed him to create his shooting luck that led to his strong season. Unfortunately for Brassard, I can't say the same here. Going through the numbers, it's pretty clear that whatever has happened to Alain Vigneault's hockey sense has had a significant impact on Derick Brassard as well as Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash. To put it bluntly, Brassard had an awful year possession-wise. Under 50% at evens, 0.2% relative possession, and a whopping -112 shot attempt differential. A lot of this could be attributed to AV putting Brassard's line out with the Wonder Twins against top competition, but it also shows that Brass's production this year was due mainly to the 13.4% shooting he put up at even strength (almost double his career 9.9% shooting).
That's not to say that Brassard is primarily at fault for his poor possession numbers (on a team that was ranked 25th in possession, you're not gonna find a lot of stand outs). But there is some concern as to how and why one of the team's top centers got routinely kicked in the mouth by his opponent. A lot of that does fall on the coaching staff and the system that is implemented but there is some work that Brassard needs to do in order to elevate his game for next season.
One understated bright side to Brassard's season is that by the end the Rangers started using him in a sort of mirrored Ovechkin spot on the power play, utilizing the best slap shot on the team to be an actual shooting threat. Hopefully this continues and is developed more next season.
Final Grade: B-
It's hard to give Brassard anything lower than a B-, mainly because I believe that he is one of the primary victims of the Rangers' shift over to a chip and chase offense. The 27 goals and 58 points are noteworthy and commendable, but do seem a bit hollow when you look at the underlying numbers. Brass is still a very good player who needs a tweak in the system to sustain his offensive production.