Last time on the countdown of the best Rangers of the decade; we started things off by looking back at the rather up and down Rangers tenure of Marian Gaborik. Now, we’re gonna continue our retrospective by focusing on a player that the Rangers acquired when they traded Gaborik at the 2012-13 trade deadline.
9: Derick Brassard
Seasons as a Ranger: 2013-2016
Career numbers as a Blueshirt: In 254 games; 69 goals, 105 assists for 174 points (2.38 Pts/60). 51.46 CF% (3.22 C/60), 50.68 xGF% (0.07 xG/60). 38.2 GAR, 5 WAR
Best Season in New York: 15-16: 19-41-60 in 80 games played
When the Rangers dealt Marian Gaborik to Columbus, it was a werid time in New York. There was a sense of endings as the Rangers were reaching the end of the road with their coach John Tortorella and his...uh...fiery personality. Tortorella had established a very tough, gritty shot-blocking system in New York even as the team added more and more skill to the roster in the form of Brad Richards and Rick Nash. Things weren’t meshing well and it was time for a change, the Gaborik trade was the first real signal that change was indeed coming.
In return for trading Gaborik, the Rangers acquired a young center that hadn’t really clicked in Columbus after being drafted 6th overall in 2006 in Derick Brassard. Brass entered a center group that featured Derek Stepan growing into his 1st line center role, Brad Richards flipping between the 1st and 2nd lines, and Brian Boyle filling in the bottom six and he filled in a nice role as a supplementary skill option that the Rangers could turn to.
As the 2012-13 season rolled into the 2013-14 season, the Rangers fired John Tortorella and brought in Alain Vigneault. It was under AV that Brassard flourished, especially when he put together the now famous 3rd line that featured Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello on the wings with Brassard between them. That line had one job: keep the puck away from the opposing teams and let the skill guys on the top six get to work and they did that job perfectly. It was a formula that pulled the Rangers through one of their best regular seasons in franchise history and saw them get to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in twenty years. In the postseason; Brassard proved his worth with 12 points in 23 games as the Rangers pushed through Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Montreal before falling to the Kings. All the while, that third line did the strong possession work to try and make the top six job’s easier.
The next year the Rangers needed another top six center after they bought out Brad Richards in the offseason and the Blueshirts turned to the Quebec native to fill that void. It was just the opportunity that Brassard needed; as with Zuccarello on his wing, the 27-year old center put him his best season in his career as the Rangers built on the success from their previous season earning the President’s Trophy in the regular season. Brassard and Stepan became a very dependable and skilled 1-2 punch down the middle for the Blueshirts and that continued into the playoffs that season. Sadly though, arguably the Rangers’ best chance at a Stanley Cup slipped by as Mats Zuccarello suffered a freak head injury against the Penguins that the team just could recover from, though Brassard did end up scoring 16 points in 19 playoff games that season.
After coming so close to the Stanley Cup two years in a row, everyone thought that the Rangers would finally take that last step and capture the big prize. It didn’t quite work out, though as Alain Vigneault seemed out of answers as the league adapted to his style and he refused to adjust. Brassard was still the stable 2nd line center grabbed control of the year before, putting up a solid 58 points in 80 games, scoring a career high 27 goals along the way. Brassard had developed into a bona fide 2nd line center and a fan favorite on Broadway but it just wasn’t quite enough for the Rangers as the well ran dry and the playoff success withered away quickly.
After getting outplayed and out-coached by the Penguins in the playoffs, it felt once again that change was coming for the Rangers and, once again, Derick Brassard was in the middle of it as the Rangers dealt the beloved center to Ottawa for younger, Swedish center named Mika Zibanejad. Brassard’s legacy in New York is an interesting one as he definitely didn’t have the best numbers over the last decade with the Rangers but he was in the middle for so much of the best years for the Rangers that it’s hard to say he didn’t have a big role to play in those successes.
Favorite moment: Is there anything bigger, or better, than a hat trick in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals for Brassard?
*Editor’s note: Article has been update to reflect timing of trade to after series loss to Pittsburgh Penguins. Previously listed series vs. the Ottawa Senators.