Many fans and critics were skeptical of the return the New York Rangers received when they dealt superstar sniper Marian Gaborik at last year’s trade deadline, but this season, Derick Brassard will prove everyone wrong when he reaches his potential with the New York Rangers.
The soon-to-be 26-year-old pivot is entering his seventh season at the NHL level, and it is fair to say that his career to date has been underwhelming, considering that he was the No. 6 overall pick of the 2006 draft.
Most high picks are expected to become superstars, and to date, Brassard has been a seemingly pedestrian player.
In his defense, he has had a number of obstacles in his way. Brassard had to overcome injuries, coaching feuds and a lack of playing time, but this year, he has an amazing opportunity to reach his potential.
Brassard is going to be the Rangers' No. 1 or No. 2 center this season, and that means he is going to get significant ice time. Here is a chart of his career numbers and the amount of time he averaged per game.
It is clear that Brassard didn't always get the playing time he deserved, and for that reason, he has a low points-per-game average. As previously stated, that will change this year, and that should allow him to flourish into a solid offensive contributor.
While you may scoff at that assertion since Brassard has a career points-per-game average of 0.559, anyone who watched the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2000s will tell you that his paltry numbers are a by-product of entering the league as a young kid and being one of the best players on a bad team.
The Rangers pivot clearly has talent, but he hasn't always had a team that could support him or mesh with his playing style. While this is no excuse because good players are supposed to make their team better, there is evidence that suggests Brassard can make a team better.
No one—and I mean no one—expected him to light it up in New York. The general mood after the trade was a mixture of shock, confusion and anger. Most people had no clue who Brassard was, and fans were more concerned that a 40-goal scorer was traded away.
Those emotions changed once Brassard hit the Madison Square Garden ice for the first time, because he recorded a goal and three assists in his Rangers debut against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Emotions continued to change after he recorded 12 points in 12 playoff games, and it is fair to say they will continue to change this season.
It may be bold to think a 26-year-old is going to become a first-line player out of nowhere, but he is going to reach his potential this season for three main reasons.
1. He has the opportunity to just play
Once Brassard was traded to the Rangers, he was given new life. He admitted to beat writer Andrew Gross that somewhere during his time with the Blue Jackets he lost his smile, and coming to New York changed that.
Under new bench boss Alain Vigneault, Brassard has a clean slate and a chance to take the top job.
2. His vision and offensive skills mesh with players on the roster
It was only a preseason game, but Brassard looked like he was in midseason form against the Philadelphia Flyers during Wednesday night's exhibition. He assisted on the game-winning goal scored by Benoit Pouliot, and the two were able to connect because of their native chemistry.
Andrew Gross of The Bergen Record had this tweet that sums up how Pouliot and Brassard came together.
Even if Brassard doesn't end up playing with his fellow Francophone, he will get a chance to play with Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello or a number of other talented offensive players. Brassard's vision is one of the best in the league, and it is reminiscent of Brad Richards circa 2003-04, and for that reason, he should rack up a ton of assists this year.
3. New system plays to his strengths
The Rangers are going to be a strong puck-possession team under "AV," and players will be put into positions to succeed with offensive and defensive zone stats. For example, a speedy offensive player like Brassard will take more offensive-zone faceoffs, while Brian Boyle takes defensive-zone starts.
The subtle change of when certain players are on the ice will play to their strengths, and it will allow the Rangers to get the most out of their players.
Brassard may be turning 26 next week, but he can still turn into a solid player. While he isn't going to become Sidney Crosby over night, he can still be a solid 70-point center.
He has the tools to be successful, the opportunity to make it happen and the confidence and teammates to help him be a factor.
What can you expect from Brassard this year? Put him down for 20 goals and 45 assists for 65 points on the year.
The jury is still out on the Marian Gaborik trade, but mark it down; Derick Brassard is going to be a hell of a hockey player for the Blueshirts this season.
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