With the Rangers roster facing significant change in the near future, one player’s situation that is a difficult one to predict is Derick Brassard’s. A player of immense natural ability, Brassard started his New York career in brilliant style as a game changing, point per game force last season. His performance left players such as Rick Nash in his shadow during the playoffs.
This season however has been a different story. As he was in Columbus, Brassard has been (until recently) maddeningly inconsistent. His game has been littered with defensive mistakes, careless passing that reminded many of Brad Richards last season, and several times Brassard simply went missing from games. Then there’s the other side of Brassard’s game that excites so many.
Brassard is a great playmaker, with soft hands and vision not often matched by his teammates. In fact, apart from Richards (surely a goner after this season) only Mats Zuccarello and Derek Stepan have the same level of vision as Brassard. It’s his offensive skills that the Rangers sorely need; especially with a general lack of top end skill on the roster.
Recently, Brassard has once again shown what made him a lottery draft pick (6th overall in 2006) by the Columbus Blue Jackets and showed why, when on his game, he’s a must-keep at season’s end. Prior to the Columbus game the center had nine points in his last nine games and had begun to show some consistency. Brassard has recently been a solid part of the roster as well as being a core member of the powerplay.
The problem is this: With a current salary of $3.2 million, is solid enough? The Rangers, assuming Brassard is looking for a raise this summer, need to see more. On course for 45 points (but just 12 goals) Brassard is on the verge of being overpaid relative to his numbers. As discussed last week, the Rangers have made too many mistakes with the contracts they have handed out recently. The dilemma however is with a weak upcoming free agency, and the likely departure of Brad Richards, are the Rangers having their hand forced when it comes to Brassard?
Brassard – like many of his current teammates – needs to be more productive. With an offensive zone start of over 60% (but a worrying offensive zone finish of less than 50%) Brassard is getting ample opportunity to make plays in the offensive zone, where he should thrive given his skill set. Brassard’s finishing has been poor (a shooting percentage of under 8%), but with less than 16 minutes per game he’s also not getting significant minutes. These are some of the reasons why Brassard is a difficult situation to predict. Would he thrive with even more zone protection and greater minutes?
If Brassard could put together a prolonged stretch of form and help drive the Rangers offense he would be a must keep. His talent and the Rangers pending situation at the center position demand it. With only Derek Stepan as a certainty at center next season the Rangers are crying out for more skill and long term stability at the position. The Rangers will be hoping Brassard forces them to retain his services.