Archive for Derick Brassard
With Derek Stepan’s new contract it’s a fair assumption that the Rangers have locked up their top two center positions for the foreseeable future. Stepan and Brassard will cost the Rangers a total of $11.5m, but with finances, age, contract situations and production all considered, are the Rangers in a good spot with their top center duo when compared to the better centers around the league?
This post has its flaws; it only looked at teams who had multiple centers amongst the top thirty scoring centers from last year’s regular season. Obviously there are other factors that need to be considered such as injuries, positional flexibility, form over multiple seasons and the development of prospects moving forward. At present, only the Sharks boasted three centers amongst the top thirty scorers at the position although Joe Pavelski played mostly as a winger on Joe Thornton’s line.
A quick overview of the players (and teams) amongst ‘the top thirty’ and the Rangers don’t necessarily have the star power or elite names that many of the other teams who feature can boast. The Rangers don’t have a Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Anze Kopitar or Tyler Seguin. What the Rangers do have though are two players with upside, who are under contract together for the next four years and who have both proven themselves in both the regular season and playoffs.
So who’s who in the top thirty?
Its Thursday so time for another dose of around the league, with some Rangers thoughts scattered in for good measure. While we have some hockey back on tap (rejoice!) the dog days are clearly here.
In news that will surprise absolutely no one, the NHL ‘invited’ both Las Vegas and Quebec to participate in the second round of the expansion application process. Of course, given the non refundable bonds put up to begin the process this is really just a formality and both groups were always going to enter this round.
Skapski sighting: The Hockey News check out Rangers goaltending prospect McKenzie Skapski’s new mask. It’s pretty cool.
Let’s have a gander at the grades for the Rangers’ top two forward lines shall we?
Rick Nash’s overall season can be argued both as a positive and a negative. Indeed, there are few players that have divided opinion the way Nash has since he became a Ranger. A season that featured notable career highs but that was offset by another underwhelming postseason, things went as far as culminating with Nash being considered prime trade material this offseason. Hardly the appreciation you’d expect for a 42 goal player and early season Hart Trophy candidate. The problem is that Nash, like many Rangers, is now judged primarily on what he does after the regular season and this is where he failed to live up to both his regular season production and significant salary.
Nash needs to be a leader, the go-to guy offensively and in the postseason that didn’t happen nearly enough. Nash lacked postseason consistency, was never close to being his dominant regular season self and as the Rangers went quietly into the offseason, tellingly, so did Nash. Once again, despite solid numbers the microscope will firmly be on Nash come October. Despite the disappointing end, Nash finished in the top ten for the Hart trophy. Grade: B
It’s still amazing to think that just a couple of short seasons ago, Mats Zuccarello was toiling away in the KHL because, well, the Rangers didn’t really want him. At best, they were certainly not convinced by him. Fast forward a few years and Zuccarello is absolutely irreplaceable on a club that harbours annual Stanley Cup hopes.
We all saw how the Rangers struggled to generate consistent offense in the playoffs. Zuccarello’s enforced absence early in the playoffs was almost an instant death knell to the team’s hopes of winning the Cup. It shouldn’t have been the case however.
The Rangers had Rick Nash, they had Marty St Louis in position to step up, they had their trio of young centers all entering the playoffs in good form and they had Chris ‘Mr Playoff’ Kreider. But it didn’t work out as intended. St Louis literally played himself out of a new contract and maybe even out of the league. Nash hasn’t ridden himself of his playoffs demons. So what does it all mean?
Derick Brassard has developed beyond all reasonable expectations for the Rangers this season. Brassard’s regular season alone (full of career highs) justified Glen Sather’s faith in the talented pivot last summer and one year into his new five year deal has his 5m cap hit looking like a bargain. If the cap ceiling goes up anytime soon Brassard will look even better value moving forward.
Brassard is a huge reason why the Rangers enter Wednesday’s game seven showdown against the Capitals with a chance to return to the conference finals in back to back seasons. Brassard leads the team in points, goals, powerplay points and shooting percentage amongst main offensive statistics. He’s quietly doing it all for the Rangers during a postseason where his team have struggled to score consistently. His performances over the past two playoffs, but particularly this postseason show a player that, while not perfect, is continuing to improve and who has produced on the biggest stage.
It’s that horrible day, the one between games but the Rangers are heading into Friday with a 3-1 series lead. Life can’t get much sweeter as a Rangers fan right now. Let’s throw up a few random thoughts on Rangers goings on.
It appears Rick Nash will always divide opinion. Has Nash been dominant? No he hasn’t but he’s been damn good. Not just putting points up but always involved in the offense, Nash also continues to be one of the most defensively responsible ‘superstars’ in the game. Give me that kind of team first goal scorer any day. Star players on successful teams buy into a team first approach. The Red Wings of recent years always had superstars who could play a good two way game. That’s why they are always a contender. That’s what the Rangers have in Nash.
Understatement of the week: Derick Brassard’s new contract continues to look like a bargain. He has 21 points in 21 games against the Penguins. He has three goals in 4 playoff games. Brassard’s maturation into a quality, consistent center is complete. His enthusiasm for goals is infectious. Kudos to Glen Sather for taking a calculated risk by committing to Brassard for the long term.
We haven’t had a musings in a while now have we? There’s lot’s to talk about in Rangerland so let’s just jump straight in.
Let’s start with a non Ranger topic, the Evander Kane – Tyler Myers trade. I think it’s a win-win for the clubs, both with deep prospect pools albeit one club (Winnipeg) is further down its development path than the other (Buffalo). Given that the centre pieces of the deal (Kane, Myers and to an extent, Bogosian) were all either damaged goods or underperforming assets, both clubs came out of the deal in pretty good shape.
Regardless of how deep a prospect pool is, let the cautionary tale be Edmonton. Does anyone completely trust Buffalo to get things right even if they land uber prospect Connor McDavid?
Addressing Cam Talbot’s shaky stretch of play. Yes, he should have stopped Erik Cole in the Dallas game and he certainly gave up a couple soft goals against the wilting Leafs. That said, the Rangers are likely more than happy with Talbot and so should you be. You can make a strong case that without Talbot the Rangers lose both those games (no points). The team in front of him hasn’t played well enough which has without doubt affected his first ever stretch as an NHL starter.
What was meant to be an organisational weakness has become a strength for the New York Rangers. Understandably, there is instant angst when Derek Stepan misses any game time because of injury and his absence certainly creates a hole in the line-up but the Rangers have to be delighted with the way the center position has developed this season.
A quick glance around the league and in terms of depth, the centers that make up the Rangers’ top two lines (so, Stepan and Derick Brassard) measure up against the best in the league. Only the all world double acts in Pittsburgh (Crosby, Malkin), Detroit (Zetterberg and Datsyuk), San Jose’s trio of centers (Thornton, Pavelski and Couture) and Stamkos and Johnson in Tampa are currently projecting to have at least two centers average higher points totals than Brassard and Stepan.
The Rangers start a very tough four game stretch in Anaheim on Wednesday night when they take on the Ducks. With the Sharks, Kings and the vastly improved Islanders all to come during this short, but brutal stretch, the Rangers will find out a lot about the readiness of their team as they look to return to the Stanley Cup final. Perhaps most importantly, this stretch will tell Glen Sather and the Rangers management what they can expect out of their current group of centers.
The group of centers the Rangers will face over the next four games reads like an All Star roster, it really doesn’t get much tougher. It’s reasonable to suggest that all of Getzlaf, Kesler, Carter, Kopitar, Thornton, Couture and John Tavares would all be the Rangers number one center. They are all elite centers capable of dominating opponents and/or putting up elite offense. When out west, the Rangers will again have to cope with the size of the Ducks and Kings. Something they’ve struggled to cope with.
The clamour for top line centers is league wide and certainly nothing new. Every team wants one but not every team has one. The Rangers are in a fortunate position where they have two excellent (and comparatively young) top six centers in Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard but neither would be compared to the Crosby’s, Getzlaf’s and Seguin’s of the league, although both certainly have room for growth.
Long term, people assume the Rangers greatest needs are on defense, addressing a lack of size on the roster and down the middle. You can argue the Rangers lost the Stanley Cup finals because the Kings dominated the center position. Looking at those needs, the Rangers may have answers for their defense and the issue of size coming through the system but do they have a potential top line center in their ranks? Not likely. Which brings us back to Derick Brassard.