Archive for Derick Brassard
The Rangers have always gone after the big names, most recently of course Keith Yandle and Martin St Louis. The following months will likely see a lot more big names changing address both in-season as well during the summer and free agency. Ryan Johansen, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Marleau, and even Evgeni Malkin are the source of rumours.
A lot of noise has been made recently about the Ryan Johansen situation. The big, young center is a phenomenal talent but has been through turbulent times in Columbus on and off the ice, including an acrimonious contract negotiation over a year ago.
Recently, Johansen has been scratched and apparently had problems with John Tortorella as well as being inconsistent with his performances on the ice. But Johansen’s talent is undeniable, and his upside almost unlimited, which is why so many teams are linked to the big center. Johansen (as an FYI) is on course for unrestricted free agency in 2018 at just 26.
Although Derek Stepan’s injury has caused some issues for the Rangers, with lines being shaken up and a lack of offense jump being evident from time to time, the lack of one of their top offensive players hasn’t been entirely disastrous due to the recent play of Derick Brassard. While Brassard has always been an important part of the Rangers’ top six his significance has been drawn into high relief by Stepan’s absence. Brassard has responded with merit by stepping up his game and contributing at a time when the Rangers need him the most.
Starting with the stats, Brassard’s possession numbers have been pretty good for a team that’s otherwise struggled with offensive production this season. In the five games since Stepan’s been out Brassard has an even strength CF% of 48.8, as well as a relative CF% of 2.06%. Although at first glance these aren’t phenomenal numbers once again its worth noting that the Rangers have struggled with possession, as well as the fact that these numbers are brought down by two clunkers (at least where Brassard’s concerned) against Philadelphia and the Islanders; he’s got a CF% above 50 in their other three games the Rangers have played since Stepan’s injury, against Carolina, Colorado, and Ottawa. On a similarly positive note, in those same games he has a scoring chances for% in all situations of 53.96%, with his relative SCF% being 10.62%. If the Rangers have a want for offense in Derek Stepan’s absence it certainly doesn’t have much to do with Brassard.
Other than the infamous “Potvin Sucks” chant, there’s not much that’s more annoying at MSG than the cries for players to “SHOOT THE PUCK!” on the power play.
Sure, shooting the puck is usually a great idea – as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – but blasting a slapper from the point into the shin pads of an opposing forward when you’re the last line of defense is generally inadvisable.
Rangers special teams costing the Rangers games – already.
Some things remain the same? The Rangers powerplay is already costing the team games. It’s possible to win the Stanley Cup without a functioning powerplay. Boston did it a few years back but it’s certainly a lot easier to win the holy grail – and more realistic – to have at least a competent unit. The Rangers don’t have one, yet they have the personnel where it should rank at least in the top half of the league. A unit that features Nash, Yandle, Stepan and Kreider should be better. There is no movement, there is a lack of willingness to shoot. It’s only five games in but the inept powerplay could undermine the Rangers if Alain Vigneault can’t inject some life into the unit.
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.